Project Summary

Background and research objectives

Since the beginning of the 2000s, we have witnessed the European Union (EU) becoming increasingly involved in directly supporting peace negotiations in a variety of inter- and intra-state conflicts by taking on the role of a third-party mediator. This empirical trend notwithstanding, the EU’s role as an actor in international mediation is considerably under-researched. Consequently, this research project pursues three main objectives: first, we aim at better understanding how and in what ways the EU has been involved in international mediation activities. Second, we assess the extent to which the EU constitutes an effective mediator in peace negotiations. Third, we seek to explain different degrees of EU mediator effectiveness. While the first research objective implies a comprehensive situation diagnosis, the second and third objectives constitute the main analytical focus of our research.

Originality and value added for peace and conflict studies

The research project aims at shedding light on a topic of very substantial societal relevance, given the peacemaking potential of international mediation and the increasingly important and promising role of the EU in this field. It also adds value to peace and conflict studies in terms of empirics and theory.

As for empirical knowledge, the research project will contribute to a better and more comprehensive understanding of EU peacemaking efforts. A special issue/ edited volume will map out the EU’s involvement in international mediation efforts and thus provide the first systematic scholarly account of the EU's role in this field. In addition, a comparative analysis of two cases of EU mediation will produce detailed knowledge and causal inferences on the important question concerning the degree to which the EU constitutes an effective mediator (and what conditions mediator effectiveness).

In terms of theory, the research project will provide the first comprehensive framework for assessing and explaining EU mediator effectiveness. Specifying causal mechanisms and probing their empirical plausibility through the method of dual process tracing could contribute to the improvement and refinement of existing theoretical approaches to international mediation (beyond the EU). In addition, the research project aims to bring together different strands of IR literature that rarely speak to each other: the peace and conflict literature with the one on EU external policy.

Conceptual framework and research design

Drawing both on the literatures on EU external policy and international mediation, we advance an analytical framework for investigating EU mediator effectiveness in peace negotiations. Here, we build on a pilot study, where we identified main building blocks of an analytical framework, which has already undergone a first plausibility probe. The analytical framework will then be applied for investigating EU mediator effectiveness in two cases of direct EU mediation: (i) the talks between Serbia and Montenegro on the formation of a state union in 2001/2002, and (ii) the Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia since March 2011.

The project’s research design is based on a mixed methods approach: we will conduct a paired comparison of two cases that are based on, and put into practice through, process tracing. The strategy of ‘dual process tracing’ will be implemented by triangulating across various data sources (interviews, official documentation, major media, expert survey).

Relevance for scientific policy advice and publication outputs

An important objective of this project is to use the insights gained from the analytical and explanatory components of the project as a basis for knowledge transfer from science to practice, and to establish a policy dialogue with relevant actors. The insights of our project will be used to identify ‘lessons learnt’ from EU mediation efforts, and to give clear-cut recommendations for the further development of a more systematic approach to mediation with regard to capacity-building and accumulation of expertise.

In terms of outreach to the academic community, we aim to produce, inter alia, the following research outputs: an edited volume/special issue on “The European Union's Involvement in International Mediation Efforts: Motives, Roles and Strategies”, an academic journal article on comparing EU mediator effectiveness and its conditions in the Kosovo-Serbia talks and the Serbia-Montenegro mediation process, a policy paper that provides practitioners and experts in the field with policy-advise, and an article aimed at a wider, politically interested public.