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Good intentions, mixed results – A conflict sensitive unpacking of the EU comprehensive approach to conflict and crisis mechanisms

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EUNPACK (Good intentions, mixed results – A conflict sensitive unpacking of the EU comprehensive approach to conflict and crisis mechanisms)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2019-03-31

The main objective of the EUNPACK project has been to unpack EU crisis response mechanisms and provide new insights on how they are received and perceived on the ground by local beneficiaries as well as external stakeholders. By introducing a bottom-up perspective combined with an institutional approach, the project has tried to break with the dominant line of scholarship on EU crisis response that has tended to view only one side of the equation, namely the EU itself. This entails exploring local agencies and perceptions in target countries without losing sight of EU institutions and their expectations and ambitions, as well as examining the whole cycle of crisis, from pre-crisis, through crisis and into post-crisis phase. On this basis, EUNPACK has analysed two main gaps in EU’s crisis response: 1) the intentions-implementation gap, and 2) the local reception/perception gap. Our main hypothesis is that the severity of the two gaps is a decisive factor for the EU’s impacts on crisis management and thereby its ability to contribute more effectively to problem-solving on the ground. We have analysed these gaps through cases that reflect the variation of EU crisis response in three concentric areas surrounding the EU: the enlargement area (Kosovo, Serbia), the neighbourhood area (Ukraine, Libya), and the extended neighbourhood (Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali,). The result of our research has enabled us to present policy recommendations fine-tuned to making EU’s crisis response mechanisms more conflict and content sensitive, and thereby more efficient and sustainable.
The work carried out during the three years of EUNPACK consists of deepening the conceptual clarity of the issues at stake in crisis management, a comprehensive mapping of the EU’s crisis response mechanisms, and detailed analyses of EU polices in crisis management in the case countries. EUNPACK developed a framework that goes beyond the limitations of crisis management and extends to crisis resolution and critical crisis transformation. The approach has therefore made it possible to uncover and explore local agencies and perceptions in target countries without losing sight of the EU’s institutions and their expectations and ambitions. It has allowed us to analyse the full cycle of dynamic events, from EU intentions, motivations and subsequent implementation, to local actors’ perceptions and reactions, and back again to EU intentions and understanding, utilising a mix-methods approach that combined desk reviews with in-depth fieldwork, ranging from interviews, focus groups to perception surveys in all case countries. As the research unfolded through detailed empirical fieldwork, with EU delegations, other external stakeholders, national stakeholders, and more than 1300 interviews with people directly affected by the conflict in the case countries, we identified a related third gap in EU crisis response that we coined the ʻinformation-local ownershipʼ gap. As such, EUNPACK has expanded the strategic horizon of policy-makers as well as scholars’ analytical framework used in the evaluation of crisis response.

Key results
- The edited volume ‘The EU and Crisis Response’ (Mac Ginty, Pogodda & Richmond) is under review at Manchester University Press and Edinburgh University Press.
- A number of academic articles have been submitted to peer-reviewed journals, with two already being published (Mac Ginty, 2018; Rieker & Blockmans 2019).
- Final Conference in Brussels, 18-19/03/2019
- Joint H2020 Policy Roundtable, Brussels, 20/03/19, organized by EUNPACK in collaboration with H2020-funded projects EU-STRAT, FEUTURE and INFORM. Live-streamed at NUPI’s official YouTube channel.
- EUNPACK Policy Roundtable, Brussels, 20/03/19. Live-streamed at NUPI’s official YouTube channel.
- Presence at several high-ranking international academic conferences, such as MERI Forum 2018, GlobSec 2018 (Bratislava), Belgrade Security Forum, and ISA 2019 (Toronto). EUNPACK also visited the EU Training Mission’s (EUTM) headquarters in Bamako on 20/11/18.
- ‘Executive Summary of the Final Report & Selected Policy Recommendations: A conflict-sensitive unpacking of the EU comprehensive approach to conflict and crisis mechanisms’ (Bøås & Rieker 2019)
- The two-page summary ‘EUNPACK: Highlights and Recommendations’ (2019)
- Freie Universität Berlin held a graduate course over four semesters (2017-2018) titled ‘European Union foreign policy in action: crises and conflict management policy’, based on the analytical framework of EUNPACK. More than 90 students participated (EU, US , China, Russia)
- EUNPACK will also be a featured research project in CORDIS (publication date April 2019).
EUNPACK will have wide societal impacts beyond the project period due to 1) all the academic publications that will come out of this project in the months and years to come that are based on the research, (2) the excellent cooperation established between European institutions and institutions in the Balkans, the Middle East and the Sahel will continue and has also created the foundations for further research cooperation and capacities to deal with the EU’s response to crises beyond its borders, (3) the important combination of bottom-up and institutional perspectives will have a lasting impact on how both policy makers and scholars understand and analyse the EU’s crisis response.
EUNPACK has also been able to prove concrete policy advise on how to improve the Union’s crisis response and make it more efficient and to identify crucial paradoxes of crisis response that constitutes progress beyond the state of the art as they have substantial relevance for the EU, but also for other external stakeholders involved in crisis response. While the EU’s comprehensive approach has potential, what is needed are concrete policy measures to tackle the gap between intentions and mixed results. This will be essential of the Union’s crisis response is to have a larger impact. Paying serious institution-wide attention to the paradoxes of EU crisis response below may contribute to such a process of reform.
1) Local ownership is in practice seeking support of political elites rather than people on the ground
2) EU crisis response is a Brussels-based design with limited sensitivity for local context or root causes of conflict
3) EU interests, not local demands, increasingly drives crisis response
4) Narrow security concerns rather than addressing underlying structural issues
5) Short-term conflict management instead of long-term solutions
EUNPACK research has shown that these paradoxes are key reasons why the EU’s impact is limited and why its crisis response continues to produce mixed results on the ground. Going forward, the EU should make efforts to address these paradoxes. Co-operating more and deeper with constructive local actors and designing operations increasingly based on local needs are important, and all EU engagement in this regard must think long-term. While some actions may be favoured in the short-term, one must more critically engage with potential long-term effects.
Workshop, Bamako, Mali
MERI Annual Forum 2018
EUNPACK team meeting, Bamako, Malo
EUNPACK roundtable in Brussels on 20 March 2019
FINAL EUNPACK Conference 2019, Brussels
Belgrade Security Forum 2018