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The European Union, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Management

While it was conceived as a new kind of international entity that would make another major European war impossible, the EU - and the institutions from which it grew - was not born with an explicit security focus. It was not until the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992 that the commitment to a Common Foreign and Security Policy crystallised.

Strong tensions persist between the desire of EU member states to have a common approach and their reluctance to surrender national prerogatives in this highly sensitive area. Further complications arise as the EU seeks to find a security role for itself alongside the more well-established roles of the UN, NATO and OSCE.

It is not surprising, given both the historical and political context of the EU's security focus, that its institutions and processes are not yet fully adequate to cope with international security crises. But as the EU proceeds with the significant reforms it has itself identified, it can do more to ensure that ambitions and expectations are in step with its own potential and performance.

In a report published in June 2001, ICG provided a snapshot of the rapidly changing EU crisis response capabilities as they stood in mid 2001. The report looked at the processes involved, described the roles of the different institutions and explored the basic fit between their functions and the goals of conflict prevention and management.

A subsequent briefing paper published in April 2002 provided an update on developments in EU foreign policy and related structures, seeking to evaluate these against the EU’s growing ambition to expand and improve its capacity for conflict prevention and crisis management. The paper paid special attention on the EU’s response to the threat of terrorism in a post-11 September context and the evolution of the EU's military and civilian crisis management capacities. Finally, the paper outlined some of the outstanding issues to be resolved for the EU to become a fully effective player on the international and security policy stage.

A separate but related briefing paper focused specifically on the evolving role of the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) in the EU's crisis response structures and processes.

Recent reports & briefings  
EU Crisis Response Capabilities: An Update, briefing, 29 April 2002
The European Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO): Crisis Response in the Grey Lane, briefing, 26 June 2001
EU CRISIS RESPONSE CAPABILITY: Institutions and Processes for Conflict Prevention and Management, report, 26 June 2001

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