The crises of previous years and the rise of strategic competition have put the EU’s traditional approach to multilateralism under pressure. The EU’s pledge for “a more stringent and strategic approach to multilateralism” has become even more relevant with Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

Three adjustments to the EU’s approach to multilateralism signify a more strategic approach. In a move towards a more instrumental engagement, the EU is using international cooperation as an avenue to protect its interests in the global competition.

The EU is displaying more willingness than before to leverage its power bilaterally and through its work in international organisations.

It is also more willing to focus on ad hoc frameworks in order to preserve the effectiveness of global cooperation and extend it to new areas of governance.

Strategic multilateralism comes with certain risks attached. It can undermine the legitimacy of the formal multilateral system and the global protection of fundamental rights. The EU needs to weigh the benefits of a more strategic approach against the risks of global fragmentation.

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