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The EU and the statebuilding approach to peacebuilding

Even if the EU, in the words of David Chandler (2010:94) and others in the statebuilding literature, is widely seen to be a statebuilding institution par excellence, the term statebuilding is with some notable exceptions not very common in EU documents or in the academic literature on the EU. The exceptions mainly relate to statebuilding in Central Europe after the Cold War, where the EU did play a crucial role, to statebuilding in the Balkans where the EU is playing a central role today, and to statebuilding in the West Bank where the EU is a big actor in more technical and economic matters, but much less so in the overall diplomacy (See, for example, Knaus & Cox 2005:39, Hehir 2007b:134, Solana & Ferrero-Waldner 2007). In addition, it is also possible to find the term statebuilding being used in EU documents in other conflicts where the EU is not very active, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and some places in Africa (See, for example, Council of the European Union 2009b, Solana 2009a, European Commission 2010b).

But overall, the term statebuilding is not very common in the general EU context; it is not used at all in the most important EU documents, such as the Maastricht Treaty, the Lisbon Treaty and the security strategy. It may be that it is sensitive for the EU to use the term statebuilding in places that are not considered to be in conflict or post-conflict, as the use of the term might imply neo-colonial connotations. For example, if the EU were to state that it aimed to embark on statebuilding in places like Egypt and Algeria, it might not be well received in these states given the long history of European colonial domination and exploitation there.

At the same time, while not explicitly using the term statebuilding, building functioning states in its neighborhood is precisely what the EU tries to do, or at least it is what the EU says it is doing. Here, there are two types of critical arguments put forward against the EU: the first is represented by Chandler (2007b) who says that the EU is hegemonic and tries to impose its values on other societies, and the second is represented by Cronin (2011) who says that the EU is not genuinely interested in spreading liberal values to other societies, because of geo-political considerations, powerful business interests etc. In the EU’s rhetoric however, there is a strong emphasis on the importance of statebuilding, even if the term is not always explicitly used.

In the mid-90s, the EU launched the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (also known as the Barcelona Process), which had a multilateral character, and aimed, among other things “at creating a common area of peace and stability underpinned by sustainable development, rule of law, democracy and human rights.” (Euro-Mediterranean Partnership) Since little in terms of peace and stability came out of the EMP, it was followed up a decade later, in 2004, by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which was a bilateral initiative between the EU and individual neighboring countries.

While it is unusual to find the term statebuilding in ENP documents, with the exception of the Palestinian territories, it was nevertheless clear that ENP, and its predecessor the EMP, was about EU statebuilding in its neighborhood. For example, most aspects of statebuilding as an approach to peacebuilding are visible in the following passage from the Commission’s strategy paper on the ENP

The level of the EU’s ambition in developing links with each partner through the ENP will take into account the extent to which common values are effectively shared. The Action Plans will contain a number of priorities intended to strengthen commitment to these values. These include strengthening democracy and the rule of law, the reform of the judiciary and the fight against corruption and organised crime; respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of media and expression, rights of minorities and children, gender equality, trade union rights and other core labour standards, and fight against the practice of torture and prevention of ill-treatment; support for the development of civil society; and co-operation with the International Criminal Court. (European Commission 2004:13) Moreover, it was likewise clear that statebuilding, although not used as a term, was a central aspect of the EU’s security strategy, published a year earlier in 2003, which stated that

The quality of international society depends on the quality of the governments that are its foundation. The best protection for our security is a world of well-governed democratic states. Spreading good governance, supporting social and political reform, dealing with corruption and abuse of power, establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights are the best means of strengthening the international order. (European Security Strategy 2003:10)

So while the EU often does not use the term statebuilding, it is clear that much of what the EU does in its foreign and security policy is, in fact, related to statebuilding. Indeed, it is fair to say that the wider international trend where statebuilding has become a specific approach to peacebuilding is visible in EU peacebuilding as well, as indicated by the quotes above.

The remaining part of this chapter will deal with the EU and the statebuilding approach to peacebuilding: how the EU conceptualizes the key theoretical concepts of the statebuilding approach and also how it more precisely operationalizes these concepts. For practical reasons and in order to be consistent, the structure of the rest of this chapter follows the structure of the previous chapter on statebuilding, which had three dimensions: a security, a political and an economic dimension. As was mentioned in the previous chapter, there is often an interdependent relationship between the three dimensions and clear overlaps exist between them, for example when it comes to good governance, which is important in all the three dimensions of statebuilding, even though it is mostly connected to the economic dimension.

The interdependent relationship between the various security, political and economic-related elements of statebuilding as an approach to peacebuilding can also be seen in many EU documents where one often finds overlaps between the EU’s understanding of democracy, which typically includes references to human rights; and, conversely, its understanding of human rights typically includes references to democracy.

As the Council concluded in 2009 in The EU Agenda for Action on Democracy Support in EU External Relations:

Human rights and democracy are inextricably connected. Only in a democracy can individuals fully realize their human rights; only when human rights are respected can democracy flourish. (Council of the European Union 2009c:Annex)

A similar relationship exists between rule of law and good governance and between SSR and human security/human rights, where it is hard to think of one without the other. In other words, rule of law appears to be a precondition for good governance and it is likewise hard to think of good governance without rule of law. The same can be said about the components of the security dimension: SSR, human security and human rights, which are also closely connected to each other.

As a multifaceted international actor, the EU is active in all three dimensions of statebuilding as an approach to peacebuilding. It is active as a security actor, although it is still considered to be very weak in this capacity.

It is also active in the political sphere where democracy promotion, transitional justice, legitimacy and rule of law are the main components. In its capacities as the world’s largest trade bloc and biggest donor, the EU is of course also active in the economic dimension of statebuilding, which focuses on economic development through marketization, liberalization, good governance and the financing of NGOs. As the rest of this chapter builds largely on various EU documents, it is to a certain extent a self-image of the EU that is presented. How this self-image of the EU as a statebuilder then corresponds to the work that the EU has done in the Palestinian territories is something I look into in chapters 6 and 7, which deal with the Palestinian