by Christine Tiberghien-Declerck, International Alert
Edited by M. Marwaha-Diedrich for the FEWER Secretariat
This paper was sponsored by East West Institute - The Ploughshares Fund
The prevention of crises is today more pressing than ever for the European Union. The failure, in certain countries, of decades of assistance, has brought the European institutions to rethink their actions. From now on a targeted approach will be used, aimed at areas which are seen to be sensitive, liable to generate a climate of crisis. This approach has been confirmed by the Finnish Presidency of the EU. Minister Mrs Halonen reaffirmed on 21 September at the UN General Assembly the commitment of the EU to the security and stability of the world. This will be done, she said, by deploying actions ranging from conflict prevention, through crisis management to rehabilitation and reconstruction. She further declared that the prevention of conflicts depends essentially on the existence of stable democratic societies, and civilians play an important role in this area.
There are a number of open and latent conflicts at present in the Caucasus which considerably blunt the ability of the region to achieve sustainable growth and stability. A vicious circle is created in which development is blocked by conflicts, which in turn create greater instability and discourage external investment. It is hence important to break the cycle by targeting assistance to causes of tension (for example, refugee issues) but more broadly, to strengthen political and administrative structures so as to strengthen a basis for addressing the issue. This dual approach is complementary and cannot be de-linked. This is precisely what the Commission has tried to express in its Communication on the Links between Relief, Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD), although the idea of a continuum which it seems to contain should be replaced with that of a contiguum, as these actions must be combined simultaneously.
This is, therefore, the approach adopted for this study. It is grounded in a relatively broad concept of prevention, based on the notion that the resultant state emerging from a successful intervention could be fragile and hence exposed to new risks. That is why it is important to examine all the instruments which could enhance stability, politically, socially or economically, both in the short and long term.
However, most action has been taken by Members States of the Union at the Community level. Some 880 million Euros have been spent between 1992 and now on the Caucasus region. The EU is concerned about the stability of this region as it has been exposed to fragmentation of territory and religious and ethnic strife. Union Member States are convinced of the need to support the newly independent states emerging from the former Soviet Union. It is not generally described as a conflict prevention policy, but as technical assistance programmes, and support on the road to democracy. Member states generally accept that the external relations of the EU are not limited to the economic sphere. The failure of previous approaches to Kosovo is now convincing Member States that the European Union should exercise real clout in such situations. This is the reason why a report on a common defence policy is being drawn up, and will be discussed in December 1999 in Helsinki.
We will examine a wide range of instruments in this paper. We will first review the EU instruments, and then the potential mechanisms emerging in the realm of conflict prevention. But before doing this, it will also be necessary to briefly go over the roles and functions of the institutions as a system of inter-related bodies.
The Structure of the European Union
The European Union is seen, on the international scene, as a single entity, composed of 15 Member States (soon 21 with the accession of Estonia, Cyprus, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic; followed by Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Rumania). Its legal structure however is not that simple and its powers are related to separate Treaties. It is thus very important to understand this structure in order to assess the extent of its scope for action.
However, whichever treaty is invoked, the European Union is equipped with a single institutional framework, which means that the institutions it consists of are the same but are given different powers according to the treaty they enforce. It is customary to call the unified whole as either the Union or the Community, and yet these terms both have a very precise meaning. The Union was created as a result of the Treaty of Maastricht (1992) , which modified the previous Treaty of the EC and instituted the Treaty of the European Union (TEU). The Union is thus founded, in conformity with Article 1 "on the European Communities completed by policies and forms of cooperation stated in the present Treaty" .
This structure has been compared to three pillars crowned with a single institutional organisation. The first pillar is of the European Community, the second pillar is of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) under Title V of the TEU, and the third pillar is of cooperation in judicial and police systems under Title VI. Consequently, it is quite important to distinguish community policy (which is part of the EC Treaty) from initiatives taken under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which do not have the same objectives, nor are they part of the same decision making process. Foreign policy, as much as judicial cooperation belongs to the realm of inter-governmental policy making. This means that it is an expression of the consensus of all the Member States. However, the new Amsterdam Treaty has brought some hope of strengthening the decision-making process, by allowing for a system of so called constructive abstention. Nonetheless, unanimity is still the main principle in decision-making in the framework of the CFSP. Member States not wishing to follow a certain course of action can remain silent without blocking the adoption of an EU decision (art. 23ß1 TEU). Another significant innovation under article 23ß2 of the TEU is that the Council is now obliged to vote on a qualified majority system when it adopts a joint action or common position on the basis of a common strategy . The same applies when it takes any decision implementing a joint action or common position which has been adopted previously. An exception is made in cases where a State is opposed to this decision for "important and stated reasons of national policy".
