Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management

“Rather than separating the civilian and military aspects, there needs to be one unified political strategy for dealing with crisis prevention and management, which privileges long-term non-military engagement over the use of military force.” [:] Ladies and gentlemen, First of all, I would like to thank the organisers on behalf of the Green/European Free Alliance Group for their timely initiative in organising this conference. Most of us agree that it is necessary that the EU becomes a more credible actor in international crisis management. At the same time, however, it needs to place more emphasis on the non-military dimension of crisis management. The Kosovo conflict taught us that we cannot rely solely on a US-led military alliance. It is difficult to speculate afterwards whether we could have avoided war, had there been an impartial, objective mediator in Rambouillet, such as the Norwegian government in the Middle East peace process. The complex reasons behind many conflicts cannot be resolved or enforced by military means. Sooner or later, the conflicting parties have to return to the negotiating table. After the tragedies in the Balkans, the Caucasus could become the next potential conflict region in Europe. It is difficult to see how the European Union or NATO could solve conflicts there by deploying troops on Russia’s doorstep.

What we need now is long-term conflict prevention and civilian, non-military means of crisis management. We must avoid new superpower policies and subjective criteria as to which human rights violations are tolerated and which are not. The Finnish Presidency is preparing two progress reports for the Helsinki Summit on the military and civilian aspects of crisis management. It is appropriate to demand that these two dimensions should not be separated but rather that there be a common political strategy towards crisis management, a strategy which always privileges non-military instruments. It is clear that military means should be used only as a last resort to prevent mass murders and severe human rights violations. The development of crisis management capabilities should not lead to higher military expenditure, but to reallocation of resources, restructuration and re-directing of “classical” military capacities towards crisis management. The EU and its Member States should undertake all possibilities to provide the EU with credible civilian conflict prevention and crisis management before adding military components. The initiative by the Green Group in the European Parliament on the European Civilian Peace Corps is just one example of recent initiatives aimed at enhancing the civilian aspects of conflict prevention.

This is not just about creating civilian peace troops, but represents a change in our paradigm of thinking about peace and conflict. These kind of operations will surely cost money, but less than establishing a European army of 40,000 soldiers, as suggested by the General Affairs Council a week ago. Conflict prevention is always less expensive than waging a war, both in terms of human lives and material damage. It is important to consider the new security paradigm when discussing resource allocation: why not ask that civilian conflict prevention and crisis management projects get at least as much funding as military ones? Why not ask for more resources for pressing issues, such as global climate change or the increasing number of refugees world-wide, which could reach 150 million by the year 2050? The EU has the potential to develop a holistic global strategy in order to gain credibility and success in conflict prevention. Coherent policy formation is needed in the areas of arms trade and human rights, or external economic relations and development co-operation, to mention just a few. In this context, the European Union has a great deal to learn from a number of non-governmental organisations. The EU also needs to avoid duplication and increase co-ordination with other international actors, such as the UN, OSCE and Council of Europe. It is very timely that civil society has a strong say in the new security and defence dimension of the EU, and one of the most important fights in this regard is that for more transparency. It is no longer acceptable that diplomats form foreign policy on their own: foreign policies belong to everyone. The European Parliament is very receptive to the ideas of civil society and willing to work with it in this process.

ISIS Conference on EU Restructuring for Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management Brussels, 22 November 1999