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  • Final Activity Report Summary - EUPEACE-MAKING (The potential and practice of the EU's role in conflict settlement and resolution in its southern and eastern neighbourhood)

Final Activity Report Summary - EUPEACE-MAKING (The potential and practice of the EU's role in conflict settlement and resolution in its southern and eastern neighbourhood)

The European Union (EU)'s raison d'etre as a peace project ending centuries of warfare in Europe has fundamentally shaped its external mission. In its treaties and declarations, the EU has in fact recurrently flagged conflict resolution as a primary objective in its fledging foreign policy. EU speech acts have also highlighted the importance of complementary foreign policy objectives, such as the promotion of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and regional cooperation. Hence, beyond conflict management and settlement, EU foreign policy theoretically aspires at conflict prevention, resolution and transformation, through the eradication of the root causes of conflict. In promoting these aims, the EU's geographical focus has rested primarily in its beleaguered backyard to the south and to the east.

The EU's foreign policy instruments are well placed to promote structural peace in the neighbourhood. In particular, EU contractual relations - ranging from the accession process to looser forms of association - can play a constructive role in conflict resolution. Through the study of five ethno-political conflicts lying on or just beyond Europe's borders, this book analyses the impact and effectiveness of EU contractual relations on conflict resolution. Impact and effectiveness in Cyprus, Turkey, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel-Palestine and Georgia are assessed by contrasting the EU's declared aims in these conflicts with the conflicts' evolution on the ground.

Three variables have proved useful in understanding both the impact and the effectiveness of EU contractual relation in influencing the incentive structure in neighbourhood conflicts. First, the value of the contractual offer, and particularly the manner in which it is perceived by the conflict parties outside the EU. Second, the credibility of the obligations embedded in contractual relations and the extent to which these are related to the underlying issues fuelling the conflict or promoting its resolution. Third, the political management of the EU's ties with the conflict parties outside the confines of the contractual relationship.

The conclusions are sobering. Despite its potential to contribute significantly - and sometimes decisively - to conflict resolution, the EU has in practice punched well below its weight. On some occasions, it has contributed positively to conflict resolution, although underperforming with respect to its potential; on other occasions, it has unwittingly fuelled stalemate or retrenchment into conflict. The reasons underlying this underperformance need not be sought either in the objective limits of the EU's foreign policy instruments, or in the EU's much-quoted internal divisions. The gap between EU potential and effectiveness in practice often rests in the specific manner in which its contractual relations are conducted. At times, this has damaged the credibility of the EU, its norms and its obligations. At other times, contractual relations have been pursued with other EU interests and objectives in mind, which have thwarted peace-making efforts in the neighbourhood.

Unlike most studies on EU foreign policy, the focal point of my research has been on the recipient regions themselves, rather than on the EU. By understanding the domestic, regional and international factors underpinning neighbourhood conflicts, I have sought to analyse how and why the EU has influenced peace making the way it did. In particular, through in-depth interviews with official and non-official sources within conflict situations, I have tried to understand the domestic perceptions of the EU and of its policies, and their ensuing impact on conflict resolution efforts.

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