Following on from the topics of internal coordination (Lesson 6) and the role of development aid & trade in conflict prevention and peacebuilding (Lesson 18), the Commission’s involvement in conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks can be enhanced for several reasons. One is that the Commission already controls a wide range of EU civilian/economic policy instruments that can be deployed without relying on contributions by EU member states, which takes time to coordinate. A second reason is that the Commission also has a permanent presence in many prospective host countries, particularly in the developing world where many domestic conflicts originate. A third reason is that the Commission has extensive experience in terms of promoting peaceful, long-term political and economic change as a result of its role in overseeing association agreements and enlargement policy.
In addition to operational experience gained by the EU since the 1990s, the EU (mainly through the Commission) also developed a range of specific policy instruments for conflict prevention, such as a Rapid Reaction Mechanism and (later) the Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace, as well as various crisis response/humanitarian aid tools, including for disaster response. However, these instruments are insufficiently used for the purposes of conflict prevention and peacebuilding and are not always regarded as appropriate by various other actors, such as EU member states. These findings were affirmed during a comparative review of research results presented at the Workshop on EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities in the Western Balkans and Horn of Africa (DL 5.5), summarised in the follow-up report (DL 5.6), as well as in the analysis of the EU’s integrated approach found in DL 4.3.
Even so, there clearly is room for improvement here, as the Commission: 1) financed a very early conflict prevention and peacebuilding-type mission (the European Community Monitoring Mission in Yugoslavia in 1991); 2) has played a supporting role for various CSDP actions (through humanitarian aid for example); 3) has conducted its own small-scale operations involving certain conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks (such as rule of law and security sector reform activities in the Balkans and Africa); and 4) has even played the lead operational role on one CSDP mission: the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova-Ukraine (EUBAM). The Commission could also play an important role in facilitating civil-military coordination and local ownership of various conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities.
Thus, if the EU hopes to develop its civilian capabilities for conflict prevention and peacebuilding, the Commission should play a greater role in this realm, ranging from planning and fact-finding missions to implementation to post-mission learning. Yet obstacles remain that hamper the proactive use of its conflict prevention instruments, particularly in the form of differing attitudes among member states towards EU engagements and a ‘fractured’ institutional architecture in Brussels. The role of the Commission in conflict prevention remains unclear, even though the Commission wields various policy instruments that could be crucial for addressing instability and root causes of conflict, such as corruption and failing states. Effective implementation of the EU’s integrated approach also requires greater involvement by the Commission.
EU Member States should recognise the key role of the Commission within CSDP/conflict prevention and peacebuilding, and the Commission should enhance its own efforts towards stabilisation and conflict prevention in fragile states/regions.
Published: 23 March 2018
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Published: 29 November 2018
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