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SUBSCRIBE to Peace Matters
One of the main objectives of the European Union´s external relation is a commitment to pursue conflict prevention. This commitment was manifested in an EU programme for the prevention of violent conflicts, endorsed by the Göteborg European Council in June 2001. The development of this programme was initiated during the Swedish EU Presidency.
Conflict prevention is at the heart of the European Union. It was the rationale behind already the first steps of European integration, says Anna Lindh, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs. And it is inherent in the ongoing process of enlargement of the EU.
Some immediate steps have already been taken to put principles into practice, for example in Serbia, Macedonia and Caucasus. Relations with the UN have been intensified in conflict prevention, development and humanitarian action.
The European Union is built on a set of fundamental values, which are essential in conflict prevention: democracy, human rights, Justice and solidarity, economic prosperity and sustainable development. As important as a co-operative approach to facilitate peaceful solutions, is the task of addressing the root-causes of conflicts. The development of the European Security and Defence Policy is a step to strengthen the EUs capacity in conflict prevention.
A crucial task in conflict prevention is to take action before a situation deteriorates into violence. Policy options must therefore start with political priorities, accompanied by regular reviews of potential conflict areas. At the outset of each EU Presidency a broad consideration of potential conflict issues will be initiated by the Council, to identify priority areas for preventive actions.
In order to prevent conflicts from breaking out into violence, the Council will have to develop strategies. Necessary measures to be taken are to identify challenges, set clear objectives, allocate adequate resources and ensure co-operation with external partners.
Successful prevention must be based on accurate information and analysis, resulting in an early warning system. Different EU bodies should provide regular information on developments of potential conflict situations. Information from international organisations like the UN and the OSCE will also be used. Increased information exchange between the Member States and the Commission is encouraged.
In its commitment to prevent conflicts, the EU will make use of both long-term and short-term instruments. The long-term instruments include development co-operation, trade, arms control, human rights, environment policies and political dialogue. In the short-term prevention, diplomacy and humanitarian work are useful instruments. Handled in an effective manner, these instruments will help identify and address the root-causes of conflict, such as poverty, respect for human rights and the scarcity of natural resources. One important example of addressing the root-causes is the Council's recommendations to strengthen the EU electoral assistance and observation as means of contributing to conflict prevention.
The Council will also examine how instruments for disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation can be used more systematically. These measures include early warning as well as post-conflict stabilisation and political dialogue.
The EU must build mutual partnerships for prevention with the UN, the OSCE and other international organisations as well as civil society. Increased co-operation, not least in the field, is needed at all levels. The EU will therefore intensify its exchange of information within these areas. Humanitarian actors and non- governmental organisations are also seen as important actors in this information exchange.n