At the level of the European Community, however, a much greater use of qualified majority voting has been adopted in procedures, which allows for greater flexibility in the decision making process. Above all, the European institutions have been given some significant powers.
The Institutions of the European Union and their respective roles
Within the framework of CFSP, as we have just seen, the main powers have been given to the Council. The Commission and European Parliament do intervene in a supportive capacity. In theory, the Commission is fully associated with the work of CFSP (art. 27 TEU) and the European Parliament can be consulted on the main aspects and basic choices of external relations (art. 21 TEU). Since the entry into force of the Treaty, these mechanisms as well as the right of initiative of the European Commission (art.22 TEU) are relatively unused. Only the European Parliament has sought to fulfil its role by formulating recommendations and by presenting, each year, a report on progress in the implementation of CFSP, as stipulated under article 21 of the Treaty.
While the consultation mechanisms have been defined, the Commission and the Parliament do not intervene directly in decision making, which creates a certain imbalance in favour of the Council, and hence of the Member States. This balance is quite different in the European Community framework. Under this framework all the institutions are associated, in one way or another, in the elaboration, execution and monitoring of Community policies. Their respective powers are outlined in the next section.
The Council. As the organ representing the Member States, the Council is made up of Ministers from the 15 countries. They are included in decisions on the basis of their line competence (thematic meetings). They have the power of decision, and give the Commission the authority to implement the acts agreed upon. This decision making power can at times be shared with the European Parliament, according to the procedure followed: co-decision, or favourable opinion. In this way, the European Parliament has come to play a particularly important role in issues related to the budget.
The European Parliament. The European Parliament provides a democratic input to the Community. As it represents the interests of the European citizens, it ensures the political control over the Community executive. It is also given a particular authority over the budget, as it decides on its content (with the Council), and gives the clearance to the Commission for the implementing past budgets (in coordination with the Court of Auditors). Its role is particularly strong in decision making, since it can, on all allocations not foreseen in the Treaty (non compulsory expenses) decide on the suppression or creation of a budget line and/ or modify the amounts granted. It is, however, limited in its power to determine overall budget amounts (financial prospects), which are adopted by the Member States on a five yearly basis, and which give the thresholds which must be respected every year.
The Commission. The Commission defends the interest and identity of the European Community. Twenty Commissioners nominated by the Member States head the Commission but it has full independence in its exercise of power and is not held to any national interest. Each Commissioner is responsible for one or two Directorate Generals (D-Gs) which are akin to Ministries at the national level. The distribution of tasks reflects the way the issues are addressed in the Commission. Currently, the D-G for external relations and human rights is headed by Chris Patten, and the D-G for development and humanitarian aid by Poul Nielson. Both D-Gs are of special interest to this study.
Other Institutions. The European Court of Justice should be mentioned as part of European institutions. Equally should the Court of Auditors which, however, is only of limited interest to this paper. It should also be noted that the European Council, though officially recognised in the Treaty, is not a European institution. It is made up of Heads of States and the President of the Commission, and meets twice a year. Its role, according to article 4 of the TEU, is to provide the broad orientation to the Union.
2. DETAILED OVERVIEW OF EXISTING PREVENTION MECHANISMS AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL
It is essentially in the European Community framework that the Member States have developed some important mechanisms in favour of the Newly Independent States (NIS). A distinction should be made between programmes designed to strengthen sustainable development (structural assistance) and ad hoc measures which are palliative responses to the weaknesses of the local structures.
2.1. Structural Assistance
The development programmes could have a great impact on conflict prevention. In effect, even if well designed measures are taken at a critical moment and can defuse a crisis, ongoing tensions will remain. In the long run, the subsequent fragility of the State would not allow for order and security. As regards the NIS, national stability is closely linked with economic development and the building of an effective state. For this reason, the European Community has put programmes in place with the aim of helping these countries further their independence. Technical Assistance for the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) is by far the main instrument which the Commission has at its disposal. It has been complemented, over the years, by other instruments which are related to specific needs.
