In the run up to 1 September, we, the European Think Tanks Group (ETTG), will be publishing a blog each Monday setting out the context of the five global challenges - trade and international finance; environmental sustainability; peace and security; democracy and human rights; and, poverty and inequality. Today’s blog, which will also be published here in the series The Current Column, examines peace, security and state fragility.
Brussels, 28 July 2014. In 2014 countries such as Ukraine, Mali, Central African Republic, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Kosovo and Serbia have all been part of the top table of European Union (EU) decision-making, because of conflict, fragility or threat of conflict. The EU’s strategic environment is rapidly changing – conflict and the fragile states are drawing closer to the EU’s own borders. Informally, EU officials talk of over 50 fragile, conflict-prone or conflict countries in which the EU has a presence or an interest.Strategic spillover from these situations can have a direct impact on the economic and political security of the EU and its citizens. The new leadership team in the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission (HRVP) will have this on their agenda and will have to offer, in close dialogue with EU member states, a strategic response.In view of the mounting insecurity/ instability so close to EU borders, it would be tempting to conclude the EU hasn’t done anything. However, this would be grossly unfair. Slowly and steadily, over the past 15 years, the EU institutions, with member-states, have been working to develop their capacities, in everything from their policy frameworks, their institutional architecture, working methods and intervention activities to respond to conflict better, as we illustrate in the table below. All the major building blocks are in place with the exception of a functioning human resources policy. What is missing, however, is that these parts still do not add up to a better response – the transition from being ‘good on paper’ to being ‘good in implementation’.Others have questioned the EU’s added value in responding to violent conflict. Yet the EU does have an added value in responding to violent conflict and fragility.
We have identified seven:
1. Fewer short-term bilateral interests than other actors (mainly its member states, but also those of major powers)
2. Capacity to establish long-term partnerships
3. Global presence
4. Continued presence long-term through its EU Delegation
5. A critical mass of aid to many conflict countries
6. Availability of short and long-term financial instruments
7. Credibility as a promoter of democracy and human rights
It is integrating its added value with the assets noted in the list above and investing them with political purpose and energy that will bring results. To respond effectively to instability and crisis, the EU and EU member states need to find effective answers on the timing of engagement; the type of activities to be deployed, the actors to work with; and the definition of geographical level to intervene. This calls for a more effective ‘division of labour’ between the EU institutions and EU member states and a renewed focus on conflict prevention as a means to counter the widening of fragility and occurrence of violent conflict.
These points are summarised in the above graph. The full report itself launched on 1 September will propose six practical steps for the new leadership to consider to achieve this. On 1 September, the European Think Tanks Group will publish a major report addressed to the new leadership of the European Union entitled Our Collective Interest: Why Europe’s problems need global solutions and global problems need European action. It calls for a new understanding of the EU’s global role, and in particular, a new approach to international development. The key message is that the EU’s ambitions for its own citizens – for prosperity, peace and environmental sustainability – cannot be divorced from its global responsibilities and opportunities. We identify five global challenges where we believe the EU has a comparative advantage to act and make a positive contribution to the world’s future. These are: trade and international finance; environmental sustainability; peace and security; democracy and human rights; and, poverty and inequality. The full report on 1 September will put forward recommendations for the EU’s engagement in each of these areas and propose organisational and structural changes to enhance the EU’s performance. We believe that this will involve creating a truly integrated, but flexible approach across institutions, and stronger political leadership to enable complex linkages between today’s global challenges and agendas.