The role of Italy in EU peacebuilding and conflict prevention

In date April 4th, 2014, the Budapest Centre participated to a Roundtable on the role of Italy in EU peacebuilding and conflict prevention organized by the European Peace Liaison Office in partnership with Centro Studi Difesa Civile (CSDC) and the European Network for Civil Peace Services. The meeting was held at the European Parliament International Office in Rome. Several Italian and international NGOs and other organizations from the civil society sector took part to the meeting, which was held in two consecutive sessions.

The first session featured a short panel discussion introduced by Bernardo Venturi (CSDC) and moderated by Elisabetta Brighi (University of Cambridge, POLIS). Distinguished guests of the first panel were Andrea Samà (CFSP/CSDP Unit, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Andrew Byrne (Division for Conflict prevention, peacebuilding and mediation instruments, EEAS), and Chiara Biscaldi (International Crisis Group). The three panellists addressed a wide array of issues pertaining the invaluable opportunity to shape the foreign policy of the European Union that is now available to Italy in the upcoming semester of presidency of the Council. Indeed, EU institutions, European Member States, and neighbouring countries are all living a period of extreme fluidity for a wide range of reasons, creating thus new opportunities for EU-level foreign policy. Most notably, the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty explicitly binds the EU and its member states to a foreign policy that aims at promoting peace and preventing conflicts. According to the panellists, one of the main objectives of the Italian Presidency will be the strengthening of the already close ties between the peacekeeping / peace building efforts of the EU and those of the UN. While maintaining the current commitments in other regions, Italy will also try to steer the focus of EU foreign policy towards greater commitment in the Mediterranean area and in the Western Balkans. Furthermore, another key priority is the shift from crisis response to crisis prevention through a more efficient role of the EEAS, which is already at work to strengthen EU capabilities for early warning detection, joint action, strengthening of key partnerships, and intelligent use of common capabilities. This may include further attention to conflict prevention in development assistance, further integration in the area of defence, and further support to civil society both in Europe and in area receiving EU development aid. Enzo Maria Le Fevre Cervini (Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities) briefly reminded the role of the EU Mass Atrocities Task Force Report, that was distributed amongst participants of the event, and advised for a more inclusive attention to the situations in the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the necessity to improve assistance for the stabilization in the Western Balkans.

Marta Martinelli (Open Society European Policy Institute) moderated the second session, featuring the intervention of Alessandro Giovine (CFSP-CSDP Unit, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Giovanni Cremonini (Crisis Management and Planning Directorate, EEAS), Sanne Telemans (Conciliation Resources). Discussion mostly revolved around the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) of the European Union. Analysis strongly relied on the outcomes of the December 2013 Council Conclusions on various features of the CSDP, including effectiveness, visibility, impact, enhancement of capabilities, and the strengthening of European defense industry. While civil society may appear as a non-fundamental actor in this sector, it may nonetheless play a key role in providing feedback and inputs for reviews of missions, provide expertise to address local needs in both receiving and sending communities, and also perform a general watchdog function CSDP-related actions takes place. Significant emphasis was put on the system used for the drafting, evaluation, and revisions of policies related to the CSDP, which is mostly based on so called “lessons learned”. In light of its novelty, the CSDP shows room for improvement in many areas, including efficiency in conflict prevention, implementation of the “do no harm” principle in development assistance and other activities outside the Union, coordination among Member States, and fruitful consultation with civil society actors. The panelists rightly pointed out that increasing efficiency of the CSDP would require more coordination among member states, which may take the form of joint trainings for military and civilian personnel across borders within the Union. However, the panelist also acknowledged the political infeasibility of such actions in the short run, and thus argued in favor of smaller and more manageable actions that enjoy broader political support among Member States. The audience also voiced skepticism regarding the balance of military and civil personnel (and related expenditures) in EU peacekeeping/peacebuilding missions. Being skewed towards the military side, civil society actors present in the room voiced their concern with a possible conflict of interests with the broader objective of promoting peace. The panelists willingly addressed the questions by saying that the future beholds a blurring of the line separating military and civilian personnel. Each of the two groups will be thus deployed depending on which group is most suited to achieve the objective of the mission in light of their different characteristics.

In its EU Mass Atrocities Task Force Report the Budapest Centre has identified these as key priorities for the implementation of stronger regional mechanisms for prevention: (1) make commitment to mass atrocity prevention explicit, (2) cultivate expertise in the area of mass atrocity prevention and early warnings, (3) link early warnings to early response through the creation of preferential channels for discussion and decision-making in this area, (4) include a mass atrocity lens in most activities (including for example trade policy and development aid), (5) support the creation of regional military units trained for mass atrocity prevention and keep them in stand-by for possible deployment in situations where escalation was not detected or structural prevention failed, (6) increase cooperation with other actors, be they other regional organization, states, state agencies, or NGOs.

Earlier this year the Budapest Centre partecipated to the initiative Officine Europa – l’Italia in Europa chaired by the Consiglio Italiano del Movimento Europeo (Italian Council of the European Movement) and contributed to its final report with a set of recommendations with the aim of suggesting viable option for actions of the Italian Presidency of the EU Council in the second semester of 2014. Read here the italian version of our contribution: Budapest Centre – Officine 2014. L’Italia in Europa