Technical Assistance for the Commonwealth of Independent States
At the European Council meeting in Rome in December 1990, the European Union decided that the economic reforms undertaken by the USSR were contributing to the promotion of peace in Europe. The first Technical Assistance for the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) programme was introduced in July 1991 (regulation No. 2157/ 91, OJ L 201/ 2 of 24.07.1991), later renewed through two successive regulations (regulation No. 2053/ 93 and 1279/ 96, respectively in OJ L 187/1 of 29.07.1993 and L165/ 1 of 4.07.1996). The last regulation is in force until the end of December 1999, and a new one is currently being drawn.
The objectives of this programme are dual: to support economic development and the establishment of a market economy, on the one hand, so as to support private investments, and on the other to strengthen the public administration in its efforts to establish the rule of law and democracy. The means used to this end are, above all, the transfer of know how, in particular the deployment of technical experts for:
- the restructuring of public enterprises and the development of the private sector,
- the creation of a capacity to produce, process and distribute food products,
- the building of infrastructure for energy, telecommunications, and transport,
- nuclear safety and the environment,
- the reform of public administration and social services.
The implementation of this programme is carried out in close cooperation with the local authorities and the European Commission. The EC first establishes an indicative programme defining the objectives and strategies by country, in collaboration with each of the countries concerned; the last one covers the period 1996-1999. On this basis, an Action Programme is drawn up, covering a period of one or two years, and may include a National and a Regional Programme.
As regards the National Programmes, priority sectors to have received financing in these three countries are support for enterprises (both public and private ones), energy, human resources and administrative reforms. For the period 1991-1997, about 85% of all Tacis projects are seen as well targeted at the needs of the selected partners or beneficiaries. A positive relation is identified between Tacis performance in the NIS and track record in terms of market-oriented reforms.
The Caucasus countries had lived under seventy years of Communism. They now have to adjust their policy in order to integrate into the international economy. In this way, Tacis is considered to have a real impact notably in training programmes. Management training tools have been especially found to be one of the most successful. Other projects have helped in economic development, such as lending loans at low interest rates to private farmers and traders, allowing them to become owners of their means of production.
Along with the National Programme, there are Regional Programmes which are not country-specific. These include the Inter-State and Cross-Border Cooperation Programme, and the Nuclear Safety Programme.
The Inter-State Programme addresses problems which require similar solutions in a number of different countries and aims to establish working relations between these countries. There are currently two main programmes. The TRACECA (Transport Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia) Programme - helps develop a trade corridor on an east-west axis from Central Asia, across the Caspian Sea, through the Caucasus, and across the Black Sea to Europe. The INOGATE (Interstate Oil and Gas Transport to Europe) Programme supports efforts in rehabilitating and modernising regional gas transmission system and oil and supply systems for refined oil products.
The Cross-Border Programme reflects the importance attached to stable relations at the border, but only concerns the land borders of Russia Federation, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova with those of EU and the Central Eastern European Countries (CEECs), as well as the maritime borders of the Baltic. Such a programme could be extended to the Caucasus region, in order to allow communication and trade between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Environment is also a real matter of interest in that air or water pollution transcends boundaries and leads to cooperation between states.
Finally, the Nuclear Programme reflects continuing concern about nuclear safety posed by deficiencies in the design, condition, management, operation and maintenance of nuclear installations in the NIS. This programme partly concerns Armenia (in relation to supporting the commitment to complete closure of the Medzamor Nuclear Power Plant by 2004).
Lastly, we should mention the Small Project programmes. These are targeted and flexible projects which can be implemented relatively quickly and which are funded by individual country allocations from the national Action Programmes. They embrace five broad themes: policy advice, civil society, education and training, enterprise support and international standards and commitments. While individual projects may be relatively small, often costing less than 200,000 Euros, the total amount allocated to the Small Project Programmes still amounts to nearly 15% of the TACIS Budget (about 55% for the national country programme and 30% for the regional programme).
TACIS is considered to have been particularly successful in the promotion of regional co-operation through assistance to interstate and cross-border projects. Support for actions like the TRACECA project, the INOGATE oil and pipeline initiative and regional environment projects has played an important role in promoting inter-government cooperation among NIS. The best evidence is the signing of a Multilateral Transport Agreement in September 1998 at the Baku summit. The political dimension of such a summit is very important as it was attended by senior government figures such as Armenian Prime Minister Darbinian (it was the first visit by an Armenian head of government to Azerbaijan since the outbreak of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh). Similarly, in June 1998 the ceremonial opening of the new crossing on the Georgia-Azerbaijan border brought together different senior representatives from both sides of the border, to inaugurate a project of common interest.
