May 14, 2024

The Practice, Promise and Peril of EU Lawfare (Author: WilliamCho)

Power generates law and its interpretation, irrespective of whether it serves the cause of international justice. Despite its many shortcomings, the rules-based international order (RBIO) tries to advance that cause. But as a concept, the RBIO is now being rejected by China, Russia and parts of the so-called “Global South” for what they claim is the Western hegemonism and liberal values that underpin it.

The fact that these countries have voluntarily signed up to the international covenants that enshrine the legal doctrines to strengthen the sovereign rights of weaker countries, especially in the context of economic relations, makes it hard to sympathise with the argument that the RBIO should be replaced by another concept, especially one that is advanced by autocracies.

The RBIO has been partially shaped by the European Union (EU), a community of law that encodes the aspiration of “good global governance” in its constitutional DNA. With the waning “Brussels effect”—the soft power of EU law in shaping international rules and standards, the EU should consider how to instrumentalise the law to protect and promote its foreign policy interests, first and foremost the protection and promotion of the RBIO.

This report unpacks the notion of “lawfare” and conducts a comparative analysis of such practices by the US, China, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and others to assess the promise and peril of the EU using the power of the law to its strategic advantage.

Download and read: The Practice, Promise and Peril of EU Lawfare (PDF)