1 March 2016
The EU is ready made to be an internationally significant mediator as it is itself a peace-building project. It does not, however, gain the prominence that might be expected. This is partly because the EU’s practices of mediation are broad because it allows for mediation to be used widely its foreign policy framework and allowing for its deployment at any stage in the conflict cycle for the purposes of prevention or transformation. Where it does explicitly use the language of mediation it is as a key component of its commitment to conflict prevention, transformation and resolution.
The potential comparative advantage of the EU as a political, economic, and development actor is the capacity to work across hierarchies and different contexts. This means it does have the potential to become one of the most significant international mediation players. It did not, however, formally adopt a formal institutional definition of mediation until 2009 and the EU’s key policy framework document Concept on Strengthening EU Mediation and Dialogue Capacities is more aspirational and provided rather less of a road map for the development of EU capabilities. Subsequently it has been a slow process to formally institutionalise this into the EU structures and processes.
The future effectiveness of the EU as a mediator is very closely tied to the development of its foreign and security policy. If the EU further enhances its reputation for diplomatic effectiveness, tied to its financial and economic clout, its services as a mediator will be in greater demand. In turn, a strengthening reputation as an effective mediator will play an important role in defining where the EU is able to add value in international relations.
About the Author
Richard G. Whitman is Director of the Global Europe Centre and Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent.