The European Union as a power for peace

George W Bush, President of the United States, and Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy

By Emmanouil Vrentzos

During the UEF congress in Vienna I participated in the resolution working group titled: “The European Union as a Power for Peace”.

Mr. Philip Agathonos (Vice-President of the UEF), who wrote the initial draft of the resolution, spoke of the success of EU forces in Peace Support Operations around the world and the status Europe holds globally as an ethical partner of those who suffer in periods of crisis. He also advocated a number of measures, which will make the European Security and Defence Policy decision making less of an intergovernmental affair and more of a process within the European Commission and Parliament.

While discussing the proposed resolution, everybody agreed that peace should not only be a situation of no-war but also consist of an environment of “…social and ecological justice, freedom, democracy and human rights”. There was, however, a disagreement on what the long-term foreign policy strategy of the EU should be to promote this kind of peace. Some supported that the EU should work with other nation-states to achieve common goals. Others claimed that Europe’s external policies should put an end to the world of US unipolarity by bringing a new multipolar world, based on the balance of power.

The first approach (multilateralism) assumes that it is possible for nation-states to cooperate in good spirit and form common policies in areas such as defence, economics, finance and the environment. Organisations like NATO, IMF and WTO and treaties like the Kyoto Protocol are examples of multilateralism in the international system.

The other approach (Realism) (1) treats nation-states as selfish actors, pursuing policies of protection of national interest at any cost. Such approach leads the world to a “balance of power” situation or war, depending on the strength of states, their alliances and their perception about future allocation of state power. The Cold War is a classical example of “balance of power” between two superpowers.

Even though these two theories have contributed significantly to the explanation of some of the dimensions of the international system, they are inadequate for the case of a supranational polity or an evolving federal state. Specifically speaking, the EU is not a fully developed and autonomous state to be able to agree with other nation states on common policies or be considered as one of the pieces of the international chess board. It is, according to my opinion, the creation of a long process of socialisation of states. (2) In 1957, the formation of the European Economic Community was the product of such process which brought democracy, human rights, peace consolidation and general progress. The success of the initial six members attracted many other states, resulting in today’s EU25. Through socialisation, the success of one or many states in a policy area, including peace making, is inspiring others to introduce similar policies and achieve similar gains.

How, then, should societies of states, which have not yet fully formed a federal state, promote peace around the world? The use of a peace keeping army by them can make a difference where conflict has already been sparked. However, it is preferable to play a role of conflict prevention by promoting dialogue between rival states or rival communities within a state and transferring tested policies that ensure cooperation and progress. In other words, the EU should be identified globally as an example of a group of states which has achieved peace through cooperation, the use of the language of democracy and human rights and a common vision about the future.

(1) Read: K. N. Waltz, (1979), “Theory of International Politics”, McGraw-Hill
(2) The term of society of states or socialisation is mentioned in : H. Bull, (1977), “The Anarchical Society”

The article was contributed by Emmanouil Vrentzos, a member of the Federal Union committee. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarilty those of Federal Union. 12 July 2006.

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