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Regional Origins, Global Aspirations: The European Union as a Global Conflict Manager


The European Union (EU) has emerged as an actor in conflict resolution beyond its borders at the turn of the twentieth century, concomitantly with the development of its fledging foreign policy. Despite being a newcomer to the field, the EU’s history and tradition in conflict resolution is far older, being inextricably tied to its very emergence and raison d’être. The EU in fact represents the (unfinished) product of one of the greatest and most successful conflict resolution endeavours worldwide. It is the outcome of an idea: securing peace in post-Second World War Western Europe through integration and the ensuing creation of dependable expectations that interstate disputes would be settled in peaceful ways. This same idea also created the legitimizing narrative for the eastern enlargement and the perceived imperative of reuniting Europe in the aftermath of the Cold War. More recently, the founding idea of the European Community as a peace project has led the EU to engage in conflict resolution beyond its borders as and when it entered the foreign policy realm in the 1990s. The aim of this chapter is to explain the EU’s role in conflict resolution beyond its borders by addressing the EU’s objectives, the evolution of its policies, its strengths, weaknesses and its future prospects in this field. In doing so, it argues that all of the above-mentioned aspects of the EU in conflict resolution are fundamentally shaped by the Union’s self-perception and nature as a ‘peace-through-integration project’ within its frontiers. As regards conflict resolution, what the EU aspires to achieve, how it has articulated its policies, and what its strengths, weaknesses and future prospects are, are all inextricably tied to what the Union is and what it represents.