Europe as a Peace Project

The search for a truly citizen-centered Europe can only be a joint effort of many: the EU bodies, the EU member states, but also civil society organisations, local governments and local citizens’ initiatives can and must contribute.

We are all aware of the problems the EU is facing: the democratic deficit, the rise of populism and illiberal tendencies, the migration policy, climate change, quite different interpretations of what Europe should stand for and what the European values are or should be. But also cyberspace, dilemmas on how to balance security measures with civil liberties, management of technological progress, the gaps between highly-educated and less-educated people, between urban and rural communities, between generations, the ones who profit from the globalization and the ones less fortunate who struggle with poverty.

It is to a large extent inevitable that such challenges and dilemmas exist and that often elements of inequality are at hand. Inequality fuels conflicts. The key question is how to deal with such situations, how to make the search for inclusivity and common ground a crucial recurrent feature in the discussions on these problems, challenges and dilemmas.

Currently PAX is elaborating a few concrete projects, to promote processes of peacebuilding within the EU, in partnership with like-minded civil society organizations in other EU member states. The project will contains of a policy dimension (targeting national governments and European institutions with proposals for peacebuilding in Europe (focusing on policy development + instruments to anchor peacebuilding within the EU + finances to make these ambitions come through)). At the same time, we are developing projects to work with local partners in communities in the Netherlands. After many years of Euroscepticism and lack of interest in ‘Brussels’, the mood in the Netherlands with regard to the EU has shifted. The government is more supportive of the European integration and cooperation. PAX fully supports the government’s commitment to uphold rule of law and European principles in the EU member states.

Scenario excercise

Clearly, there is currently a lot of uncertainty on where Europe stands and how it should develop. Therefor PAX organized a scenario excercise on the future of Europe as a peace project, looking at how Europe could look like in 2040. We organized three meetings in November and December 2018, in respectively Utrecht, Belgrade and Kyiv, to collect input for the scenarios.

We asked two key questions:

  • Will respect for the EU values remain, or will they be more disregarded?
  • Will the EU further integrate, or disintegrate?

The scenario exercise led to the report The EU as a Peace Project – Scenarios for 2040 and a short video (see below) – published prior the elections for European Parliament, May 2019.  

We recently incorporated the four scenarios and our opinion on these scenarios in a new video (top of the page) that presents the claim that it is high time to start working on peacebuilding within the EU.

A very short summary of the four scenario’s

Scenario 1: Paranoid Android!

EU values are more disregarded, but the EU integrates further. The EU focuses on security and stability for its citizens, prioritizing security over civil liberties. This super-state can be in full control by means of internal surveillance and strict external border control. It is an inward-looking union, afraid of dangers from the outside world.

Scenario 2: United States of Europe!

EU values remain, and the EU integrates further. In order to remain relevant at the global stage, where, China and India continue to rise, and to overcome international challenges such as climate change, Europe is a federation of European states, with its own armed forces, a proper EU government, EU taxes. Externally, the EU prefers its ‘soft power’ approach and avoids the use of force.

Scenario 3: East, West, North Best!

EU values remain, but the EU no longer exists. North-South and East-West disagreements have asked their toll. Europe consists of a number of light regional networks of which the North European Union, the NEU, is the most prominent. Still, through modern technology European governments brought decision-making closer to their populations. There is no structural collaboration on foreign, security and defence policy or justice and home affairs. Only NATO remains. Powers such as China and Russia gained influence. Yet, this European network experiment is fragile.

Scenario 4: All Against All!

EU values are more disregarded, and the EU disintegrates further. The EU and NATO have fallen apart. Growing inequality and poverty led to polarization, distrust and populism, and broke down structural European cooperation. States now pursue short-term security and economic interests. There is social unrest, violent extremism, separatism, and numerous international tensions and conflicts.

PAX discussion on these scenarios and the future of Europe

How does PAX relate to these scenarios? Of course, the first main and clear message from the scenarios is that ‘peace projects’ and peace as such should not be taken for granted. Future scenarios in which Europe does not know peace, and in which neither the EU nor any other organization is in the position to play the role of ‘peace project’, are not entirely unlikely. Particularly the scenario All against All shows that peace and ‘peace projects’ are not a given and require continuous maintenance. Yet, the EU has great potential to remain a ‘peace project’ for the future. EU values are best anchored in EU integration, but the fact that there is an EU does not automatically mean that it will also be a ‘peace project’.

Each scenario presents its own dilemma:

  • Paranoid Android: Absolute security may come at the cost of civil rights and liberties. How far is one willing to go for security?
  • United States of Europe: Relying on dialogue and reaching compromises in external relations may come at a cost of not stopping crimes against humanity or genocide. When are words no longer enough when dealing with evil-doers? What would it take the EU to make use of its improved military capabilities?
  • East, West, North Best: Flexible and localized solutions come at the cost of regional disparities, and lack of cohesion may come at the cost of vulnerability. How much regional disparity is acceptable and when does standing united make more sense?
  • All Against All: Protecting one’s own group comes at the cost of being perceived as a danger to others. This is the classic security dilemma. At what point does security benefit more from vulnerability and cooperation?

You can read PAX’s discussion paper about the four scenarios and the future of Europe as a Peace Project here.

If you are interested in organizing a debate, conference, meet-up or discussion on the topic of Europe as a Peace Project, with the cooperation of PAX, please contact us. PAX staff members are available to participate in such activities, and our materials can used.   

In the context of ‘Europe as a peace project’, PAX has organized activities with VNG International, Embassy of Peace Zoetermeer, ILOZ, Europe Festival, Study Association for European Studies, IASK (institute for advanced studies Kõszeg), ForumZFD, Maastricht University (Political Science Department) and the University of Groningen (European History).

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