Lesson 01: EU strategies for conflict prevention and peacebuilding


Between the 2003 European Security Strategy (ESS) and the 2016 EU Global Strategy (EUGS), the EU has made significant advances towards developing a general framework for defining and prioritising its global interests. This process includes a number of more specific strategy documents, whether regional (Balkans, Horn of Africa, Sahel, etc.) or functional (the European Cybersecurity Strategy, the European Maritime Security Strategy, etc.). It also involves the general emergence of the EU’s ‘comprehensive approach’ to certain international security/foreign policy tasks, which involves the deployment of a full range of EU capabilities, as necessary, to handle specific problems. However, within the realm of Civilian Crisis Management and conflict prevention and peacebuilding, there are still several areas of opportunity.

For example, DL 2.1 found that despite the efforts above, the EU still lacks more coherent strategies that start with all relevant players sharing a common understanding of the situation or the challenge at stake. Toward this end, the EU should devise a policy to make sure that all actors that can contribute to various stages of a conflict do not work separately but in a coordinated manner. In line with the comprehensive approach above, conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities should not be conceived as isolated efforts, but as a continuum of activities covering various stages of the full life cycle of conflicts (from rising tensions to the outbreak of conflict to post-crisis stabilization), including the various actors involved and also the instruments at its disposal.

Similarly, DL 3.2 identified a need for the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to jointly clarify in internal documents how the EU promotes conflict prevention as a way of acting in the world, how it can support and be supported by stabilisation, and how specific distinct activities (particularly conflict analysis, early warning, and mediation) contribute differently to conflict prevention, and the differences and synergies between them. Toward this end, senior management in the EEAS and the European Commission should mainstream conflict prevention as a matter of policy and practice across the EU’s external action machinery (the DG for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, DG DEVCO, DG Energy, DG Trade, as well as the EEAS Headquarters and Delegations). This would involve prioritising conflict prevention, as well as crisis response.

Finally, the EUGS implementation plans should ensure that conflict prevention is prioritised across all the thematic areas identified, not only for the implementation of the section on ‘an integrated approach to conflict’. It should also be prioritised in the implementation of the Security and Defence Implementation Plan, the initiative on public diplomacy and other follow-up actions to the EUGS (i.e. Joint communication on resilience). Implementation and action plans should address these concerns directly and clearly identify resources, including institutional expertise and leadership, for preventing conflict as well as responding to it and addressing the important as well as the urgent.


Enhance strategic guidance and mainstream conflict prevention across all EU external action efforts, including in the context of the EUGS implementation.

Related Deliverables

dl_2-1DL 2.1: Procedures, Personnel and Technologies for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding: An Assessment of EU Member States’ Capabilities

Authors: De Zan, T., P. Tessari and B. Venturi
Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali

Published: 30 November 2016

[PDF, ~2.1MB; click to access]

dl_3-2DL 3.2: The EU’s Capabilities for Conflict Prevention

Authors: Davis, L., N. Habbida and A. Penfrat
Institution: European Peacebuilding Liaison Office

Published: 30 January 2017

[PDF, ~1MB; click to access]