The European Union is seen to operate at the international level by promoting ideas and values, rather than by exerting military or economic power. As a gender actor, the EU has played a key role in the development of formal equality, which is presented as a foundational principle of European integration. It therefore follows that normative power Europe should seek to promote these values in external affairs. This article interrogates the role of the EU as a normative gender actor in relation to its implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and related resolutions. Documentary analysis will be supplemented by a detailed assessment of speeches and public statements about the role of the EU as a gender actor in external affairs. This data will be used to assess whether there is a disjuncture between the dominant narrative about gender equality as a fundamental value of the EU and the actions of the organization. It will also allow us to assess whether gender mainstreaming is a tool for public diplomacy or has made a significant change to the way the external relations agenda is formulated and implemented. Additionally, the article will draw attention to the institutional obstacles to the EU performing a role as a gender actor in external affairs. It identifies a critical tension between framing the WPS resolutions as an extension of the EU's equality on the one hand, and understanding that gender mainstreaming is a mere policy tool in international affairs. In doing so, it highlights how competing institutional demands can ultimately undermine core values (e.g. equality) when they are used instrumentally.
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