The EU-Russia Expert Network on foreign policy (EUREN) met in Moscow on 31 October – 1 November to discuss how the EU and Russia interact in multilateral contexts. The two-day event was hosted by the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow. The discussion was opened by Markus Ederer, the European Union Ambassador to the Russian Federation. He also took part in the opening plenary dedicated to the concept of multilateralism seen from the EU and Russian viewpoints.
The EU and Russia both identify multilateralism as a key pillar of a stable and peaceful global order. According to its Global Strategy (2016), the EU aims to "promote a rules-based global order with multilateralism as its key principle and the United Nations at its core". Russia's Foreign Policy Concept (2016) stipulates that the Russian state shall "promote, within bilateral and multilateral frameworks, mutually beneficial and equal partnerships with foreign countries".
Multilateralism has come under increasing pressure, though. Key international actors, including the US President Donald Trump, openly question the use of multilateral institutions and insist on the prevalence of national interests. The UN Security Council is almost permanently paralyzed because of the contrary positions of its members. Russia and the EU often find themselves in different camps in these disagreements. Moscow criticizes the post-WWII multilateral system for being dominated by the US and its Western allies and supports alternative multilateral structures such as the EEU, the CSTO, the SCO, BRICS or the G20. The EU insists on developing multilateralism within existing multilateral structures and often perceives Russia's policy — for instance, in Syria — as being driven by national motives.
In its 2018 Interim Report on Selective Cooperation, EUREN called on the EU and Russia to safeguard multilateral cooperation wherever possible. The goal of the 11th EUREN meeting was to continue and deepen this debate. What do Russia and the EU mean when they speak of multilateralism? What approaches do they take towards multilateralism at a global and regional level? What is the place of multilateralism in their respective foreign policy strategies? In particular, experts also discussed possible ways of cooperation in multilateral economic and trade organizations, multilateral efforts in addressing climate change and stability in the Middle East and Africa.