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Research Report

The EU as a Global Actor in a Multipolar World and Multilateral 2.0 Environment

Luk Van Langenhove
Copyright Date: Mar. 1, 2010
Published by: Egmont Institute
Pages: 36
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-4)

    This paper discusses a number of long-term global trends that are likely to affect the ambition of the EU to be a global actor. Being or becoming a global power is indeed not only determined by an internal and voluntary policy of that actor. It also depends on a number of external forces. The first part of this paper will present two ongoing transformations of the world that together are weakening the position of the EU as an aspiring global power. The first trend is a shift in economic gravity from the East to the West. The second trend is...

  2. (pp. 5-8)

    For a long time the EU has had ambitions and capacities to play a global role, especially in ‘first pillar’ domains such as trade, development, environment and social issues (see Orbie, 2008 for an overview). More recently the EU increasingly develops a security strategy and architecture with global ambitions as well (see Tardy, 2009 for an overview). With the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has even made an important step forward in realising its global aspirations (Van Langenhove and Marchesi, 2009; Van Langenhove and Costea, 2007). Jean-Luc Dehaene, former Vice-President of the European Convention and one of the defenders of the...

  3. (pp. 9-14)

    Being – or not being – a global power, is not only a matter of one’s relatively strength. It is also determined by the playing fields or ‘theatres’ where such power and influence can manifest themselves. These ‘theatres’ are by now largely institutionalized in the so-called multilateral system with its political (UN) and economic (WTO, IMF…) components. It is there where states meet and interact and even bilateral relations are often limited by what the multilateral rules allow. Even those who dreamt of a unipolar world still needed to take into account the existence and the (relative) legitimacy of the...

  4. (pp. 15-20)

    Multilateralism is thus both a normative concept (it is an ideal that some promote) and a practice (it refers to a set of existing practices and institutions). At both levels it is subject to change and one can think of how an updated global multilateral governance system could look like. Such a vision could be called ‘Multilateralism 2.0.’ This is a metaphor as it refers to a jargon used in the ICT world. As all metaphors it has its limitations. But metaphors in science can also serve the purpose of viewing things from new perspectives (Harré, 1976). There is a...

  5. (pp. 21-26)

    There is overwhelming evidence that the world is going through a process of change that is unprecedented and that results in an acceleration of all kinds of uncertainties. In such an environment, the question that matters most is ‘What’s next?’ (see Patten, 2009). Of course, no one can predict how the world will further evolve, at best one can try to think of potential scenarios (cf. Atalli, 2006). And also, policy-makers of all kinds can try to adapt to change by … installing change. This is true for the world of business, but also for political governance at the geopolitical...

  6. (pp. 27-28)

    World-orders do not change overnight. It took three and a half centuries to develop Westphalia into how it looks today. And, equally important, it meanwhile never was consolidated into one single document. Furthermore, multilateralism 1.0. and the related idea of a liberal international order is still a relatively young child of Westphalia. And meanwhile globalisation now challenges that Westphalian world-order. However, neither states nor multilateral organisations are passively undergoing the forces of globalisation and the many technological changes that are altering the face of the world. They are changing themselves as well, as they are stimulating changes in governance by...