In my introduction, I tried to summarise the main trends determining the new geo-political landscape. In this regard, the starting point is to acknowledge that the western-led order is in crisis.
Indeed, the COVID19 pandemic is the first major crisis in decades where the US is not in the lead and this US administration has mostly withdrawn from the global order it has built in the past.
China for its part is increasingly assertive and we witness an US-China strategic rivalry, which will probably be the main axis of global politics for years to come.
We have now a real crisis of multilateralism: the G7 and G20 are absent; the UN Security Council i paralysed and many ‘technical’ organisations are turned into arenas where countries compete for influence.
The result is a world that is more multipolar than multilateral.
We also see growing inequality and economic divergences both within Europe and globally. And around the world, we see tensions between respect for science and evidence-based policy-making and the continued appeal of nationalism and authoritarian politics.
Of course, none of these trends is new per se. But in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, this combination makes the situation so challenging.
As we battle the pandemic and its consequences, Europe must protect the openness of our model and the democratic nature of our system. They have been the source of our success. We are not ‘imposing’ anything on anyone. But we cannot accept that our choice for democracy is derided or undermined.
While the diagnosis must be sober, we must also avoid fatalism and paralysis. Europe feels somewhat lonely, trying to hold the multilateral ring. For sure we know that we need partners.
I stressed our wish to make Europe a partner of choice. We should be principled but not dogmatic. Open but not weak. Progressive but not naïve. We seek to act multilaterally whenever we can and autonomously if we must.
The discussion focused on the many areas where multilateral cooperation could be enhanced, from tackling the pandemic and working on a reliable vaccine as a global public good; to the economic recovery and its link with climate action; to pressing security challenges, both in the EU’s neighbourhood and around the world. Our partnership with Africa featured prominently as did the question how to reform and revive multilateralism to address old and new challenges.
Finally, we have to demonstrate to our publics that ‘the system’ is able to solve problems and protect them. At the moment, the results are not good enough. It is our collective responsibility to do better.
The discussion left me with the conviction that many people in other regions of the world are keen on partnering with Europe. They want more, better, faster EU engagement. That may not always be easy to deliver but the message was heard, loud and clear.
You can see the whole debate here: