Debates Videoconferences
from 08:00 to 10:45
from Tuesday 11 May 2021 08:00 to Wednesday 12 May 2021 10:45
This event is public

Strengthening Multilateralism: Opportunities for EU-Singapore Cooperation EU-Singapore Think Tank Dialogue 2021

Multilateralism – broadly understood as a form of institutionalized interaction between several states to achieve agreed-upon goal(s) – is an essential tool and process of global political and economic cooperation. Ideally, the number of states involved should be as large as possible.

The relevance of the current multilateral system, which dates to the post-WWII period, is increasingly being challenged by shifts in economic and political power, both domestically and internationally. There is concern that both multilateralism and a liberal rules-based order has been weakened in an increasingly multi-polar world, in which some players no longer share the same goals or values and challenge existing rules and institutions. Paradoxically, this has taken place as multilateralism has become more important in many policy areas, with countries becoming more interconnected and interdependent. On-going challenges such as the climate crisis and the global health challenges exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic have demonstrated this. There is a need to strengthen the process and institutions of multilateralism and global cooperation, in particular for small states which are otherwise not in a position to exercise any influence.

Recognising these challenges, on 18 February 2021 the EU put forward a set of policy proposals to strengthen its contribution to rules-based multilateralism. The Joint Communication lays out the EU’s expectations of and ambitions for the multilateral system. The Dialogue provides a unique opportunity to explore these challenges in the context of EU-Singapore relations.


DAY 1 – 11 May 2021 (Register here for Day 1)


Opening Remarks - 8:00-8:10 AM CEST / 2:00-2:10 PM SGT

  • H.E. Amb. Barbara Plinkert, Ambassador of the EU to Singapore
  • Mr. Choi Shing Kwok, Director of ISEAS

Keynote Speech 1 - 8:10 - 8:40 AM CEST / 2:10 - 2:40 PM SGT

  • H.E. Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon , Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia
  • Moderator: Dr Malcolm Cook, Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS

Panel 1 - 8:40 - 9:40 AM CEST / 2:40 - 3:40 PM SGT

“Understanding Multilateralism and opportunities for EU, Singapore and ASEAN collaboration” dwells on the concepts and definitions of multilateralism. It addresses the need to survey the various competing definitions and ideas of multilateralism to foster mutual understanding. This is a necessary first step towards exploring opportunities and limitations for multilateral cooperation between the EU, Singapore and other ASEAN member states.

  • Prof. Hanns Maull, Executive Board Member & Senior Distinguished Fellow, SWP
  • H.E. Ambassador Lawrence Anderson, Director, Communications Department, Asia-Europe Foundation
  • H.E. Dr. Marty Natalegawa, Former Foreign Minister of Indonesia
  • Moderator: Mr. John Seaman, Research Fellow, Center for Asian Studies, Ifri


Coffee/Tea Break - 9:40 - 9:50AM CEST / 3:40 - 3:50 PM SGT


Panel 2 - 9:50 - 10:50 AM CEST / 3:50 - 4:50 PM SGT

“New Ambitions for the United Nations and the role of the EU, Singapore and ASEAN” focuses on some of the key challenges currently facing the United Nations (UN). It explores the various avenues for cooperation between the EU and Singapore and other ASEAN member states in improving and reforming the UN system.

  • Dr. Judith Vorrath, Senior Associate, SWP
  • Dr. Reuben Wong, Associate Professor, College of Alice & Peter Tan (CAPT) and the Department of Political Science in the National University of Singapore
  • Prof. K.S. Jomo, Senior Advisor, Khazanah Research Institute
  • Moderator: Dr Felix Heiduk, Senior Associate, Asia Research Division, SWP



DAY 2 – 12 May 2021 (Register here for Day 2)


Keynote Speech - 8:00 - 8:30AM CEST / 2:00 - 2:30 PM SGT

  • Mr. Ignacio Garcia Bercero, Director in charge of Multilateral Affairs, Strategy and Economic Analysis at the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission
  • Moderator: Dr. Francoise Nicolas, Director, Center for Asian Studies, Ifri

Panel 3 - 8:30 - 9:30 AM CEST / 2:30 - 3:30 PM SGT

“Can the WTO Accommodate 21st Century Challenges? Perspectives from the EU, Singapore and ASEAN” examines how the World Trade Organization (WTO) should reform – from the EU’s, Singapore’s and ASEAN’s perspective – to reflect new trade and geo-political realities. It will explore how to restore a fully functioning WTO dispute settlement with a reformed Appellate Body and possibly find new paths for an innovative trade dispute settlement mechanism. It also seeks to assess the extent to which recent bilateral and regional trade agreements are WTO compliant and support the multilateral system.

  • Ms. Iana Dreyer, founder and editor of Borderlex.eu
  • Dr. Deborah Elms, Executive Director, Asian Trade Centre
  • Dr. Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
  • Moderator: Prof. Tham Siew Yean, Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS


Coffee/Tea Break - 9:30 - 9:40AM CEST / 3:30 - 3:40 PM SGT


Panel 4 - 9:40-10:40 AM CEST / 3:40 - 4:40PM SGT

“New Vision for Multilateral Development Banks – an outlook from the EU, Singapore and ASEAN perspective” will trace the evolution of multilateral development banks (MDBs) and similar institutions with the view to evaluating how their roles and influence have changed over time. It will also assess the extent to which these institutions complement and compete with each other. It will also reflect on the challenges of a renewed momentum for MDB reforms from the perspective of ASEAN-EU cooperation.

  • Prof. Pierre Jacquet, President of the Global Development Network
  • Dr. Jayant Menon, Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS
  • Dr. Thomas Mirow, Former President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • Moderator: Dr. Eric J. Ballbach, Visiting Fellow / Korea Foundation Fellow, Asia Research Division, SWP

Closing Remarks - 10:40 - 10:45 AM CEST / 4:40 - 4:45 PM SGT


The goal of the EU – Singapore Think Tank Dialogue 2021 is to explore the challenges and opportunities for cooperation between the European Union (EU) and Singapore to strengthen multilateralism. The Dialogue is co-organised by the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore (ISEAS), Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI), and Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP).




Contact the organizers: 

Register here for Day 1

Register here for Day 2

Multilateralism European Union Southeast Asia