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Multilateralism and the EU in the Contemporary Global Order (MERCURY)
Start date: 01 Feb 2009, End date: 30 Apr 2012 PROJECT  FINISHED 

This project seeks to understand the EU’s contribution to effective multilateralism. We consider evolving and conflicting (culturally-defined) meanings of multilateralism; its uncertain future on a global scale; the EU system of external relations in the light of the Reform Treaty and its implications for the Union's ability to shape multilateralism; and whether and how multilateralism is compatible with the EU’s shift towards inter-regionalism and strategic partnerships. Arguably, the EU has done more than most of its partners to acknowledge new global challenges and rising demand for multilateralism. Its own positions frequently become focal points for international negotiations on conflict resolution. Nevertheless, essential questions remain unanswered about the viability of a European ‘way’ of multilateralism. Can multilateralism be defined in a way that transcends divisions within as well as beyond Europe, between states, nations and cultures, strong and weak, rich and poor? Is there a concept of multilateralism that overcomes theoretical schisms? Is it possible for the EU or its member states (or anyone else) to define and pursue a selfless, benign, credible doctrine of multilateralism, as opposed to one that serves its own interests? The problem of matching supply to demand for effective multilateralism will be the leitmotif for MERCURY, a research programme that will elaborate and clarify forms of multilateralism, develop specific theses about the EU’s contribution to multilateralism, and test them in line with best scientific practice. Its remit extends to the interactions of the EU and its member states with regions outside Europe, strategic partners, and global organisations. It is interdisciplinary, drawing on expertise in law, politics, economics, and international relations. It advances a clear intellectual agenda – to explore, explain, and evaluate different conceptions of multilateralism – while aiming to achieve practical policy relevance.
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