Modern "Don-Quixotism" or an Emerging Norm of International Relations? Prevention of Armed Conflicts in the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Zupancic, Rok, Romanian Journal of Political Science
There is no doubt: history is a bad teacher, especially when looked at through the perspective of armed conflicts. (2) Despite the efforts of numerous subjects of international relations to prevent armed conflicts or at least to solve them in a peaceful manner, only a few positive signs have emerged so far in the respective field. Some parts of the world, which is nowadays more inter-linked and inter-twinned as it has ever been, are still witnessing bloodshed and violence every single day. Thus, a logical explanation of such violent reality leads us to three different options of inference: firstly, that the subjects of international relations have not learned much from history so far; secondly, that international relations actors, often resorting to the violent way of "solving" a dispute, are simply not interested in becoming cognizant and reversing the nature of such violent history; or thirdly, that the various approaches and strategies (3) for the prevention of armed conflicts, developed by the subjects of international relations, are too inadequate and/or wrong to be successful (taking into consideration the specifics of modern armed conflicts), or that something is wrong with the implementation of these approaches and strategies in practice.
The latter "explanation" is also the main topic of this article and research: what is done wrongly and what shall be done in the international community to avert armed conflicts. In this article, I am focusing on the prevention of armed conflicts by the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) only; though, the complete answer to that complex question should be widened to the analysis of the prevention of armed conflicts of as many international relations actors as possible, since the two international organizations can contribute to the prevention of armed conflicts only partially.
Background and scope of the article
The prevention of armed conflicts (mostly dubbed as "conflict prevention" only) has become the priority policy of various subjects of international relations. The EU and the OSCE are among the international organizations that adopted such policy among the first. Besides the two mentioned, the efforts to emphasize the necessity of the prevention of armed conflicts and to put it at the forefront of their actions can be seen in various other international organizations (at least on the ideational and normative level, yet the implementation in practice is improving with slower pace): the United Nations as the first modern promoter of the prevention of armed conflicts, the World Bank, the G-8, the Economic Community of West African States, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and many others. Furthermore, also some other subjects of international relations (esp. countries and non-governmental organizations) have been recognizing the importance of the prevention of armed conflicts whenever and wherever possible.
The reality is often far away from the desired goals. Unfortunately, the field of prevention of armed conflicts is not an exception. There is a big gap between the normative aspect of prevention of armed conflicts (there are numerous declarations, resolutions, strategies and other documents, aiming at preventing armed conflicts at early stages) and the bleak reality (the number of interstate conflicts has been increasing constantly after the end of the Cold War, although the number of severe crisis and wars remains about the same in recent years). (4) Therefore, the main aim of the article is to present the results of the comparative analysis of approaches and strategies that the EU and the OSCE have developed (and have been trying to pursue) for the prevention of armed conflicts in the last two decades. Moreover, I will answer the questions which are the main characteristics of the approaches, strategies, policies, instruments and mechanisms for the prevention of armed conflicts by the EU and the OSCE, what are the differences among them, what are the lessons-learned and good practices in each of the two international organizations and finally, are the EU and the OSCE, often claiming the partnership and cooperation between themselves, actually unnecessarily doubling the capacities for prevention of armed conflicts. Having carried out such analysis, I will try to find out why the EU and the OSCE cannot always mitigate the tensions and avert armed conflict in the areas they are dealing with.
This analysis is relevant for at least five groups of reasons:
1) strategic reason: the prevention of armed conflicts is one of the fundamental raison d'etre of the EU and the OSCE, the two international organizations that are seen as the pillars of the European security architecture by many European countries (also Romania); therefore, it is important to identify advantages, disadvantages, problems and challenges the two international organizations are facing with, in order that the members of both organizations could actively contribute to the capacity- and ideational-building in the field of preventing armed conflicts in the future;
2) institutional-operative reason: both international organizations are constantly facing reproaches of being ineffective in various fields (prevention of armed conflicts is not an exception); for that reason, it is necessary to identify the reasons for such (allegedly) bad performance in order to improve the approaches/strategies/instruments/mechanisms for the prevention of armed conflicts;
3) credibility and recognition: when some Central and Eastern European countries have accomplished their main foreign-policy goals and joined international organizations, such as the OSCE, the NATO, the EU, they were faced with the strategic question "What to do next?"; slowly, countries are realizing that the "being-member-only" policy is not enough to pursue the national interests, so they seek opportunities to participate actively in the policy- and decision-making in international organizations; the field of prevention of armed conflicts is definitely one where only few countries are contributing actively; in the future, such active contribution can elevate the credibility and recognition of a country on the international scene;
4) actuality of the "liberalistic school" in modern international relations: "liberalistic school", emphasizing the role of international order, rule of law and importance of international institutions, does have some strong groundings when trying to explain modern international relations; (5) since the concept of conflict prevention arose from the "liberalistic school" mainly, it is worth promoting the idea and practice of conflict prevention in the aspirations to avert the bloodshed;
5) scientific and practical reasons: despite the numerous efforts of the scientists, experts, humanists, politicians and others, engaged in the prevention of armed conflicts, we can conclude that the scientific and expert literature from this field does not provide the complex solutions for the (successful) prevention of armed conflicts neither in the territorial sense (that the solutions would address the problems of the prevention of armed conflicts on a global scale), neither in the field of essence/contents (that the solutions would coherently address the root-causes of armed conflicts, and consequently, provide with the effective means to avert them).