It is considered that these programmes remain fundamental instruments for promoting stability and sustainable economic relations among NIS countries and have contributed to conflict resolution in the former Soviet Union.
Therefore, these programmes remain an important component of the prevention activities in this area, but they only concern the South Caucasus in a marginal way, and should be further developed to ensure real cooperation with these States.
As regards the procedures followed, the Action Programme is submitted to a management committee - the TACIS Committee - made up of representatives from the Member States (usually those services in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dealing with TACIS). After the financing proposals have received a favourable opinion from the Tacis committee and have been agreed by the Commission, the relevant funds associated with these proposals are said to have been " committed ". A public tender is then executed, at the local and the EC levels, to entrust the execution to experts from specialised institutions. Relations with the EC are defined on the basis of a contract. The contractors tend to be from the following organisations:
- public organisations (governments, national administrations, local or regional ones, etc.),
- non-commercial organisations (NGOs, university foundations, technical and research institutes, training institutes, professional associations),
- private sector organisations (consultants, firms, etc.).
Following this, the projects are managed and monitored by the relevant services of the Commission; final payment is made over the period of each contract (as projects may take several years, payments are often spread over the same time; that is the reason why payments lag behind the committed amounts).
The Commission is officially represented in the field by the Delegation. In this region there are four Delegations: Moscow, Kiev, Almaty and Tbilisi. The Delegation is responsible for the relations with the national authorities: it participates, with the National Coordinator (see below) and the line Ministries involved, in the elaboration of the indicative programme, and then of the programmes of action. It is up to the Delegation to launch public tenders and monitor the projects. It reports back every six months on the different sectors of TACIS activity.
At the national level a Coordination Unit is set up, supervised by a National Coordinator, generally a Minister. This unit represents the position of the government and determines the strategies along with the European Commission. It is supported in the execution of the tasks by a small group of experts financed under the TACIS programme.
Over the period 1991-1997, a total of 3.3 billion Euros has been allocated to TACIS. For the same period, the Southern Caucasus countries have received the following allocations: Armenia (49 million Euro), Azerbaijan (51 million Euro) and Georgia (50 million Euro) which puts them in the 6th, 7th and 8th place among the 13 beneficiary countries of TACIS. They are far behind Russia and Ukraine, which received 1,061 and 378 million Euros respectively, which amounts to a total 44% of the TACIS budget (in comparison, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have received an equivalent of 1.5% of the budget each).
With the New Tacis Regulation being adopted, the EU is expected to allocate approximately 4 billion Euros to the NIS over the period 2000-2006. Nevertheless, this Regulation proposes to focus on fewer, larger and better projects in key sectors, restricting each country programme to a maximum of three areas of cooperation .
There is no doubt that the interest of the Commission is above all economic. The development of these new countries offers commercial opportunities, and the European Community considers itself one of the most important partners of the NIS. EC imports from NIC are increasing by 33% since 1989 (in 1996 NIS exports to the EU amounted to 26 billion Euro), and Community exports to the NIS have grown by 25% over the same period.
Helping the NIS in their transition to democracy and free market, while ensuring the sustainability of the rule of law, is essential to stability in the region. Countries in the region have identified development of the economy as their main focus of interest. Stability is indeed closely linked with people's well being, which notably depends on better economic living standards. Thus, helping small and medium sized enterprises to develop or for farmers to obtain property rights for their lands, favours the establishment of a middle class and contributes to democracy. In this way, the development of a legal framework is of real importance in that it encourages foreign investment and strengthens contractual relations.
Apart from economic interests, the geopolitical context also makes it a sensitive element in regional conflicts, especially in view of the gradual extension of the EU to countries in central and eastern Europe. In due course, the external borders of the EU will extend to the TACIS beneficiary countries (Belarus and Ukraine first, then Moldova and Russia). This is not the case for the South Caucasus (unless Turkey joins the EU, as desired by US policymakers), but the natural wealth, particularly oil, has turned the region into an area close to European interests, as well as Russian, American and Iranian.
