The EU as a peacemaker

In light of the announcement from the Norwegian Nobel Committee that the European Union (EU) is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012, the UCDP wishes to highlight some of the findings from its 2010 report on the EU as a peacemaker. Unquestionably, the EU has been successful in keeping peace between former archenemies such as France and Germany. However, EU member states have nonetheless been engaged in international and intrastate conflicts in the most recent decades. The report demonstrates that there is a need for a new start for EU as a peacemaker. “In the documentation of EU engagement in international affairs, the report finds the record to be below expectations”. It “also asserts that there is a potential for the EU to take on a more significant international role”.

What could be expected of the EU as a peacemaker? Two basic goals for the EU regards international peace and security and the promotion of human rights and democracy. Assessing the EUs performance over time UCDP researchers find a surprisingly weak performance, not the least when looking at EU as a peaceful peacemaker. 25 out of 27 EU member states have at some point been engaged in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The operation takes place under NATO flag and comparing the resources poured into the armed peacemaking the commitment through e.g. EU civil police operations in the country has been fairly small.

With member states militarily engaged in armed conflict, independently or as part of other military organizations, may risk hampering the EUs possibilities to perform as a peaceful peacemaker. Countries such as the UK (involved in the Gulf War 1991, Iraq in the 2000s, with its engagement in Northern Ireland and in Sierra Leone in 2000), Spain (engaged in the same international wars as the UK but also regarding the Basque conflict) and France (in Iraq 1991 and with several interventions in Africa) are three big EU members who both internally and externally have engaged militarily in armed conflict.

In terms of strategy for early crisis management, EU engagement seems to be focused on a few conflicts where it attempts to affect the policies of the government side. EU engagement as a leading third party in conflicts has so far been fairly restricted. Macedonia in 2001 (under the Swedish presidency) and in Georgia (South Ossetia) in 2008 (with the French presidency highly engaged) are two examples. The latter conflict, while inactive in regard of battle-related deaths, remains to see a solution to the underlying incompatibility. Georgia also exemplifies EUs seemingly increased engagement, also outside their direct neighbors, stretching into former Soviet Union states, but also to Africa.

With a limited “willingness to use costly rather than symbolic measures to protect human rights”, EU sanctions have been fairly ineffective. While the EU has been largely successful in brokering peace and terminating conflict where it has been engaged, this effectiveness has not seemed to prevent human rights violations, domestic military involvement in politics or the outbreak of conflict.

Concluding; the UCDP report on EU as a peacemaker finds that:

  • There is a need to refocus Europe’s international conflict activity to constructive engagements for peace and security.
  • The EU needs to make more use of, and develop, its crisis management capacities.
  • The EU needs to strengthen the role of the EU Special Representatives.
  • ESDP/CSDP operations need to increase their weight in conflict resolution and peacekeeping.
  • The EU needs to emphasise its role as a leading force for human rights and democracy by making its actions more effective.
  • The EU needs to draw on the competence of the entire Union.
  • The EU needs to integrate peace dimensions into a new doctrine of peaceful conflict resolution and peacebuilding, firmly rested on the values expressed in the Lisbon Treaty.
  • The EU needs to make its goals clearer and increase its visibility when cooperating with other international bodies for international peace (e.g. UN; OSCE; AU).


Read the report here: