Katja Creutz, Alternative Ways of Global Governance: Informal institutions and the role of small states, February 2017.
In addition to formal international organizations, alternative ways of arranging intergovernmental cooperation are proliferating. One tendency is to create looser structures around a shared purpose often without permanent secretariats. The G20 and the Arctic Council are examples of such informal intergovernmental institutions.
Informal institutions are preferred due to their supposed effectiveness, but also because of domestic politics. Most states participate in such institutions, but the United States in particular has favoured them over formal international organizations.
The increasing importance of informal institutions, especially if they seek to address global concerns, may be detrimental to small states that have traditionally relied on multilateral institutions and the rule of international law, such as the United Nations (UN).
Small states should actively engage with informal institutions instead of adopting a strategy of resistance. Small states can seek to play a part in these institutions, build coalitions to address transparency or inclusiveness concerns, or try to influence specific issues in their national interest.
A pragmatic approach to new institutional forms should not challenge the small states’ focus of attention on multilateral institutions and a rule-based international order, however. The interests of small states can be protected only by ensuring that all states may take part in global governance, based on sovereign equality.
Marco Siddi, The Southern Gas Corridor: Challenges to a Geopolitical Approach in the EU’s External Energy Policy, March 2017.
Natural gas is considered an important component of the EU energy mix, both as a replacement for more polluting fossil fuels and as a back-up for intermittent renewable energy production. However, declining domestic production has led to an increase in EU import dependency on gas.
After the Ukraine crisis, the EU has become wary of energy interdependence with Russia, its main external supplier. This led the Union to accelerate the integration of its internal gas market and to support new pipeline projects, most notably the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC).
The SGC will transport Azeri gas to South Eastern Europe, but faces numerous challenges related to its geopolitical nature. These include the lack of access to significant gas resources, security-related risks along its route and geopolitical competition from Russia and China.
The EU can reduce its exposure to external supply shocks by pursuing market integration and a more ambitious agenda focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency, which will decrease its reliance on fossil fuels.
Juha Jokela, A More Powerful European Council: Old and New Trends, March 2017.
The importance of the European Council within the European Union’s political system has increased significantly due to the multiple crises that the EU has faced in recent years.
Yet its increasing role also reflects longer-term developments highlighting the importance of high-level policy coordination in the EU, and the member states’ central role in the EU decision-making.
In this context, a distinctly consensus-generating yet relatively powerful European Council presidency has emerged under Herman van Rompuy and Donald Tusk.
Shifting power relations among the EU institutions, and efforts to steer the EU legislative agenda, have raised concerns of a greater than anticipated change, however.
A degree of flexibility and adaptability concerning the role and functions of the European Council might provide efficacy, but could run counter to the objective to establish it firmly within the legal and institutional framework of the EU.
Bart Gaens, The EU-Japan Partnership: Stepping Stone for a Stronger Presence in Asia? March 2017.
The EU increasingly aims for Free Trade Agreements (FTA) that are accompanied by a Strategic Partnership, in Asia as well as elsewhere. EU-Japan relations seem closest to resulting in a binding trade-related and political agreement.
The EU and Japan are global trade powers that focus on soft power; both share the same values, support a comprehensive approach to security, and have a history of ad hoc security cooperation. Both players are also in relative decline, and an FTA would have tremendous significance for both.
The agreement is said to be close to completion, but numerous obstacles remain, relating to market access, data protection, a human rights clause, an investment court system, and ratification in the EU. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Brussels on March 21. Both sides reaffirmed their determination to conclude an FTA “as soon as possible”.
The political agreement remains primarily of symbolic importance, and sustainable cooperation in security matters is probably a long way off. Nevertheless, in addition to economic benefits, an upgraded EU-Japan partnership through a mega-FTA coupled with a political and strategic partnership agreement would allow both players to take the lead in setting international rules and standards. For the EU, it would also form a vital stepping stone towards deepened engagement in Asia.
Katja Creutz & Olli Ruohomäki: Trust in Multilateral For a Needs to Be Restored: The UN is needed more than ever, March 2017.
The world needs to reinforce institutions that were created to strengthen peace and security, and to stop eroding international law. The more far-reaching the issue and the greater the number of countries affected, the less sufficient unilateralism proves to be, and the less viable it becomes.
Jyrki Kallio: Xi Jinping Makes a Stop-over in Finland on his Way to the USA: Finland and China launch “a new type of partnership”, April 2017.
It is a feat of Finnish diplomacy to have Helsinki included in President Xi’s itinerary. The decision may be thanks to Finland’s half-way position between Asia and America, and the country’s good relations with China and the USA. Finland’s centenary celebrations will endow the visit with extra pomp and media visibility.