Conflict Prevention and the European Union. Representation of the European Commission in Helsinki 7.2.2011

Two tragic events some fifteen years ago In Rwanda and Srebrenica galvanized the international community into taking new steps towards more effective crisis management. In both cases the atrocities were witnessed at first hand by international peacekeepers who with neither a mandate nor sufficient force did not intervene and stop the killings. For the EU this was the decisive impetus to build its military crisis management capabilities, including its now operational Battle Groups for rapid deployment in demanding peace-keeping tasks.
While the of the Cold War has allowed some longstanding conflicts to be addressed and resolved, it has had no effect in the Middle East for example. In many parts of the world it may even have encouraged some long-simmering conflicts, which had been contained by the Superpowers who did not want them to escalate to direct confrontation, to flare up again.
People do not necessarily feel more secure today than during the Cold War, but their security concerns are different. While threats associated with traditional war have receded, they have been replaced by threats to what is referred to as the broad concept of security. These do include the use of weapons in conflict, but more in Civil war type situations and so-called asymmetrical conflicts, where one or more non-state actors are involved, often in situations created by, or leading to, failed states which cannot guarantee the security of their citizens.
The broad concept of security also includes non-military threats, such as drugs, the spread of communicable diseases, cross-border crime, trafficking in human beings, environmental hazards and catastrophes, the effects of climate change, uncontrolled migration of people trying to flee from war, human rights violations, environmental degradation or just plain poverty; terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
I deliberately include terrorism in the list of non-military threats, because one of the costliest mistakes that we have all suffered from has been the adoption of war-rhetoric in combating terrorism. This is not to say that the use of military means is never necessary in meeting the threat of terrorism. It can even be necessary in dealing with the other new threats to broad security, but these are threats that can never be successfully dealt with only through military means and use of war rhetoric.
Indeed, not only are these threats not susceptible to military solutions, they are also of the kind that cannot be dealt with unilaterally or by domestic solutions. They all, I would say almost by definition, call for multilateral efforts and cooperation on the broadest possible basis.
One often neglected mega-factor behind all change and challenges in today’s world is population growth, which has irrevocably changed the world and is the most obvious reason why interdependence – whether we like or not, in both thing good and bad, is a reality that no-one can escape.

This also sets the agenda for global governance. Interdependence calls for common solutions. Moreover, also the challenges themselves are interlinked. ”No development without peace, no peace without development” is already a generally accepted conclusion, which can be expanded to cover also Human Rights and democracy and all other elements which contribute to human security. 

The conclusion is, that while crisis management capabilities ranging from observers, arbitrators, mediators to traditional peacekeeping, civilian crisis management and also increasingly demanding crisis management operations are needed, they are not enough if new conflicts emerge continuously. Even old conflicts can erupt again unless the underlying root causes are successfully addressed. A frozen conflict remains an unresolved conflict and may be again unleashed by global warming – in some cases even literally through the effects of climate change.
Thus the international community – primarily the UN but also regional must continue to develop and refine a comprehensive approach to all aspects of conflict prevention and crisis management. We can point to some very important new approaches incorporating new principles for strengthening the rule-of-law in international relations and which answer to thee need of a Post-Westphalian world order.
These include the ”Responsibility to Protect”, which can be defined as a set of three principles. First, all states have a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, second, if the state is unable to protect its population on its own, the international community has a responsibility to assist the state by building its capacity. and thirdly, if a state is manifestly failing to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures are not working, the international community has the responsibility to intervene at first diplomatically, then more coercively, and as a last resort, with military force.

