Conflict Prevention: Commission initiative to improve EU's civilian intervention capacities

European Commission press release


Brussels, 11 April 2001

Conflict Prevention: Commission initiative to improve EU's civilian intervention capacities

The Commission today adopted a Communication on Conflict Prevention. This document contains a comprehensive review of all the recent initiatives undertaken by the Community to promote peace and stability. The communication proposes a consolidated and realistic approach of the EU to conflict prevention. It recommends a series of concrete proposals in order to gain more from Community actions and programmes with the aim to improve the integration of conflict prevention objectives into the EU's external action.

This communication is a follow-up to the joint report on conflict prevention which had been prepared by the Commission and the High Representative/Secretary General of the Council for the Nice Summit in December 2000. It is the Commission's contribution to the elaboration of the European Programme for Conflict Prevention which is foreseen to be adopted by the European Council at Göteborg next June.

"We are conscious that whilst we are talking" stated Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten "there are ongoing crises in the world. However, we are working in the right direction. The EU can make a real contribution towards the construction of peace and stability in the world. Not only because it is a major actor on the international scene and the worlds largest aid donor, but even more due to the fact that the EU was itself born form a war, and was designed so as to prevent conflicts. The search for peace is one of the founding reasons for the EU's existence. The impact of our policies in this area is however crucially dependent upon a clear political will and a capacity for coherent and well co-ordinated action."

The Commission's Communication pursues four main objectives:

    • A more systematic and co-ordinated use of Community instruments, in particular of external co-operation programmes;
    • Improve the efficiency of actions by developing specific methods to identify and fight against the root causes of conflicts at an early stage instead of only addressing the symptoms at times of acute crises;
    • Improve the capacity of the EU to react quickly to nascent conflicts;
    • Promote targeted international co-operation on conflict prevention with all the EU's principal partners.

The most efficient instruments to deal with the underlying causes of conflict (such as poverty, social inequality, ethnic and regional tensions, weakness of socio-political structures, exploitation and illicit trades and the competition for natural resources) remain the EU's programmes of aid and co-operation. In view of this and based on a consolidated approach, the Commission proposes a systematic integration of conflict indicators and the objective of prevention into the programming of Community external aid programmes.

Moreover, the Communication puts forward a series of recommendations for specific actions. These are targeted at preventing nascent conflicts from developing in the long term and at improving the capacity of the EU to react in emerging crises situations. These recommendations can be found in the annex to this text.


List of recommendations

The Commission:

Long-term prevention

    • will give higher priority to its support for regional integration and in particular regional organisations with a clear conflict prevention mandate;
    • will ensure that its development policy and other co-operation programmes are more clearly focused on addressing root causes of conflict in an integrated way;
    • will use in all Country Strategy Papers appropriate indicators to analyse potential conflict situations;
    • will develop practical programming tools for mainstreaming conflict prevention measures in co-operation programmes with countries at risk;
    • will exchange Country Strategy Papers with corresponding documents from Member States.
    • will set up a pilot system, in close co-operation with Council Policy Unit, for the regular exchange of information between Commission, Council Policy Unit and Member State desk officers, for two unstable areas: the Balkans and the Great Lakes.
    • is considering co-financing World Bank and IMF funding instruments which will support the implementation of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers in the ACP countries;
    • will implement, for countries showing conflict potential, more targeted actions, where appropriate, to open the way to a more favourable democratic environment. In particular increased emphasis will be placed on support to electoral processes, parliamentary activities and the administration of justice. In doing so, the Commission will in particular promote the equal participation of men and women in social, economic and political life.
    • intends, within the limits of its competencies, to play an increasingly active role in the security sector area. This will take the form of activities aiming at improving police services, promoting conversion, disarmament and non-proliferation both as regards weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons. The Commission could support human rights training for the whole security sector.
    • will, in post-conflict situations, concentrate EC assistance on the consolidation of peace and the prevention of future conflicts, in particular through rehabilitation programmes, child-related rehabilitation measures and DDR programmes as well as programmes supporting reconciliation processes.
    • will focus its co-operation/anti-drug actions on the two main routes by which drugs reach Europe, through the Balkans and between Latin America and the Caribbean. In so doing , it will continue to draw on the expertise of Member States.
    • will give higher priority to its support aimed at controlling the spread of small arms. It will work for an ambitious Union position in view of the forthcoming UN conference on illegal trade in light weapons and small arms. When managing programmes on small arms, the Commission will closely examine the situation of the customs sector.
    • will play an active role in the Kimberley task force on the certification system for rough diamonds and will present a policy paper to the Council by the end of the year outlining options on this issue;
    • will support, where a clear commitment to regional collaboration exists, regional actions aiming at a fair management of shared water resources;
    • will address issues of natural resources and environmental degradation through its bilateral and regional programmes and will enhance support for the implementation by partner countries of Multilateral Environmental Agreements. High priority will also be given to environmental rehabilitation projects in post-conflict programmes;
    • will seek to deepen its dialogue with specialised organisations in view of better detecting destabilising population flows at an early stage. Such organisations could include the IOM and UNHCR;
    • is committed to promoting actively the OECD guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which aim at encouraging businesses to behave responsibly when operating abroad, and in particular in developing countries;

Short term prevention

    • will work with the SG/HR on regular reviews of potential conflict zones, including the establishment of early warning mechanisms;
    • will initiate a debate within the Council on ways of enabling the EU to devise and implement preventive sanctions;
    • considers that more systematic use must be made of the political dialogue where a crisis appears imminent. Such dialogue should be based on a strong political line. It should be more focused, time-flexible and robust than in the past. The Commission is prepared to work with the SG/HR on developing concrete proposals in this field.;
    • considers that the Special Representatives should be used more widely as mediators, that they should be empowered to adopt a firm position on the situation covered by the terms of their mandate, and that they should be available for short-term (e.g. six-month) missions as well. The Commission is prepared to work with the SG/HR on developing concrete proposals in this field;
    • is encouraging Member States to work together and with the UN and OSCE, on training in the fields of rule of law and civil administration for personnel to be deployed in international missions. The Commission is prepared to support such training programmes with Community funds;

International co-operation

    • proposes to integrate more systematically into the political dialogue with partner countries discussions on early-warning systems and regular monitoring of potential conflict zones. In post-conflict situations, it intends to play a more active role within the "Friends of" approach and to foster exchanges of information among donors;
    • considers that conflict prevention should be a major element of the enhanced structural dialogue being put in place between the Union and the UNSG. For its part, the Commission has already developed a programming dialogue with UNHCR and WFP and proposes to establish a similar dialogue with other UN agencies, funds and programmes;
    • is prepared, at the operational level, to exchange its Country Strategy Papers with the UN Common Country Assessments. It intends to launch a dialogue with UN agencies on this subject. It is also currently looking at the possibility of providing financial support for the Trust Fund for Preventive Action;
    • intends to raise the link between natural resource depletion and security during the preparations for the ten-year review of Rio, the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg;
    • will continue to pursue its co-operation with OSCE and Council of Europe in the area of Conflict Prevention, notably by developing common modules/programmes for staff training for field operations (cf. OSCE REACT system);
    • plans to use the G8 CPOM to promote the EU's positions on small arms and light weapons, conflict and development, illicit trade in diamonds, children in armed conflicts, international civilian police, role of women and corporate social responsability and foster coherence between this forum and other international ones where these issues are discussed.
    • will give higher priority, through the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, to activities that contribute to the prevention of conflicts and help to deal with the consequences of conflicts.


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