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

Article excerpt


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. …


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