Human security should be a priority for EU

Heidi Hautala emphasized the role of conflict prevention in the External Action Service in her  speech in a seminar on “Conflict prevention and  EU” organized by the European Peace Liaison Office and the Commission.[:]


EEAS and conflict prevention

Firstly, I want to thank the European Peace Liaison Office (EPLO), the Commission, KATU and CMI for organizing this very timely event

Peace should be in the heart of EU

We should start by acknowledging that in theory conflict prevention is in the heart of EU. The Lisbon Treaty states that “The Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its people.” In fact, the European integration project itself is a successful peace project.

The EU has developed much capacity and taken action to respond to conflict and crisis, but prevention and long-term peacebuilding are still not at the core of the EU’s external action.

When I co-organized with EPLO and The Parliamentarians’ Network for Conflict Prevention and Human Security in June last year a hearing on Conflict prevention and EEAS all the panelists agreed that EEAS offers an unprecedented opportunity for EU to put in place new institutions and policies for preventing conflict and building peace. But what structure is best for this?

EEAS a possibility: What happened last year from Parliament’s point of view

When deciding about the structure of EEAS we Greens called for a strong integrated crisis management and peacebuilding department bringing together Commission and CSDP structures on an equal footing and preserving Community competences. The ongoing separation of these structures has undermined EU’s effectiveness when dealing with conflicts.

The High Representative’s original proposal would have been a step backward, as it represented more the interests of individual governments.

Luckily, the European Parliament managed to get a better result last summer. The conflict prevention, crisis response and peace building units from the Commission and the common security and defence policy (CSDP) structures from the Council were to be transferred to a new entity. They were supposed to work in close cooperation and under the direct authority of the High Representative. This would be a kind of coexistence of common European and governments interests (intergovernmentalism and community method).

I was very satisfied, when Baroness Ashton also promised to create a crisis response and peacebuilding departement, which was a Green demand.

EEAS a possibility: What should be done next

Unfortunately I don’t see these promises duly fulfilled in the organisational charter of EEAS from December.

• One entity

I am very happy of the creation of the Directorate for Conflict Prevention and Security Policy and within it of a Peacebuilding, Conflict Prevention and Mediation Unit. This could with right resources develop conflict mitigation strategies and ensure that the root causes of conflicts are addressed.

However, there is no clear entity for crisis management and peacebuilding as different units are scattered around in EEAS. For example the role of the isolated Managing Director for Crisis Response and Operational Coordination is very unclear.

Luckily when MEPs wrote to the High Representative about this problem, she stated that the structure is temporary. There will be a new proposal bringing different units together. According to my knowledge this will happen in May. Thus now it is the time to influence the future structure.

• Mainstreaming and policy coherence

The new structure has to be integrated in other parts of EEAS and all foreign policies. Otherwise EU can’t tackle the root causes of conflicts. One way to mainstream would be to bring conflict prevention expertise to the geographical units dealing with specific countries or regions. MEPs have also proposed to establish a crisis management board, which would bring together at least the managing director for crisis response and peacebuilding, chief operating officer, executive secretary general and the two deputies and Ms Ashton. The High Representative has a given green light to this.

I also support EPLO’s view, that there should be a link between the Directorate for Conflict Prevention and Security Policy and the relevant Council Working Groups (CIVCOM, PMG, EUMC) . It is clear, that the present separation of bodies doesn’t lead to an integrated approach. In order to put human security in heart of EU’s foreign policy, there is also a need for more links to the civil society.

• Prioritizing, adequate staffing and civilian/military balance

Additionally more personnel are needed for units like “peacebuilding, mediation and conflict prevention” (which would have only three staff members). Otherwise the civilian side would be overshadowed by the military, especially as not all the Commission staff was transferred to EEAS. Without a strong civilian side there is no hope for conflict prevention. There is a need for rebalancing especially in the Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CMPD).

In their letter to Ashton MEPs urged especially to integrate in EEAS the Commission staff that has planned and programmed the Stability Instrument. They have been transferred to the Foreign Policy Instruments Service outside EEAS. The Parliament has agreed to block 20 million of the budget for 2011, if this is not made. Ashton replied that a Commission proposal would be needed for this.

Ashton has made cuts to the staff. This staff will be transferred to new units. This is her possibility to choose priorities. Obviously she should prioritize conflict prevention and human rights.

Gender balance

MEPs have been also disappointed of strikingly low number of women at the management level in EEAS. How can EU credibly support women in peace processes, when it does not have itself enough women in leadership positions? Ashton replied that there are not enough suitable women candidates. I urge EU member States to propose always also a woman as a candidate to posts. European Parliament will continue to scrutinize the appointments and to demand gender balance.

Link to human rights

As the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee for Human Rights, I emphasize the link between human rights and conflict prevention. I was very pleased to receive the news of the human rights structure in EEAS. The two units under a distinct Human Rights and Democracy Directorate will offer EU tools to regain the lead in global human rights arena.

But only by ensuring that the person appointed as Managing for Director Global and Multilateral Issues is a real expert in human rights, can we ensure that the Directorate is effective.

To cement this success there is still need for progress, as the establishment of permanent, Brussels-based COHOM and creation of thematic EU Special Representatives on Human Rights, International Justice and International Humanitarian Law, Women’s rights, Human Rights Defenders and Children’s Rights.

With regards peace and justice, I would like to reemphasise that these two are inseparable. This, however, has been unclear at the EU policy level. EU failed to push for Commission for Crimes against Humanity in Burma under the pretext that the elections were preferred to have been held first. We have failed to give our support to the legitimate conclusions in the framework of international law by Mr Goldstone. The list is long. EEAS now has a historic opportunity to close the credibility gap between its commitment to peace and justice.

The role of European Parliament

You can see that EP has had an important role as a watchdog. Also, through our budgetary and scrutiny powers we try to ensure that the human security approach is not left aside.
As said in the Subcommittee of Human Rights I want to link human rights to conflict prevention. I invite EPLO as a civil society partner to help in this. Together we could promote a joint meeting of different parliamentary committees to produce a common vision of EU’s future role in conflict prevention and peace building.

Our Green vision is that EEAS would cover 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?