6th Dec 2023


With EU 'peace'-making into 2009

In 2008 the EU continued to largely mismanage the area that the Lisbon Treaty defines as the Union's top priority - peace.

The Treaty itself defines peace and security predominantly through a military prism and suggests military means as main conflict-management tools rather than conflict understanding, dialogue, negotiations and reconciliation. To put it crudely, the Treaty's peace understanding is not state-of-the art and light years behind the decade-old UN Charter.

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  • "It is problematic to try and teach someone lawful government when the teacher ignores the rule of law" (Photo:

The fact that the Treaty was pushed through without a serious revision, amendments and broadening of perspectives to include modern conflict-management, the UN Charter norm of "peace by peaceful means" and incorporation of human security and other human-social-cultural dimensions of stability alone makes a difficult beginning for 2009 (1).

The Union has an unimpressive record in former Yugoslavia; it dates back to its extremely counter productive, selective, law-defying and premature recognition of Croatia and Slovenia as independent without having a policy for the rest of the Yugoslav/Balkan conflict formation.

There were plenty of warnings against this move - orchestrated by Hans-Dietrich Genscher at the time - and predictably it released the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The EU has tried to pick up the pieces in Bosnia and was, in 2008, set to continue the UN's Mission Impossible in the chaotic but independent Kosovo – which today remains un-recognized by about 75 % of the world's governments.

To expect peace, democracy and welfare to come out of that place with the international community's peace-preventive policies since 1990 is to entertain illusions. Worse, its new mission there is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 that states the obvious, namely that the then Rest-Yugoslavia - today's Serbia - is an independent, sovereign state.

It is problematic to try and teach someone lawful government when the teacher ignores the rule of law – as it did with the 1999 NATO bombing that was wholeheartedly endorsed by all EU countries at the time. Perhaps one should be reminded that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was the highest civilian, in his then role as NATO Secretary General, responsible for that devastating conflict-mismanagement.

In August 2008, the Georgia-Russia conflict happened. It's an issue about as complicated as former Yugoslavia with many of the same features. TFF's report from 1994 predicted more war and suffering if nothing was done in terms of violence-prevention (2). Russia's peacekeeping in the area, however, has been the only consistent investment, while the US and Israel have drawn Georgia into a very dangerous strategic game.

It is difficult to know who knew what in the EU about it. Its approach seemed to indicate that the EU as a Union was once again split, nationalistic, unable to find visionary common denominators and equipped with an outdated toolbox for bullying rather than up-to-date conflict-management including genuine mediation.

Meanwhile, there were no significant EU initiatives concerning either Iraq or Afghanistan. Somalia - where the EU dumps horrendous amounts of its waste - and Ethiopia's illegal invasion there was something not talked about. Again, catching pirates with military vessels was more eye-catching than actual conflict-handling in Somalia.

Similarly, the mass-killings in the so-called Democratic Republic of Congo (related to minerals needed by all EU countries) that now run to about 4 million casualties was tacitly forgotten by EU and the leading media; Dafur, it seems, does not have enough resources to be of interest while Burundi, which is undergoing one of the most remarkable peace processes, attracted virtually no positive support or even humanitarian aid worth a mention from the EU.

While the US Empire is slowly declining - just look at its militarism, warfare, global overextension, worldwide lack of legitimacy and its economic breakdown - the EU still stumbles on, unable to shape the Western alternative. And unable to be the future power for good and peace that everyone else around the globe is hoping for. And if that was not possible for the EU during eight years of the Bush regime, when will it be possible?

Most likely we will see more chaos and divisive action in the EU in 2009. One only has to look at the bloc's reaction to the current Middle East conflict. And if it manages to live up to its own Treaty and speak with one voice in foreign affairs and about peace, it will - so contemporary history tells - be for counterproductive moves - a de facto mockery of peace and security.

Jan Oberg is director of TFF, the Transnational Foundation, in Sweden -


1. For the analysis to back up this judgement, see Jan Oberg, Does the European Union Promote Peace? Analysis, critique and alternatives, The Transnational Foundation & New Agenda, Copenhagen 2006 - link

2. See Marta Cullberg Weston, Burns Weston, Jan Oberg and Klaus Rasmussen, Georgia On Our Minds, July 1994 - link

3. See Per Gahrton, Israel will now be co-writing the European Union's Middle East policies, December 15, 2008 - link

4. Philippa Runner, EU sends mixed message as Gaza death toll mounts, EUobserver. Com, January 5, 2009 - link


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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