Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

The EU as a Peace Building System: Deconstructing Nationalism in an Era of Globalization

Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

The EU as a Peace Building System: Deconstructing Nationalism in an Era of Globalization

Article excerpt


It is surprising that in the field of International Peace and Conflict Studies, little attention is given to the European Union (EU). This article explores the EU's evolution and polity from the vantage point of its relevance and contribution to international peace, democracy and security. The EU's political edifice is examined in the backdrop of Europe's historical legacy of ethno-centric nationalism and adversarial conceptions of national interest and foreign relations. From the perspective of peace and conflict studies, the EU's institutional, cultural and conceptual reframing of democracy, security and civil society are assessed and analyzed as conflict-transcending and peace-enhancing factors.


With the exception of certain specialized academic circles, the historical significance of the European Union (EU) as the most ambitious experiment in regional peace and democracy has only belatedly caught the attention of the intellectual establishment in the USA. Works such as Jeremy Rifkin's (2004) The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, Mark Leonard's (2005) Why the European Union will Run the 21st Century, and T. R. Reid's (2005) The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy appeared on the international intellectual scene as contributions motivated by the need to inform world opinion (especially American opinion) of the importance of the EU.

However, of all the sectors of American academia that has missed the importance of the EU, the most perplexing, and perhaps most unjustified, is the professional and intellectual community engaged in the field of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. Barash and Webel's (2002) Peace Studies, one of the most comprehensive university textbooks in the field, makes only scant references to the EU.

One of the unique features of the EU is that in its historical evolution it introduced institutionalized inter- and trans-state entities and processes that elaborate and link democracy to peace. In an era of globalization, the means and ends of European integration, as pertinent factors of inter-state and inter-societal peace, introduce an array of significant new perspectives and instruments that warrant explicit attention, as these would add to and further enrich those hitherto included in Alger's (1996) "Tool Chest for Peacebuilders."

Alger's analysis presents instruments that are classified under negative and positive peace. The former include: from the 19th century, diplomacy and balance of power; from the 20th century, collective security, peaceful settlement, and disarmament/arms control as elaborated by the League of Nations and the UN; since the 1950s peacekeeping, humanitarian intervention and preventive diplomacy as practiced by the UN, and track II diplomacy, conversion, and defensive defense as initiated by citizen movements and organizations. Under positive peace are included: since the end of World War II, functionalism, self-determination, human rights, economic development, economic equity (under the UN "New International Economic Order"), communication equity, ecological balance and governance for commons, all within the framework of the UN; and non-violence, citizen defense, self reliance, feminist perspectives and peace education as initiated by civil society organizations and movements (Alger, 1999).

Interestingly, the entire edifice of peace tools centers on two main agents, nation-states (extending to the UN) and citizens. The EU however, while comprised of nation-states and citizens, has given rise to peace enhancing structure and processes that have not only complemented but have superseded and reframed both the nation-state and nation-based citizenship. Alger noted that throughout the 20th century more has been academically learned about instruments of peace than has tended to be applied. In the case of the EU the opposite has been the case. …

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