The European Union as an Effective Mediator in Peace Negotiations? Conceptual Framework and Plausibility Probe

ABSTRACT: The paper focuses on the under-researched role of the European Union as a mediator in peace negotiations. It is explorative and mainly conceptual. We develop an analytical framework for investigating the European Union’s mediator effectiveness. To probe its empirical plausibility, we apply it to the case of EU mediation between Serbia and Kosovo (Belgrade-Pristina dialogue). Since the beginning of the 2000s the European Union has been increasingly involved in directly supporting peace negotiations in inter- and intra-state conflict by taking on the role of a third-party mediator. Despite an increasing interest in the EU’s engagement in international mediation by policy-analysts and practitioners, both EU foreign and security policy scholars and students of conflict resolution have been rather reluctant to pay much attention to the role the EU plays in mediation and peace process support. To fill this research gap at least to a certain extent, the paper seeks to answer the following research questions: How can EU mediator effectiveness be appropriately conceptualised? And what factors influence EU mediator effectiveness? Mediator effectiveness is analysed along two dimensions: 1) goal-attainment and 2) conflict settlement. Building on concepts and empirical findings of both European external policy studies and international mediation literature, our investigation of the conditions of mediator effectiveness is structured around four key variables: mediator leverage, mediation strategy, coherence and the conflict context. In our preliminary empirical analysis of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, we find that the EU has been partially successful in terms of conflict settlement and in attaining its narrowly defined goal in finding a settlement for Northern Kosovo, and only moderately effective in achieving its long-term goals with respect to the mediation effort, which refer to the improvement of living conditions in Kosovo and the normalisation of bilateral relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Our investigation of conditions of EU mediator effectiveness indicates that the EU’s success in mediating a number of agreements between Kosovo and Serbia can be explained by its great leverage vis-à-vis the conflict parties due to their EU membership aspirations and its interventionist mediation strategy. In addition, external support by third parties and the right timing of the mediation initiative have been conducive to EU success. However, the EU also faces a main dilemma: while a manipulative mediation style might be appropriate to achieve short-term agreements, it is not an adequate strategy to foster mutual confidence and trust between the conflict parties which explains the Union’s relative ineffectiveness in attaining its long-term goals.

© Julian Bergmann and Arne Niemann 2013

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