Conflict prevention and EEAS

I co-organized with the European Peace Liaison Office [:](EPLO) and The Parliamentarians’ Network for Conflict Prevention and Human Security on 29 June a very timely hearing on Conflict prevention and European External Action. More than 100 people were present to discuss a topic, which still at that time had not been agreed upon between the European parliament and the High Representative, as part of the negotiation on establishing the new European External Action Service (EEAS).

The Lisbon Treaty states that “The Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its people.” All the panelists agreed that EEAS offers an unprecedented opportunity for EU to put in place new institutions and policies it needs in preventing conflict and building peace.

Ulrike Lunacek, Green MEP from Austria, deplored that the High Representative’s original proposal would in fact been a step backward. The existing structure would have just been transferred to EEAS. Pure intergovermentalism would have prevented an integrated approach to conflict prevention. It would have meant weaker role for the Commission which represents a common European interest, not the interests of individual governments.

Luckily, in the end the European Parliament has managed to get a better result: the conflict prevention and crises response units from the Commission and the common security and defence policy structures from the Council will be transferred to a new entity and will work in close cooperation and synergy and under the direct responsibility and authority of the High Representative. This is a kind of coexistence of intergovernmentalism and community method.

We still have to regret the missed opportunity of creating a single department that would have brought together all the crisis management and peacebuilding instruments. This Green vision would have covered all the conflict cycle from early warning through conflict resolution to reconciliation. Focusing on conflict prevention would mean less need for crisis management. – Who could dispute such a sensible approach which saves human suffering and money?

Catherine Woollard, the Executive Director of EPLO shared these views. She worried that in EEAS the civilian side would be overshadowed by the military aspects. According to her, the European Parliament would have through its scrutiny powers a great role in ensuring that the conflict prevention approach would not be left aside.

Angelika Beer, the Chair of the Parliamentarians’ Network emphasized the need to organize a network of MEPs for promoting conflict prevention. This topic was left open for further discussion.

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera from the European Commission stated that the European Parliament should be the watchdog of the High Representative. She saw EEAS as a possibility for crosscutting action, for example by bringing conflict prevention expertise to the geographical units dealing with specific countries or regions.

Many interesting proposals were heard from the audience e.g. that the new financial perspective should be made to serve a comprehensive conflict prevention approach. In the Subcommittee on Human Rights I want to link human rights to conflict prevention and invite EPLO as a civil society partner to help in this. Together we should promote a joint meeting of different parliamentary committees to produce a common vision of EU’s future role in conflict prevention and peace building.

Today, on 7 July, the European Parliament has discussed the External Action Service. I particularly expressed my satisfaction of a good achievement on human rights. The implementation of EEAS must be made into a turning point in EU’s role in the world. The new foreign policy must be based on modern concepts. Conflict prevention, peace building and integration of human rights into all activities are its essential building blocks. In order to achieve this, a lot of effort is still needed. The vague compromise has to be concretized into an efficient structure for preventing conflicts and building peace in EEAS.