Challenge for Europe

New Conflicts on the Global Scale

The financial, social and environmental crises are manifesting themselves in a number of negative effects: socio-economic inequalities, illegal networks and mafias, irreparable destruction of the environment, etc. In addition, globalization is positive and dynamic – economic knowledge, technological development, democratization – but it creates some threats. The abolition of distances and the erosion of borders benefits activities like arms and drug trafficking, criminality, mafias, etc. These activities escape state controls and consequently, they generate transnational conflicts. These “deterritorialised” risks exceed the management capacities of a lone category of actors and appeal to shared regulation. Only responses that are both local and global in character will resolve them. Prevention and management of conflicts presupposes a multilateral approach.

In the face of these threats, the European Union is a leader in concrete action. Foremost, because it is itself both victim and responsible for this critical situation. Also because it is itself proof of the potential for political integration in the construction of peace.

Peace: an indisputable objective of the EU

At the beginning of the 21st century, Europeans are more and more preoccupied with the prevention and management of conflicts. The action of the European Union is in line with both a political and an economic perspective wherein success depends upon the capacity of member-states to work together while complimenting the actions of international organizations. It needs to act with a coherent and “co-responsible” approach.

Thanks to its financial, material and human advantages along with its status on the global scene, the European Union is a central international actor. It needs to be concerned about problems of early warning, conflict prevention, conflict resolution and sustainable peace-building. Even if its involvement is contested because the effects of these actions are not always tangible in the short term, peace-building continues to be an indisputable objective of the international policy of the EU.

De facto, Europe wants to prevent and mange conflicts and to resolve wars. It participates in actions of justice and reconciliation, and the construction of sustainable peace. Furthermore, it is satisfying to hear it speak of its responsibility as an actor for peace on the international scene and to see it insist on the values that guide its actions. In the end, we must note that better coordination between the states and international organizations optimizes action in the theatre of conflict.

Indicators of exclusion to prevent conflicts

As we have highlighted, the direction of the European construction encourages the promotion of peace, both internally and around the world. The European Union values the principal that societies that establish themselves on stable social, economic, political, and ecological grounds encourage the construction of peace. Why? Because conflicts are often linked to the growth of poverty and inequalities, the lack of democracy, authoritarianism and political exclusion, and the destruction of the environment and its dramatic effects on populations.

Currently, the European Commission envisages peace-building in an integrated fashion. It recognizes that peace-building depends on a number of factors: a viable economic system, a democracy that respects fundamental rights, a stable state structure, shared social equity, and respect for the environment. From this perspective, the European Union reflects on the concept of “indicators of exclusion” that are applicable in all domains (political, economic, social, and environmental). These indicators allow it to identify potential sources of tension and act in targeted fashion to avoid the descent into violence. This strategy can be projected onto the diplomatic map by establishing alert mechanisms and political dialogue. For example, article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement passed with ACP countries (African Caribbean and Pacific countries) anticipates engagement in political dialogue in the case of violation of the essential elements of the Accord such as respect for human rights, democratic principles, or rule of law.

In a complimentary way, the EU leads concrete action on the ground. It finances the building of schools and infrastructure for transport or health, minesweeping and clearing operations (eg. Bosnia) and it supports measures for the return of combatants to civil life (eg. Cambodia). These actions work towards for the re-establishment of stability after a conflict.

Finally, this willingness to work for the construction of peaceful societies is visible through Europe’s aid programs. For example: putting in place and/or surveying electoral processes (eg. Columbia); civic education programmes (eg. South Africa, the West Banke); support for independent media (eg. Serbia); human rights training for military and police; and financial or administrative assistance (eg. Palestine).

Today, despite conceiving of peace in an integrated way and despite its many programs, the EU is not managing to export peace outside its borders. From now on, it should rethink the way that it implements and conceives of its strategy.

Our proposals

With an eye towards implementing its peace-building policies, the European Union needs to respond to several major demands:

  • Prove itself to be fast, flexible and efficient despite excelling in the important process of bureaucratization;
  • Engage qualified and competent personnel in spite of decreasing funds for research, the development of ideas, new methods and alternative paradigms;
  • Cultivate a long term vision even though the importance and urgency of problems seems to appeal to short term reactions that lead to fast and concrete results

Conversely, peace-building policy is meaningless unless it is included in a dynamic of cooperation at two levels. The EU therefore needs to cooperate at these two levels:

  • European: with the member states of the EU and local intermediaries
  • Geopolitical: By complimenting other powers or political groupings, other institutions and programmes of international organizations (notably the United Nations), and transnational civil society actors working effectively for the development of new ways of thinking and building peace in the face of current conflicts

The EU should equally improve and reinforce collaboration with other important actors who place themselves in direct contact with populations on the ground, notably non-governmental organizations who have precious resources and expertise.

These limits demonstrate that the EU still struggles to conceive and implement a true “Art of Peace” which incorporates an approach that reconciles causes with consequences, the short term with the long term, the local with the global, and the tangible with the intangible in the construction of sustainable peace.

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