EU as a Peacemaker Part III

5: The challenges ahead

As the EU’s former High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, said on several occasions: How the EU operates in the neighboring areas will be crucial for the EU’s role on the international stage in the years to come. If we look at the situation in the immediate vicinity of the EU, there are many reasons to be pessimistic.

In the east , there is very little progress to be traced in the so-called frozen conflicts around the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia. Nor has there been much EU success in the conflict over Transnistria. Russia plays a key role in these conflicts, and none of the conflicts mentioned have become easier to resolve after the war in Ukraine.
In the south , it is easy to find several arguments that the EU does not have much impact: Both in the conflict over Western Sahara, or in the ineffective way the EU responded to the uprisings during the ” Arab Spring “, the union has a lot to go on if it shall consider itself an important contributor to peace and democracy.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, it is possible to be a little more positive about the EU’s role, if not about the prospects for peace: In 2011, the EU took a more active role in the peace talks between Israel and Palestine. The EU has also been a key figure in the negotiations leading up to the nuclear deal with Iran in the summer of 2015.

As a peacemaker, it is clear that the union works most effectively in the neighboring areas. There, the possibility of a future membership may seem like a carrot to the parties in some conflicts. Therefore, the EU is more likely to play an important role in conflicts in the Balkans than in the Middle East. The EU’s strength diminishes outside the immediate areas, at least if the EU has not received a clear invitation to lead peace negotiations by the parties themselves, or does not have another great power behind it. The EU also has a lot to do in the neighboring areas – one of the most important factors for the EU to succeed in ensuring peace and progress with its local area policy is clear political support from the member states.

The EU has a large toolbox for peacekeeping. But many of the tools have been used without adequate planning – in a somewhat random way. This means that we must ask questions about the EU’s organization of this work, about the degree of preparation, how the EU communicates and coordinates its peace work. Coordination in particular has proved problematic, in a union where member states often spend too much time agreeing .

The creation of a common foreign and security policy structure (led by Italian Federica Mogherini) is an attempt to overcome these challenges. “Conflict resolution, peacebuilding and negotiation” is now handled by a separate unit within the EU’s foreign and security policy structure. By becoming a knowledge base that contributes with education and training, can play an important peacemaking role in the future. Today, the EU provides such training to many countries and regions, such as Afghanistan, Central Asia, Mali, the Middle East, Myanmar, the South Caucasus, the Western Balkans and Zimbabwe…

6: An everlasting peace process

According to THERELIGIONFAQS, Georges Clemenceau, who led France during World War I and was one of the architects behind the Treaty of Versailles , once said with a sigh of relief to a colleague: “It is much easier to create war than peace.”

There has been justified criticism of the EU’s attempt to be a peace – building force. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that the EU can make a valuable contribution to international peace work. This applies to a large extent when we talk about conflicts in countries that are possible future EU countries, but it also applies in other parts of the world, where the EU can be a neutral and credible player.

As a continuous, ongoing peace congress, the EU is in itself a model for dialogue and negotiation . The Union is also both morally and legally obliged to work for a peaceful outcome to conflicts, even when they are between countries that are not closely linked to the EU. The EU has a large diplomatic toolbox, although the tools are not always used effectively. Since the EU has established a Common Foreign Service (EEAS), it should also be able to strengthen the EU’s role as a conflict resolver – it becomes clearer and better coordinated.

Europe in change

This issue of Where Does It Happen? (HHD) is part of the series “Europe in change” which addresses conditions and developments in Europe and the EU. This also means Norway’s relations with Europe and the EU, among other things as it appears in EEA co-operation.

The series “Europe in Change” is a collaboration between the Norwegian Institute of Foreign Policy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the NDLA (Norwegian Digital Learning Arena).

EU as a Peacemaker 3

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