Time for an authentic European Peace Policy
Violent conflicts at our doorstep, political instability dominating our neighbourhood, spread of violent extremism, increasing economic inequality and social injustice in many parts of the world are just some examples that pose a particular challenge to the European Union and its role on the international scene today. In several instances, the efficiency of EU´s external action has been marked by lacking unity between Member States. The European External Action Service (EEAS) launched in 2011 as the EU´s diplomatic arm is still not sufficiently coordinated with other European institutions. These developments only demonstrate that the external action of the EU needs strategical guidance more than ever.
The decision of the European Council in June 2015 to task the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini with preparing an EU Global Strategy within a year’s time to replace the outdated Security Strategy from 2003 was saluted by many as an important step forward. With only some days left to the next European Summit at the end of June, it is, however, still an open question which level of ambition the 28 Heads of State and Government will be willing to accept in EU’s Foreign and Security Policy.
Developing an authentic European Peace Policy
In Church’s understanding, peace is “not merely the absence of war” (Pope Paul VI, Populorum progressio) but peacebuilding above all requires the establishment of an order governed by the principles of “truth, justice, charity and freedom” (Pope John XXIII, Pacem In Terris).
Applied to the case of the European Union, this implies that the EU should join up its wide-ranging policy instruments, internal and external, and develop an authentic Peace Policy, which goes well beyond the narrow remit of the traditional state security policy.
This will first of all require the adoption of a set of forward-looking and broad-based actions aiming at building peace pre-emptively. The EU should strengthen the tools of peace diplomacy and intensify mediation efforts to reach political settlements of violent conflicts. By stepping up efforts in post-conflict management and supporting long-term processes of reconciliation, the EU could make an important contribution to successful transition to peaceful societies in crisis-affected regions.
The European Union is also well-placed to lead peacebuilding efforts through the means of justice. In this context, the EU must be an active promoter of human rights and use its respective policy tools in a coherent manner. The instruments of development and trade policy can become true drivers of socio-economic justice by empowering third-countries and their inhabitants to become agents of their own development and assisting developing countries to gradually integrate themselves into the world economy. Following the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement, the EU and its Member States must keep their ecological commitments and also adequately address the questions of energy security and energy efficiency.
The recent calls for a more effective bundling of European defence and security capabilities, which according to studies could avoid duplications and lead to significant savings as regards military spending, deserve a further careful assessment. At the same time, however, an overall disarmament strategy, including nuclear disarmament, with a view to systematically reducing the military arsenals in Europe and worldwide should be an integral part of the Common Security and Defence Policy. Another important challenge in this respect constitute the gaps in arms export control, which call for more effective and coherent regulatory frameworks as well as their proper implementation.
The Bishops of COMECE adopted at their last Spring Plenary Assembly 2016 a report on “Europe’s vocation to promote peace in the world” as their contribution to the preparations of the EU Global Strategy. The report has been well received by High Representative Mogherini last April who, in particular, highlighted the unique contribution which the Catholic Church with its worldwide networks and a broad societal outreach can make to EU’s peacebuilding mission, be it in the area of conflict prevention, reconciliation or the provision of development and humanitarian aid. The report will be presented to the wider public in the month of June.
It remains to be hoped that at the upcoming European Council the Member States will show leadership and seize this historic moment of crisis to advance the role of the EU in promoting peace in the world.