Such a situation helps explain the vigilance of the Commission in relation to conflict prevention in the region. However, it is increasingly recognised that even if economic growth and state development are important to stability, civil society is also a key element. The entire TACIS programme has made a significant contribution in this area but a specific instrument has also been introduced by the Commission which seeks to enhance the visibility of democratic values.
The PHARE and TACIS Democracy Programme
The PHARE and TACIS Democracy Programme (PTDP) began in 1992 at the initiative of the European Parliament, in the countries covered by the PHARE programme and extended in 1993 to include the TACIS programme. The objective is to promote the knowledge and techniques relevant to democratisation and the rule of law. It seeks to do this by strengthening associations and local institutions. This sector appears to have contributed to the growth of the non-governmental sector, which has been an essential actor in the process of reform. It has achieved that role by exercising pressure on the authorities, and allowed the emergence of a democratic political culture.
Unlike the TACIS Programme, the PTDP has specifically developed directly with the NGOs and not with the national governments. It covers three types of projects:
- the macro level projects, which aim to establish a partnership between European NGOs and local ones,
- the micro projects, approved by the Delegation, favouring small local NGOs,
- the ad hoc projects, decided by the Commission in response to an urgent and specific need. In contrast with the preceding forms, they are not limited to NGOs projects.
The areas of intervention are the following:
- parliamentary practices,
- transparency in the management of public administration,
- development of the governmental sector and of representative structures,
- independence of the media,
- awareness building and civic education,
- promotion and monitoring of human rights,
- civilian oversight of the security services,
- rights of minorities, non-discrimination and equality of opportunities.
In the countries covered by TACIS, emphasis has been given to the development of NGOs (46%), awareness building (14%), independence of the media (10%) and human rights monitoring (10%). An evaluation of the contribution made by these projects towards the prevention or resolution of conflicts cannot be based on these four typologies. A reason can be found in the case of certain projects in Georgia. Though projects may fall in the category of NGO capacity-building or creating an independent media, intervention by certain organisations is contributing directly to communication between parties in the conflict.
The macro projects represent nearly two thirds of the funding. The NGOs selected after expressions of interest, twice a year, can receive financing up to 200,000 Euro. This assistance cannot be for more than 80% of the budget, the NGO having to contribute the remainder, half of which may be in kind.
For the management of these programmes, the Commission has recourse to the European Human Rights Foundation (EHRF). The EHRF examines the projects and establishes a list of those eligible for EC funding. This assessment is based on the quality of the project (55%), the partnership established (35%) and other specific aspects. This list is then submitted to the Commission, which selects a partner after receiving advice from an Advisory Group (made up of representatives from the development DG, European Parliament, European Council and the EHRF) which formulates a recommendation. Once the projects are selected, it is the EHRF which develops and follows up the contracts. It writes a monthly progress report to the Commission. Every six months it prepares a policy paper for the Advisory Group to discuss the medium term options.
The approach adopted for the micro projects is quite different. The amounts do not exceed 10,000 Euro and are managed at the local level by the Delegations. The areas of activity are identical to the macro projects but they are directed more specifically to the NGOs of small size, to support growth in the non-governmental sector. These micro projects are particularly frequent in the PHARE countries, and have only made a very tentative beginning in Russia and Ukraine, although they are also appearing in Belarus, Georgia and Kazakhstan.
This also explains the importance acquired by ad hoc projects in the NIS, which get 30% of the total financing. Put in place by the Commission in response to the needs identified, these projects cover in particular the monitoring of elections, the training of journalists and the media sector. In doing so, the Commission operates at times in conjunction with international institutions, such as the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
The PTDP approach in the PHARE and TACIS countries is quite different. If the PHARE projects emphasise an approach based on NGOs (bottom up approach) especially through the macro projects, the TACIS programme is characterised by the 30% channelled through the ad hoc projects (decided upon by the Commission). Until quite recently there was also a relative lack of micro projects, elaborated and financed at the local level. It should also be noted that, just as for the general TACIS programmes, Russia and Ukraine obtain most of the PTDP financing (nearly 70% of it), Belarus and Georgia follow with some 7% each.
The impact of these programmes is considerably reinforced by the application of partnership and cooperation agreements.
Partnership and Cooperation Agreements
In July 1999, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) came into force between the European Union and the six countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrghistan, and Uzbekistan. Each one of these accords has been established for a period of ten years, after which it should be tacitly renewed annually, unless it is denounced by one of the parties. The main objective of the PCA is to reaffirm the common values shared by the parties, notably the principle of parliamentary democracy, pluralism and the rule of law. It covers the protection of human rights, and the introduction of the market economy.