Another important milestone has been the withering of impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations and other crimes. The agreement setting up the International Criminal Court is arguably the most important single milestone in strengthening the international rule-of-law since the Second World War. The creation of the UN Peacebuilding Commission in 2005 ia also important, even if it has so far been something of a disappointment.
The International Community has in recent years moved on from traditional peacekeeping to taking on more demanding crisis management operations. As such it has to be welcomed, but at the same time one can point to a growing discrepancy between enhanced efforts to deal with crises and too little progress on conflict prevention and our ability to deal comprehensively with all relevant aspects of what could be called the conflict cycle.
This is welcome, but we must also be realistic about real adherence to all these principles and the will and ability to use these instruments and institutions. One can also perceive a hardening in the attitudes of and increase in support for what could be called the ”traditional sovereignty school” of states, which, for a variety of reasons, are reluctant to condone any erosion of sovereignty and international intervention with Russia and China inclining to this view in the Security Council. And neither is the commitment of the United States as solid as we would wish it to be, even if the present administration is commendably supportative of the UN and multilateral cooperation.
We should also note how non-state actors in a globalizing world have begun to wield real influence which is not directly linked to any material resources at their disposal. These are today often referred to as CSO:s – Civil Society organisations, which include NGO:s, international grass-roots campaigns and movements as well as international elite organisastions suchs as the Bildeberg group or the ECFR – we also have a wide variety of actors, whose contributions to these ends may be negative or positive
But on the whole the CSO’s are welcome ne international actors, and whatever their shortcomings they may have are not necessarily worse than what many governments have, and CSO:s annoy governments it is more often in a good cause rather than not. One reason why governments may distrust CSO:s is that they are also competitors when they challenge state’s monopoly as sovereign actors on the international scene. 
Some recent examples of what a civil society campaigns can achieve are the scuttling of the draft MAI-agreement negotiated between governments in the OECD, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1997 and campaigns to stop the trade in ”blood diamonds” and to grant debt-relief to the poorest countries.
Finland enjoys good relations with the NGO community. Representatives of NGO:s are, for example, regularly included in the Finnish official delegations to international conferences. They are also partners in many concrete development and peacebuilding projects, as well as increasingly in Crisis Management and Conflict Prevention.
While peacekeeping of the traditional kind has been our trade-mark we have enlarged our repertoire both to civilian crisis management – where we and Sweden were initiators in getting the EU to set its headline goals also for civilian crisis management capabilities – as well as more demanding military crisis management operations. Finland, Norway and Sweden are good examples of what small countries can contribute, together or separately, to peacebuilding and managing the conflict cycle, but obviously there are limits to what small countries can do. 
I would therefore want to stress the role the European Union could and should have. The EU is not a military super-power or even a lesser one, nor does it have any plans or need to become one, all the member states of the European Union do employ national armies. The military capabilities of the EU countries are increasingly oriented towards crisis-management operations and not towards traditional territorial defence. Internationally the EU is  perceived a ”soft-power” actor, but the union does also have hard power in the form of its military crisis management capabilities that can be employed collectively, up to 60 000 troops based on the headline goals adopted in Helsinki already ten years ago – on paper anyway – including the rapid deployment Battle Groups of which two are in stand-by readiness at all times.

But this hard power does not, nor should it, define the EU’s role. On the contrary, the EU as an international organisation of a sui generis kind is also unique in its capacity to bring to international crisis-management tasks a comprehensive variety of different instruments which no other international organisation or nation state can match: its military crisis management capabilities continue to be enhanced, but at least as important and in many instances more important are its wide-ranging civilian crisis management capabilities, which have been developed on the basis of a similarly adopted headline goal for civilian crisis management, including police, rescue teams, judiciary experts, and the resources available for economic aid, trade and so forth; capabilities which need to be deployed together and be well coordinated.

Nor should we overlook what is perhaps the most powerful instrument in the EU’s arsenal: the so-called European perspective of membership in the European union it can offer to countries in its neighbourhood. The EU is, after all, arguably the most successful peace project in world history, having put to an end the sceptre of war between its members states, who have between them started two world wars and countless lesser ones. Its attractiveness in this is its most important contribution to Conflict Prevention.

Having said this it has to admitted, that it’s more a case of describing the theory of EU crisis management rather than its practice. Subjected to critical close-range scrutiny the picture looks much less encouraging. Not because the EU does things badly – and it has some good and even outstanding if limited achievements in crisis management – but rather because it is, all its noble pretensions notwithstanding, still very much a learner in how to deal with all phases of the conflict cycle, reactive rather than proactive, and often hampered by disunity and its own cumbersome decision-making procedures. 
The sine qua non for any influence the EU may hope to exert, with any kind of power, hard or soft, is that it needs to be able to take the decisions necessary and talk with one voice and implement a single common policy. The EU cannot deploy crisis management instruments or take any relevant decisions on CFSP without unanimity. While the Lisbon treaty has brought concrete benefits to the management of the EU’s CFSP, namely the external service and amalgamating the posts of High Representative and the Commissioner in charge of external relations, putting an end to the rivalry between the two which has seriously hampered the EU in the past, it will not change this basic fact, that the EU has to have unity to be able to conduct any foreign policy and use the instruments at its disposal.
In this respect the situation has gradually improved, which I was able to observe at first hand when sitting as foreign minister on the EU’s General Affairs and External Relations Council for a period of seven years. There is a growing recognition that for the EU to be taken seriously by any one and for our policies to have any effect on other actors, we need to agree on a common policy and also not undermine it by actions of national governments not in line with the common policy.

There is still quite a lot to be done to make the EU into a real global actor which is both willing and able to use its resources must more effectively and place Conflict Prevention rather than just reacting to crisis at the top of itse agenda.