Given QCEA’s long-standing concern about the militarisation of the EU, we were pleased earlier this year to hear that nine European governments had launched a unique new peace organisation: the European Institute of Peace, or EIP for short. The EIP is based in Brussels, and is expected to work with the EU institutions to promote peace. However, legally the EIP is completely independent of the EU.
It is too early to say what the EIP will be able to achieve, but the two main preliminary studies, as well as the EIP’s own published plans, make for informative reading. The idea is for the EIP to concentrate mainly on organising mediation and dialogue. While there is nothing new about this kind of peace work (the EU already has its own official mediation initiatives, and there are many non-governmental organisations doing important work in this field), the EIP may be able to make a distinctive contribution to the scene. The EIP has been founded by governments, and — if all goes according to plan — this will give it the prestige to engage with government officials at a high level. And yet, as it is independent of any government or diplomatic service, it will also have the liberty to engage with militant groups that governments officially refuse to recognise.
There are also plans for the EIP to contribute to peace work in other ways. The activities proposed include evaluating the effectiveness of mediation/dialogue efforts (to help to make future efforts more effective), conducting conflict analysis and research, providing training, and making small grants to support mediation and dialogue projects.
While QCEA is pleased to welcome this new peace initiative, we would also like to sound a note of warning. There is a risk that, rather than adding to the conflict resolution and peacebuilding scene, the EIP could end up competing with other peace initiatives: competing for political support, for access to decision makers, and especially for funding. To some extent, the EIP may be able to avoid these pitfalls by working together with the relevant non-governmental organisations to ensure that the EIP complements their work, rather than duplicating their work or otherwise competing with it.
Yet where funding is concerned, it may be difficult to avoid competition, given the known difficulty of obtaining funding for peace work. One of the preliminary studies estimates that the EIP will have annual running costs of 3,100,000 euro. The nine European governments founding the EIP have pledged to fund the EIP for three years — but where will this money come from? If it comes out of the budget that would previously have been spent on grants to non-governmental organisations involved in peace work, then this could cause well-established peace initiatives, with good track records for effectiveness, to fail for lack of funding.
Of course, there is no good reason why this would need to happen. If EU governments can afford 190 billion euro of military spending in one year (roughly 520,000,000 euro per day), then it must be possible for them to find 3,100,000 euro per year for the EIP without diverting that money away from other peace initiatives. It is a question of political priorities. If governments wish to avoid war, they need to be willing to invest in peace.
For a full analysis of the issues, see the new QCEA background paper on the EIP.