The areas covered by these agreements are defined in very general terms: from energy to the environment, from education to agriculture and passing through transport, consumer protection, the fight against drugs and money laundering, and tourism. Of particular interest is the political dialogue (Title II) and cooperation in democracy and human rights (Title VII). Even though an entire agreement can be considered as an instrument contributing to stability in the region it is, however, clear that the parties commit themselves to: "cooperate in the areas concerning the strengthening of stability and security in Europe, the respects for principle of democracy and the respect for human rights, notably those of minorities, and to facilitate consultation on relevant issues" (article 5 of the APC). It is also said that the "dialogue can take place on a regional basis, to contribute to the resolution of conflicts and of regional tensions".
To facilitate this dialogue and to formalise the cooperation between states, a certain number of institutions have been created. A Council of Cooperation has been put in place to supervise the implementation of the agreements. It brings together, once a year, members of the government of the State concerned, members of the EU Council, and officials from the European Commission. Its role is to examine all the important issues relative to this agreement, as well as all other bilateral or international issues of common interest. It is allowed, in this framework, to formulate recommendations.
In accomplishing these tasks, the Council is supported by a Cooperation Committee made up of high level civil servants representing the EU Council, the European Commission and the Government of the State involved. This Committee will be a central element in implementing the agreement, in that it ensures a continuity of dialogue between meetings of the Council of Cooperation.
The text also foresees the creation of a Commission of Parliamentary Cooperation, in which members of the Parliament of a particular State, and members of the European Parliament, will meet to exchange points of views.
A first meeting of the Council of Cooperation took place on 12 October 1999 for Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. It will be necessary to judge the effectiveness of the instrument with reference to the results achieved, in terms of the process of dialogue and exchange. It now appears that it behoves the countries of the Caucasus to go beyond the level of assisted countries to that of being actors of their own development. Their will to overcome the threat of tensions will be significant in the future. Its quality will determine the outcome of the partnership.
The actions of these mechanisms will be implemented according to TACIS regulation and procedures, which are currently being adapted. It will become operational on 1 January 2000. This Regulation will take into consideration the principles and objectives defined within the framework of the PCA. It will seek to differentiate between regions, and to limit the actions undertaken to three key sectors in each country (this restriction is an answer to criticisms in the past that the Commission was scattering its scarce resources on too many small projects). The new regulation places great emphasis on regional cooperation and inter-state cooperation, which constitute an important factor for stability.
The last word belongs to the Commission which in June this year indicated that: "the best way of making progress in confidence building and economic acceleration is to support actions in regional cooperation and post conflict reconstruction. These actions require the political support of CFSP, and more specifically that of the institutions created in the framework of the PACs. Community assistance can be effective only if the resolution of conflicts and the normalization of political and economic life make progress. The presidential meeting of 22 June will allow the three republics the opportunity to confirm that they have the political will to move forward."
2.2 Specific forms of Assistance
Specific interventions, outside the normal framework, often have a significant impact on conflict prevention. Before outlining them any further, we must first point out that even within the framework of TACIS, exceptional aid can be provided. This has been explicitly stated in the new TACIS regulation, which is still being drafted.
In 1997, the current TACIS regulation enabled a decision to mitigate the effects of the Russian crisis on the countries of the South Caucasus. By identifying the economic repercussions of the downturn in Russia on the development of the NIS, the European Commission concluded that the countries could face considerable social pressure, and that investors could be deterred. This could have a significant effect on the overall political stability. This was the reason, following a Council decision, for an allocation of an additional 13 million Euros to be given. This assistance should allow, among other things, more funding for the countries from the international financial institutions.
More recently (January 1999), the Commission has adopted a Communication stating its preoccupation about the economic outlook in the NIS. It indicated its willingness to take some appropriate measures, such as an exceptional aid package of 20 million Euros financed from TACIS, but to be used as humanitarian aid in the NIS (food aid, medical supplies for vulnerable groups). This decision will be administered by ECHO (European Community Humanitarian Office), highlighting the very direct link between emergency assistance, structural programmes, and conflict prevention.
