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By Richard Youngs

Richard Youngs argues that during quite a number coverage components - alternate, multilateral international relations, protection, improvement cooperation, democracy and human rights, strength protection - the european seems to be in retreat from liberal internationalism.

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Progress on particular goals still often comes at the expense of multilateral process: the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was convened through a process that undermines all the basic tenets of rule-based multilateralism. Although European governments argue strongly in favour of deepening commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, being reviewed in 2010, one junior minister acknowledges that they have struggled to adhere to such multilateral purity when applied to the concrete challenges of Iran, North Korea and Pakistan.

It has shifted towards the pursuit of a multilateralism focused on cooperative state-to-state relations rather than liberal norms. The European Security Strategy (ESS) tried to bridge these two competing concepts of multilateralism, namely the deepening of universal norms versus broader alliance-building. 34 One diplomat laments that joint EU positions are rarely mobilized by member state governments in the United Nations in pursuit of normative goals. Policymakers reveal that trade-offs have to be struck even on nominally clear cut cases.

One policy-maker concludes: ‘We over-reached ourselves in the Human Rights Commission, so have decided to step back’. If one of the key challenges in international politics today is to encourage developing world democracies to be more supportive of liberal values in their foreign policy, the EU has provided few incentives to persuade the likes of South Africa, Brazil and India to be less tolerant of dictators. 36 It is not clear whether the EU is supporting a ‘democracy-enhancing’ form of multilateralism.

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