Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The European Union’s Need for the Growth and Continuation of Multiple Simultaneous Peace Operations


The European Union’s peacebuilding operations have grown substantially in the past 20 years. Historically addressed by the United Nations, peacekeeping limits the potential of armed conflict and promotes an environment for negotiation. The collaborative and purposeful implementation of multiple simultaneous peace operations (MSPOs) by the EU with other intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) ensures stronger cooperation and complementary activities that more efficiently lead to the stabilization of a particular region.

Dr. Paul F. Diehl, a Professor in Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, argues that the EU is relatively new to peacekeeping, but already a strong player. The EU will continue to participate in this new role of collaboration with other IGOs, rather than going off on its own. Diehl asserts that without peace you cannot further integrate and have growing economic commitment. Moving ahead is impossible without some type of security features.

Currently, the EU concentrates peace operations in Africa and the Middle East. This is not only because more conflict exists in these areas, but also because logistically it is closer to home where there are more colonial ties. Diehl argues that possible explanations for collaboration with other IGOs are the need to share resources and burdens, comparative advantages gained through cooperation, and desire to spread the reputational costs of failure. Comparative advantages allow IGOs to do tasks that they specialize in, while the spread of the reputational costs of failure allow multiple actors to share the political risks and blame when aspects of the mission do not go well. 

Of the MSPOs in which it has engaged, the EU has cooperated with the UN more than any other IGO. Some factors explaining this depth of coordination come from the aspects of learning, common security cultures, and personal staff connections. Once the EU has worked with an organization, such as the UN, it makes cooperation and collaboration easier the next time around. Also, Diehl states that IGOs cooperate with those “like them.” This is also reflected in greater cooperation of staff not necessarily on the macro level, but on the ground level. Further information about the peacekeeping alliance of the EU with the UN can be found at EU@UN.

However, it is interesting to note that the EU has little MSPOs with the African Union (AU) and NATO. Peace operations in Africa are generally done in cooperation with the UN and very little with the AU. Diehl asserts that little cooperation with NATO occurs because of the Greece-Turkey rivalry and inter-organizational competition.

Regardless of competition and rivalry, it is beneficial for the EU to work in collaboration with other peacekeeping agencies due to the same factors cited above – sharing of resources and burdens, comparative advantages gained through cooperation, and desire to spread the reputational costs of failure. It is common for multiple agencies to deploy peace operations in the same conflicts, at the same time, with no collaboration. This situation is counterproductive to achieving the best possible outcome. The European Union would benefit from the continued growth of multiple simultaneous peace operations to stabilize war-torn regions more effectively by limiting armed conflict and promoting an environment for negotiation.


Alexandra Lively is a first-year MA student in European Union Studies and an EU Center FLAS fellow. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Advertising at UIUC, with a double minor in Business and Communications. She graduated with High Honors and as an Edmund J. James Scholar. Her research interests include telecommunications, consumerism and trade within the EU.

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