In the afternoon of 16th September 2015, Prof. Alexis Vahlas from France gave a guest lecture on “The European Union and World Order: Multilateralism instead of Multipolarity”. Professor Vahlas, an academic from the University of Strasbourg, is currently the Director of the Master level Diploma on European Security and International Stability (SESI). He also teaches at ENA, the French Elite School for civil servants, especially to foreign diplomats working in places such as Algeria and North Korea.
The lecture was divided into three parts. In the first part, the students were introduced to some backgrounds of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, responsible among others for the maintenance of international peace and security. Professor Vahlas explained the role of the five permanent members of the UNSC: United States, Russia, France, United Kingdom and China, which have very important privileges: permanent seat and veto right. However, professor Vahlas pointed also to the imperfections of this system.
In the second part of the lecture, professor Vahlas focused more on specific cases and it was concluded that the most serious violations of the international system have come from the three of five permanent members. To be specific, the USA and United Kingdom led the so-called “coalition of the willing” against Iraq in 2003 and Russia decided on the annexation of Crimea in 2014, both actions without legal basis. The risk with these precedents is that the international system of collective security is getting more and more fragile. The system is put at risk by big powerful countries benefiting most from the system.
In the third part, professor Vahlas emphasized that the EU has fully understood the dangers of the XXI century and that is the reason why the EU is putting more insistence on the policy of multilateralism, understood as the obligation to respect international law, especially the UN Charter and the subsequent primary responsibility of UNSC for the maintenance of peace and security. To understand how “multilateralism” became the primary value of foreign policy and why it is so important today for the EU, professor Vahlas developed three points: the paradoxical birth of “multilateralism”, the benefits of the competition between the EU and NATO and the concerns over the future of the American, Russian and Chinese foreign policies.
After that, CESL students who attended the lecture asked a lot of interesting questions. The first questions concerned the problems of how the small countries can have their voice heard, as well as the relationship between the EU and NATO. Subsequently, professor Vahlas addressed the question related to the current situation of refugees and Muslims in Europe.
Article by ZHANG Xuxu (CESL Double Master Student from 2014 Intake)