It may seem paradoxical to include humanitarian aid as a form of conflict prevention. This form of assistance is called on to intervene in situations of acute crisis, rather than before. It is however clear that the fast provision of emergency assistance will cover certain essential needs, and reduce instability. In this way, humanitarian aid should be considered as one of the tools available to the Commission for the prevention of future risks.
It is not necessary to go far as to see humanitarian aid as a preventive measure, especially when one looks at the load which ECHO already carries world-wide. On top of emergency aid in a strict sense, the regulation for humanitarian assistance (regulation 1257/ 96 of 20 June 1996, OJ L 163 of 2.07.96) foresees that this assistance:
"may be a prerequisite for development or reconstruction work and must therefore cover the full duration of a crisis and its aftermath" and "in this context it may include an element of short term rehabilitation ..." It also declares that "there is a particular need for preventive action to ensure preparedness for disaster risks and, in consequence, for the establishment of an appropriate early warning and intervention system."
The stabilising element is thus comparable to the development operations for which they are preparing the ground. Humanitarian assistance is a way of avoiding a discontinuity in the flow of intervention.
In Armenia, even if ECHO has been phasing out in the three countries of Southern Caucasus, it still undertakes health care services and facilities benefiting the most vulnerable individuals such as elderly handicapped or those with large families. The special Assistance Programme also intends to assist vulnerable groups through a difficult phase, when the government is introducing socio-economic reforms.
Regarding Azerbaijan, ECHO used to aid the victims of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, but began to phase out in 1996 because the worst humanitarian crisis was deemed to be over. Thus, assistance now focuses essentially on supporting local health structures and on activities aiming to decrease humanitarian aid dependency such as agricultural self-sufficiency projects. Nevertheless, traditional relief assistance continues, particularly for IDPs and refugees, in collective centres and camps.
Indeed, the issue of refugees remains a sensitive one. If there is a specific regulation for refugees and displaced persons in Asia and Latin America (regulation No. 443/ 97, OJ L 68 of 8.03.1997), it does not apply to the countries of South Caucasus. As a consequence, ECHO is the main source of assistance when a disaster occurs. The regulation foresees that the assistance can be extended to repatriation and reintegration, for which it has already been used in some of the Caucasus countries.
Finally, the assistance provided in Georgia also focuses on IDPs while refugees and disabled people affected by ethnic conflicts can still be found in Abkhazia. Food and medical aid have been priorities, as well as drinking water and the rehabilitation of sanitation facilities and schools.
When discussing prevention, it emerges clearly that ECHO has understood the term mainly from the point-of-view of natural disasters. ECHO appears reluctant even now to become involved in the prevention of conflicts, which it sees as being too political. A recent global evaluation of ECHO has indicated that the service is quite happy to see the positive impact of its assistance in contributing to the positive resolution of wider peace processes (Palestine, Niger, Colombia being the cases quoted). A recent reduction in the availability of funds globally because of the crisis in Kosovo could mean that this conservative preference will be further accentuated, as ECHO concentrates on its basic mandate.
To carry out its humanitarian mandate, the Commission works with some 150 European NGOs and a handful of international organisations (including the Red Cross movement). The NGOs are invited to sign a partnership framework agreement (a new framework has come into force in January, and is being endorsed by the NGOs and international organisations). For the South Caucasus, the relevant unit, ECHO 3 (Desk Officer Mrs Mieke Bos: 296.31.58), has been signing contracts on the basis of proposals. A Global Plan , which includes considerations on support for stability, has been signed with: MSF (B/F), Save the Children, IRC, Oxfam (UK), SPF, Care, ACH (E), Finnish and Netherlands Red Cross, IFRC, WFP and UNHCR.
The financing proposals are submitted to the financial service following different procedures which reflect the urgency of the situation, and the amount requested (the thresholds being situated at 2 million Euros and 10 million Euros). The higher requests are presented to the Committee of Member States (the Humanitarian Committee). If the proposal is accepted, a contract is drawn up, and the organisations are given a great degree of liberty in the execution of the project, if not in the financial accounting. A first tranche is given at the beginning of the operation, which allows for a rapid start-up of the operation.
The stabilising effect of food aid is unquestionable, considering the vital role of food in a society. An absence or shortage in the market or a loss of purchasing power, can generate riots and a disintegration of law and order. This is the reason for the inclusion of food aid here under the label of prevention. The Commission has often stressed the way in which its food security plans (it now refuses to call its programme food aid, but prefers the food security assistance) will allow for self-sufficiency by targeting key bottlenecks in the even distribution of a balanced bread basket. The regulation states that "the food-aid instrument is a key component of the Community's policy on preventing or helping in crisis situations ..." (regulation No. 1292/ 96, OJ L 166 of 5.7.1996).
