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Russia and Europe: International Law as Bone of Contention or Common Denominator? in Brussels

The Swiss Missions to the EU and NATO are hosting the GCSP for the Brussels edition of the 3rd Security and Law: A Reality Check event.

Relations between Russia and member countries of the European Union and NATO are down to a level unknown since 1991. Since the annexation of Crimea in particular, these relations are fraught with mutual mistrust, accusations, and sanctions. Tensions extend to the application and interpretation of international law, notably regarding the UN Charter and the use of force by states: Russia refers to international law to condemn Western policies in Kosovo, Iraq and Libya or Syria and is warning of a collapse of the UN Charter-based system. The European Union and NATO, together with other members of the international community, accuse Russia of a severe violation of international law on Crimea and point to legal obligations in disputing its behavior on Eastern Ukraine or following the Salisbury nerve gas attack. Charge of applying double standards undermining a universal application of international law is a frequently heard argument in this renewed competition for legal legitimacy. At the same time, Russia and the West keep underlining the importance of international law as the basis for international relations and for guaranteeing international peace, security and stability.

In this context, what role does international law play? Does international law channel and alleviate the political conflict? Or does the contest over legitimacy and legal justification of actions fuel the dispute and strain political compromise?

Welcome Address by His Excellency Christian Meuwly, Ambassador of Switzerland to Belgium and 
Head of the Swiss Mission to NATO


Opening Remarks by Ms Christina Orisich, Deputy Director, GCSP



  • Prof. Dr Alexander N. Vylegzhanin, Head of the Department of International Law, Moscow State Institute of International Relations; Editor-in-Chief of the Moscow Journal of International Law;
  • Prof. Dr Mikael Baaz, Associate Professor in International Law, Associate Professor in Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Gothenburg;
  • Mr Tomás Valásek, Director of Carnegie Europe.


Tobias Vestner, Security and Law Programme, Geneva Centre for Security Policy

A reception will follow the panel discussion


This public discussion is the third event of Security and Law: A Reality Check, the new event series to address how international law matters in security affairs. The series aims to critically assess if current norms fit contemporary and future security challenges, how international commitments can effectively be implemented, and how new international law can successfully be shaped. Reality Checks feature a new GCSP format: The audience attending the event is encouraged to steer the discussion by challenging the speakers and experts. Join the debate. Join the Reality Check.

Join the debate. Join the Reality Check.

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Mission of Switzerland to the European Union in Brussels, Place du Luxembourg 1, 1050 Brussels

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