The European Union as a Global Conflict Manager

A collaborative project with Richard Whitman from the University of Bath and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (2008-10).

In April 2001, the European Commission adopted a “Communication on Conflict Prevention” which set out four main objectives, including targeting root causes of conflict through the systematic and co-ordinated application of existing EU instruments, improving the effectiveness of policies aimed at specific factors that trigger or prolong conflict, enhancing the Union’s ability to react quickly to emerging conflict situations, and promoting international co-operation with all partners. Nowhere is the subsequent transformation in capabilities more obvious than when comparing the feeble and eventually disastrous efforts to prevent and subsequently manage the violent disintegration of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s to the EU’s significantly more widespread and successful efforts in the Western Balkans since the late 1990s, in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2003, and more recently in Aceh, Indonesia. At the same time, however, the Union has made little if any progress in relation to conflicts in the post-Soviet region, such as in Georgia and Moldova, and its contribution to lasting peace in the Palestinian-Israeli crisis and in Sudan so far also remains negligible.

Against this background we investigate the Union’s capabilities and the context of each individual situation in which it becomes involved as the main factors that determine the extent and success (or failure) of its conflict management efforts.