International order and the EU – The Financial Daily OUS News


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The world order of freedom within which the European project was established and incorporated is being torn apart. This trend has been building for more than a decade. As Paul B. Stares argues, the world may have been experiencing a period of transition similar to those of 1913-20, 1938-47, and 1988-94. The novel coronavirus has exacerbated, accelerated and heightened everything from protectionism and great power rivalry to nationalism and ideological competition. As a result, the pandemic may represent the tipping point from international liberal order to disorder. This reality should encourage Europeans to realize that rules-based multilateralism is not just nice, but essential, especially if they want to maintain their way of life in the years to come. No longer only driven by the ideal of peace on the continent and the benefits of the single market, today the reason for the European project is global. Nationalism driven by nostalgia, closing borders and racism undermined by the awareness that size and power matter more than ever. Only together can Europeans negotiate with China, confront the Ukraine problem, rebuild bridges across the Atlantic, tackle global pandemics, manage migration, fight climate change and embrace artificial intelligence and biotechnology while guaranteeing digital security. Europeans have precious few alternatives to stick together if they want a fair chance to thrive in the 21st century, the post-World War II liberal international order certainly over. The so-called liberal international order arose from the ashes of two world wars. With it came the appearance and consolidation of the United Nations, the proliferation of international organizations, the slow but constant affirmation of international law and the growth of cooperation and regional integration initiatives, of which the European Union has been the most successful example. It first crystallized in the West during the Cold War and expanded after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was an order that some reviled and others embraced. Some are crying, some are applauding and some are still not ready to accept the end of the liberal international order.
However, few if any would dispute that the distribution of power within the international system is changing dramatically. The distribution of power is complicated. Its complexity derives from concomitant trends: a traditional shift of power from a global hegemon of the United States to multiple centers of power, and a diffusion of power, driven first by globalization and now by the fourth industrial revolution.
Power does not simply move from west to east, but also across state borders, flowing through air, land, sea, space and cyberspace. The ensuing international order or disorder will be illiberal; shaped by liberal democracies and illiberal or authoritarian states, it will likely feature structured global cooperation on some issues such as climate change and transactional or ad hoc approaches to other issues such as digital governance.
Advocates of realism are quick to point out that, in an ominous repeat of history, the world, and in particular the United States and China, are walking into a Thucydides trap of the theory that all emerging powers inevitably collide with the prevailing powers. Although falling into the trap is never predetermined, the structural underpinnings of power shifting, along with misperception and miscommunication, have created powerful drivers of conflict. This does not mean that history repeats itself. However, the competition between the United States and China has transformed from commercial to technological rivalry and, during the COVID-19 crisis, has taken on ideological overtones. This competition could, in turn, lead to a 21st century military confrontation.
Liberal observers would be hard-pressed to come to a fundamentally different conclusion, as international institutions, rules and regimes have been hollowed out and marginalized, or collapsed outright. These weak or effectively dying international institutions are no longer capable of creating a controlled environment for peaceful conflict management. Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which the United States complied with by withdrawing from the agreement, highlights both the fragility of institutional arrangements and how their unraveling increases the risk of a devastatingly violent conflict. Given that the United States is no longer willing or able to maintain an international order larger than itself, and that no other global actor is in a position to fully step into the void, the rules-based multilateral order is in jeopardy. Multipolarity could ultimately lead to strengthened multilateralism. But in the slow and turbulent process of transition from a unipolar system to a multi-, inter-, or non-polar system, multilateralism is taking a heavy hit, and with it the potential for the peaceful management of international relations. ‘has reduced drastically. . Constructivists, who argue that history is shaped not only by objective and material forces, but by intersubjectively defined identities and interests, are also pessimists. As identities are constructed in mutually exclusive ways, the potential for violent conflict increases. Whether it is the West against Islam, liberal democracies against authoritarianism, cosmopolitans against nativists, or elites against the people, the identity constructions of the 21st century have set the stage for violent conflict.
Some features of a global confrontation of the 21st century can be distinguished. From the Middle East to Eastern Europe and from the Balkans to the Korean Peninsula, great power rivalry is intertwined and exacerbates regional power struggles, state fragility and conflict violent Other features, although possibly much more consequential, in particular the links between economic and technological rivalry and the risk of military confrontation; the trade-offs between public health, political rights and economic development; or the link between climate change and mass displacement will be harder to predict.
In this changing international environment, the EU has been imbued with a new sense of responsibility to maintain a rules-based multilateralism. Doing so requires both effort and imagination. Part of the approach covers well-trodden ground. The EU should invest more in the UN system, both politically and financially, and push for the reform of the WTO, in particular its dispute settlement system, and other international financial institutions to make – the most representative and legitimate ones. The EU should also defend and implement international law and agreements, particularly by supporting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. It should support forms of regional cooperation in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which are the building blocks of global governance. It should also coordinate better internally, both between member states and between institutions and political spheres. However, these actions will be insufficient on their own. The EU should also support multilateralism in at least three ways. First, it should systematically transform its bilateral or interregional agreements into multilateral agreements. This means advancing the multilateral agenda in all its bilateral and regional relations, as well as making multilateral cooperation more central to EU activities, especially in promoting sustainable development. For example, in order to better address youth and migration issues, the EU is already working to expand its bilateral relationship with the African Union into a trilateral partnership with the United Nations. Similarly, the EU could leverage its trade policy, which includes its relations with Canada (through the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), Japan, Mercosur members, Mexico and others, to build a coalition to reform the stagnant WTO.
Second, European foreign policy should recognize that there is no longer a fixed set of like-minded countries that it can automatically and lazily target. From like-minded partnerships, the EU should move to a like-minded partnership, where the EU, guided by its core objectives, pragmatically identifies and fosters the right multilateral group of actors on any given geographic or thematic issue determined The constellation of actors will invariably change from issue to issue and occasionally within the same issue area as time (and governments) pass. The group of partners in the Iran nuclear deal is not the same as the group in the conflict in Ukraine. The multilateral coalition for a progressive climate agreement in Paris in 2015 was not the same as for a more ambitious outcome in Madrid four years later. Looking ahead, it remains to be seen whether the Group of Twenty (G20), which played a key role in the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, will rise to the challenge of driving post-Covid-19 economic recovery. 19, or if other multilaterals Instead, they will appear formed.
Third, given the accelerated speed of politics in the digital age and the highly fluid nature of geopolitics, the EU should combine flexibility and inclusiveness in its pursuit of effective multilateralism. This suggests the need for more frequent mini-lateral forums and contact groups to deliver multilateral outcomes. The format of the EU three (France, Germany and Italy) on the Iranian nuclear file and the International Contact Group on Venezuela are two examples. They are characterized by both an internal EU contact group (a subset of member states) and an international group of which the EU is a part. These groups should be small enough to be agile and responsive, but also large and varied enough to be representative. At the same time, to be legitimate, they should establish an institutional link with the wider multilateral environment, both in the internal features of the EU and in the international system.
The future international order may present more challenges to norms and be less stable than the current international order. However, it could also be more inclusive, more flexible and ultimately more resilient. The liberal international order may not survive, but what follows is not predetermined, it need not mean the end of the open and liberal values ​​at the core of the European project. To maintain these values, Europeans and others should invest much more in multilateralism and, above all, be willing to break and reject the comfortable mold created in the recent past.


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