The prevention of armed conflicts in each of the two international organizations is analyzed according to similar criteria and procedure. Firstly, the prevention of armed conflicts in the EU is analyzed, followed by the analysis of the prevention of armed conflicts in the OSCE. The first part (of the respective chapter for each international organization) is focusing on the analysis of approaches, strategies and evolution of the concept of prevention of armed conflicts. The second part analyses the existing mechanisms and instruments of the prevention of armed conflicts and categorizes them in the scheme. The third part focuses on the policy of prevention of armed conflicts in each of the two international organizations.
Two complementary and mutually reinforcing research methods were used to conduct the comparative analysis:
1) Analysis of primary and secondary (6) sources enabled us to see how did the concept of prevention of armed conflicts evolve on its way from an idea towards a coherent and defined policy of the respective international organization. Furthermore, this method gave us the possibility to get thorough insight in the legal and political framework in the field of prevention of armed conflicts in both international organizations. More precisely, on the normative level the analysis is focused on the legal acts of the EU and the OSCE, while on the political-instrumental level the analysis is focused on approaches and strategies the two international organizations are pursuing in order to prevent armed conflicts.
2) Semi-structured interviews with high rank officials and civilian experts who are engaged in planning, decision-making and/or analysis of conflict prevention policies within the EU and the OSCE. Interviewing the experts/bureaucrats enabled us to get the data about the gap between "the state" of conflict prevention on the normative level and the actual practice, as well as provided us with in-depth insight into the problems, related to the questions/topics from the questionnaire. (7) At first, I identified the list of potential interviewees in both international organizations. However, the actual interviewees in the focus group were chosen later, after having consulted the representatives of the EU DG Relex and the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre, the two institutions within the EU and the OSCE that are the most closely connected to my analysis. The representatives of the respective international organizations helped us to narrow the list of potential interviewees in order to conduct the interviews only with those bureaucrats/experts, who are the most competent in the field. The interviews were conducted by telephone from October to December 2009. (8)
The article consists of five chapters. First chapter defines the research problem, background and scope of the article, provides with the reasoning and relevancy for my analysis and delineates the methodological framework of the research. Second chapter defines conflict prevention as a developing sub-discipline of international relations and reviews the state of the art in the field; it also elaborates the evolution of the concept of conflict prevention (this is necessary to understand the conflict prevention in the EU and the OSCE). (9) Third chapter, as explained in the details above, analyses approaches, strategies and the evolution of the concept of prevention of armed conflicts in the EU, as well as existing mechanisms/instruments/policy of the prevention of armed conflicts in the EU. Fourth chapter follows the logic of the third chapter, with the analysis focused on the OSCE. In the fifth, concluding chapter, the results of the comparative analysis are explained, and a set of recommendations for further analysis and action in the field of prevention of armed conflicts is given (based on the findings of the research).
Conflict-prevention as an emerging sub-discipline of the "conflict life-span": the State of the Art and reasoning for further analysis
For analytical purposes, we define an armed conflict as a range of following occurrences: dissent/misunderstanding among the potential adversaries, escalation of tensions, escalation of conditions, outburst of conflict, escalation of conflict and intensification of violence, culmination of conflict, de-escalation of hostilities, searching for and finding a solution, end of hostilities and post-conflict reconstruction. In some cases it is not always possible to determine which occurrence of the conflict is taking place at the moment, since they often overlap. For that reason, we shall not understand the conflict in a linear way or try to part it into chronological phases that are irreversible. Namely, some "occurrences" in the conflict may happen more times, not only once, while some of them do not happen at all. (10) Conflict prevention is dealing with the very first occurrences in the lifespan of the conflict: dissent/misunderstanding among the potential adversaries, escalation of tensions and (potentially) escalation of conditions.
Having defined the main occurrences within the conflict and the "target-time" of conflict prevention, we can connect the practice with the theoretical explanations of armed conflicts (the state of the art in the field). After the end of the Cold War many analyses, researches and studies on the reasons of armed conflicts and their consequences were conducted (e. g. Freedman, 1994; Keegan, 1994; Smith, I995; Bollerup and Christensen, 1997; Holsti, 1998; Brownlie and Mason, 2002; Moyo and Yeros, 2005; Billon, 2005; Grizold and Zupancic, 2008; Senese and Vasquez, 2008). Only in the last few years, one can notice an increase of studies and …
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Publication information: Article title: Modern "Don-Quixotism" or an Emerging Norm of International Relations? Prevention of Armed Conflicts in the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Contributors: Zupancic, Rok - Author. Journal title: Romanian Journal of Political Science. Volume: 10. Issue: 1 Publication date: Summer 2010. Page number: 71+. © 2007 Romanian Academic Society. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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