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Analysis II
Last Updated: 03/10/2008
Can the European Union be a peace-maker in the world? In Kosovo?
Jan Oberg, PhD

Jan Oberg discusses the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence, the dangers of an increasingly militant and tactless EU foreign policy, and the continued need for creative thinking and enlightened policy reform.

1. New EU mission in Kosovo is a violation of the UN and international law

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso recently said that the new EU mission in Kosovo mission, dubbed EULEX, is not illegal, “because UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has not opposed it” - and continued “The EU mission is not contrary to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the international law.”

Strangely, EU's President has to defend his Union against critics who maintain that its mission called LEX - meaning law! - is not established according to international law. Unfortunately for Barosso, they are right and have read and understood Resolution 1244 of 1999 (after NATO’s bombing) in which the members were:

- "Reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act and annex 2," and

- "Reaffirming the call in previous resolutions for substantial autonomy and meaningful self-administration for Kosovo."

Indeed, what is there to discuss? If 1244 were respected by Western law-breaking governments, EULEX could only have been established in agreement with Serbia/Belgrade as were all other international missions in Kosovo since 1999 - and by the local authorities and not exclusively with the latter and against the explicit will of Belgrade.

Oddly, the EU President introduces a new rule: What is not explicitly opposed by the UN Secretary-General is legal! So, say, the bombing of Yugoslavia and the US occupation of Iraq are perfectly legal acts?

The UN as such has been a victim of the West's conflict-mismanagement of former Yugoslavia since 1991 – as has been pointed out in numerous TFF-produced analyses and debate articles. Kosovo’s declaration of secession on February 17 had no UN endorsement. It ought to have had, by the Security Council or General Assembly. But the independence advocates knew that the majority of members would not support their policy or independent Kosovo as a unique case outside international law.

With leading Western governments having humiliated the UN, how convenient for Mr. Barroso to now evoke the authority of the world organization and Ban Ki-Moon who, regrettably, already performs as the most feeble Secretary-General in decades.

2. The EU should not be stronger militarily as long as it has virtually no civilian competence in dealing with conflicts and has neither agreed on a single big foreign policy issue nor had a peace-building success.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, who was one of most knowledgeable diplomats in former Yugoslavia, recently argued that the EU needs a stronger military dimension. Last autumn, he wrote a non-paper about how to best make Kosovo independent outside international law and with only a “semblance” of it. His proposal to give the EU more of a military profile to make peace is a non-starter and a non-solution.

In 2006, TFF published the only systematic analysis of the peace potentials of the EU so far and, to put it diplomatically, the Union leaves a lot to be desired. (See Jan Oberg, Does the UN Promote Peace? Analysis, Critique and Alternatives, 2006).

In the report I gave ample evidence of the fact that there is a gross imbalance between the Union’s extremely weak and outdated civilian dimension and its military tools – in words, in institutions, in policy-making, and in budgets. It does not even have a peace academy. If you are of the opinion that the EU is too weak militarily given its economic importance, you’ll understand when you read the report how bad it is on the civilian side. This is particularly true since the Treaty tells us Europeans and the world that its primary raison d‘etre is to work for peace inside Europe and to be a peacemaker worldwide.

The UN Charter of 1945 is light years ahead intellectually and ethically. Both the earlier EU Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty of last year is intellectually devoid of innovations and knowledge about conflict analysis, reconciliation, mediation, non-violence, peace concepts, and what have you. Not even these very words are there.

In addition, the current EU “foreign minister” Javier Solana has written a European Security Strategy which, if it had been written by a political science student at any European university, would have failed as an exam paper.

In addition, he is a non-convicted war criminal; it is conveniently forgotten by everyone in the media and politics that Javier Solana was the highest civilian responsible for the destruction of Yugoslavia in his capacity of Secretary-General of NATO when it bombed the place for 78 days, killed proportionately many more civilians than were killed in the September 11 attacks, used depleted uranium, and created a larger refugee stream out of Kosovo than even Milosevic had managed to.

In substantial political terms, the Union’s goals of “common” foreign policy – speaking with one voice – has failed repeatedly. It even begs the question whether in that policy domain there will ever be a unified voice worthy of something called a union.

EU members have disagreed on every major foreign policy issue facing them: Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Kosovo. Mr. Solana who does an impressive amount of airport hopping and peacebuilding press conferences and other high-level people constantly tell the world that the EU has contributed to peace everywhere. How many journalists have ever asked him: Where and in what sense, Mr. Solana?

Its perhaps largest single foreign policy blunder was to make the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina unavoidable by prematurely and against the criteria for recognition of new states to recognize Croatia and Slovenia as independent states without the faintest idea of the consequences or a plan for the rest of ex-Yugoslavia.

Now some of them have done it again with a Kosovo that a) does not control its own territory, 2) has 10% of its people – ethically cleansed in 1999 - living in Serbia without having been given a chance to return over 9 long years, and 3) a Kosovo that is so independent that it needs one NATO, one OSCE, one UN and 2-3 EU missions plus an interesting new creature, the International Steering Group on Kosovo (ISG).

The ISG was established in Vienna on February 28, 2008 with representatives from Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, Turkey, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland and Kosovo Contact Group members Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States. They said – surprise, surprise! – that they are there to promote Kosovo’s development into a "stable, multiethnic and democratic state."

They are whistling in the dark. Is this a tragedy or a farce, or both? Well, let’s call it EU common foreign policy in a nutshell. It is all make-believe. It’s only a matter of time before the sand castle called EU conflict-management and peace-building come tumbling down.

New instability in the Balkans is in the cards – and secessionists and separatist worldwide are inspired by the “unique” – “no-precedent here” – illegal process of recognizing Kosovo outside a negotiated, law-based framework. The whole thing promises to be a boomerang in-the-making, a millstone around the EU neck.

3. Alternatives: What about an EU peace policy with just a little creativity?

Of course, there is much more creative thinking around. TFF is proud to direct your attention to a larger analysis by Francesco Marelli, a young European who has written a “Proposal for an EU Commissariat for Peace and Conflict Transformation" as his MA thesis in peace studies at the European Peace University – just posted on TFF’s homepage.

While he was at it, he also wrote a criticism of Solana’s European Security Strategy – but more than that, Marelli has done what the excellent scholar does: study the facts, criticize the world when it is not what it could be, and propose a strategy for building a better world. In short: Diagnosis, Prognosis-Criticism-Warning and Treatment.

My report mentioned above contains 24 steps and reforms that could be taken if those who say that they want the EU to be a peace-maker in the world mean business.

So, with just a little knowledge about peace and a dose of creativity the EU, indeed the world, could be a better place.

One never stops wondering why so many citizens, experts and media routinely accept what is presented to them as relevant, realistic, and optimal when in fact it is merely continuations of policies that have created the problems and caused so much suffering – policies that are clearly dysfunctional given the huge majority’s longing for a more peaceful and humane world community with democratic governance.

A chef behaving the way EU foreign ministers do would eat and serve porridge three times a day 7 days a week and routinely defend it as haute cuisine. And that’s what you believe, of course, if you have never opened a cookery book or dared be inspired by someone else’s creations.

There are few areas of human life so devoid of creativity, a will to do good, and to make innovations as that of foreign policy. The EU and its peace-preventive policies in the Balkans ever since 1991 makes a shining example – no matter what its representatives try to make us believe.

They have some kinds of power but are certainly not burdened by intellectual, moral or artistic powers.

Jan Oberg is the co-founder and director of The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF). Dr Oberg is a former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; and a former member of the Danish government's Committee on security and disarmament. Many more of his articles, including further analysis of Kosovo, are available at