This SCOOP special issue takes a thematic approach to the EU and multilateralism and presents a 'cluster' of three projects that have developed distinct but complementary insights on this theme.
One of the most visible and complex features of the EU is its changing role and competencies as an international actor. Thus, a thematic activity on 'Europe in the World' was included in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) research programme under FP7 to understand, assess and, at times, anticipate the developments on the ground.
A key element of the EU’s action and discourse as an international actor is its commitment to 'multilateralism', and the following three research projects have addressed it in empirical, theoretical and normative terms: MERCURY (Multilateralism and the EU in the new global order), EU GRASP (Changing multilateralism: the EU as a global-regional actor in security and peace), and EU4Seas (The EU and sub-regional multilateralism in Europe's Sea Basins: neighbourhood, enlargement and multilateral cooperation).
These projects shared some activities, including a joint policy conference held in Brussels on 7 October 2011. This was part of the broader effort of the SSH programme to link academic and practical knowledge, and discuss research findings with decision-makers in EU institutions and other relevant policy communities.
While this special issue only reports on these three projects, other projects in the SSH programme have also contributed insights on multilateralism. For example, when addressing global economic governance (project PEGGED: Politics, economics and global governance), the relations between multilateralism and 'multipolarism' (project GREEN: Global re-ordering: evolution through European networks), or the relations between the EU and global regulatory frameworks on specific issues (e.g. project PRIV-WAR on Regulating the privatisation of war: the role of the EU in assuring compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law).
Given the continuous changes, and, at times, turbulence, in our globalised economies and societies, research on how the EU tackles such changes, and relates to other actors and 'powers' is an essential part of the EU’s research 'Horizon'.