Egmont Institute logo

Strategic bilateralism or effective multilateralism? The EU, the SCO and SAARC

Post thumbnail print


This chapter looks critically at the complex yet overlooked relationship between the European Union (EU) and two regional organisations from Central and South Asia: the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It first identifies the European strategic stakes in the respective regions and assesses the current level of cooperation, on the basis of an overview of the existing literature as well as on an analysis of official documents and interviews with stakeholders. Then, the European approach vis-à-vis the two regional organisations is compared with the EU’s traditional preference for inter-regionalism and ‘effective multilateralism’. This chapter concludes that the EU’s promotion of ‘effective multilateralism’ is only possible in regions such as Central and South Asia, characterised by limited cooperation and weak regional integration, if it is complemented by an effective bilateral approach in the form of strategic partnerships.

in Thomas Christiansen, Emil Kirchner and Philomena B. Murray (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of EU-Asia Relations (London, Palgrave Macmillan), 2013, pp. 359-375.
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)