The EU’s comprehensive approach to conflicts & crises – mobilising the tools we have

We live in a world where complex challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, migration, energy security, regional conflicts and terrorism threaten to destabilise the world in which we live. The European Union has a wide range of tools it can use – diplomatic, security, defence, trade, development and humanitarian – which it can pull together to try to deal with some of these challenges.

Known as the “comprehensive approach”, it is already been used with success in Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa. There the EU has given political support for the democratic transition in Somalia, helped train the Somali army and set up the “Atalanta” anti-piracy naval mission to tackle Somalia pirates who threaten international shipping lanes. The EU has also deployed humanitarian and development aid to feed the people. After two decades of chaos and disorder which have spread to whole region, Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa seems to have turned a corner and a recent “New Deal for Somalia” conference in Brussels in September was an important symbol of this change.

Catherine Ashton, as the EU’s High Representative, has made the comprehensive approach an essential part of her and the External Action Service’s approach to international questions.

To this end she has written, with her European Commission colleagues, a plan to set out the practical steps that the EU can take to implement the comprehensive approach. Yesterday, on 10 December, the European Parliament adopted their plan which sets out a series of steps the EU can take in dealing with external conflicts and crises.

In particular it calls on the European Union to:

  • Develop a shared analysis among all EU players – EU institutions and its 28 countries– setting out the EU’s understanding of a potential crisis situation and identifying the EU’s interests, objectives and potential role(s);
  • Define where useful a single, common strategic vision for a conflict or crisis situation and for future EU engagement across policy areas;
  • Focus on prevention, whenever possible, through diplomacy as well as early warning and early action;
  • Mobilise the EU’s different strengths and capacities in support of shared objectives;
  • Commit to the long term, even while carrying out short-term engagements and actions, to help build peaceful, resilient societies;
  • Better linking policy areas in internal and external action, looking for example at energy security, environmental protection and climate change, migration issues, counter-terrorism, organised crime and global economic governance;
  • Make better use of the EU Delegations’ central role in co-ordinating EU dialogue and support in the field, including through Joint Programming with Member States to make development cooperation more effective.
  • Work more and better with partners – such as the UN, NATO or the African Union – and civil society.

The Communication calls on the EU’s countries “to provide their full support for this approach and to fully engage in order to order to ensure that this vision and these objectives are fully implemented”.

Links: The EU’s comprehensive approach to external conflict and crises

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