The Commission has thus put in place food security programmes in the Caucasus, which have taken over from direct food aid. These had been carried out from 1994 to 1996 by combined action by DG-1A (TACIS), DG VI (Agriculture), DG VIII (intra-EU food aid) and ECHO. From now on the assistance given in this area will only be funded on financial inputs in agriculture, and food assistance will only be given for serious sudden deficits.
When the aid foreseen exceeds a certain amount (2 million Euro), the Food Security Committee is notified. Tenders are then invited for the project, or a contract is directly signed with a non-governmental organisation or a UN agency (though this is decreasing). The procurement is carried out according to public purchase procedures. The Unit in charge of the activities then ensures a continuous monitoring and review (Unit A1 of DGVIII, rural development and Food Security, headed by Mr Werblow).
For emergency food aid, usually supplementary feeding for vulnerable groups, the responsibility is given to ECHO, which acts according to its own regulation. The dividing line between the two types of assistance has however long been unclear, and a certain amount of overlap exists.
The regulation concerning Action for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Favour of Countries in Development is very similar to the regulation for refugees and displaced persons in Asia (regulation No. 2258/ 96, OJ L 306 of 28.11.96). It is designed for medium term actions, which, rather than being palliative like humanitarian aid, are adaptive - they aim to assist the populations of a region to adapt to the changed conditions which occur in a protracted crisis or its aftermath. These actions have their own specificity, and experience has shown that they are particularly useful at the community level, for quick impact (when the Commission succeeds in mobilising the funds rapidly, which is not always the case).
In this way, the rehabilitation actions contribute to the stabilisation of a country, as described in the regulation; they help re-establish and adapt: "a working economy and the institutional capacities necessary to restore social and political stability to the countries concerned and meet the needs of the people affected as a whole" (art.1ß1).
The institutions which are entitled to such financing include NGOs, but also regional organisations, companies, and international organisations. In this sense, this is a relatively flexible instrument. Local and community organisations can be financed, although seed funding or joint funding solution is preferred in those cases.
After a brief review of the proposals which are sent to the relevant Unit (DG1A/ Unit C4, cf supra) the procedures followed vary according to the amount and the speed of decision, apparently, according to the degree of support given to the project by the geographical Committee (here TACIS).
The above section provided a brief outline for a broad perception of the instruments which are available to the European Community to contribute to conflict prevention in risk-prone areas. It is important to note that the procedures applied, and the type of implementing body, vary at least as much as the general objectives of the assistance. The legal basis for the different instruments is most important. Each is more or less constraining or flexible, and to this must be added the important human factor, which influences Commission performance at least as much as the nature of the instrument itself.
Above all, these actions remain EC actions, and are consequently part of the Commission's initiatives. The programmes and actions described have been in existence for a few years, and their effectiveness can be gauged by the test of time. It would be useful, at this stage, to review the potential mechanisms available to the Commission in its more innovative fringes, and to the second pillar of the European Union.
2.3 Potential mechanisms
There are a number of European actions which are still developing, and which could contribute to the improvement of the conflict prevention possibilities of the EU. The mechanism of information tools for conflict early warning is discussed here.
Information tools and early warning
The existence of the Conflict Prevention Network (CPN) is well known to the readers. It has been put in place under the name CPN in 1997 after an EC public tender, and hosted by the German Foundation Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (it is now officially called the European Centre for Analysis and Evaluation in EU project listings). It responded to an initiative of the European Parliament, and has been used as an analytical support for the definition of Community policies. It is based on a database of experts liable to provide rapid and well-targeted information on a given question, either upon request from the Commission or the Parliament. It has been funded from a variety of budget lines, but remains administered from a policy Unit situated in the DG for External Relations.
The outputs of this network are steered by a group of experts, academics and Commission officials, and by eight European Parliamentarians. According to the issue selected, a working group is established, with specialists from the relevant sector (most usually defined in geographic terms). The quality of the information is dependent on the experts selected. For this reason standard operating methods have been drawn up to create relations of trust between the geographical units, which often have access to significant information, and the CPN.
The confidentiality and ownership of the findings have been gradually defined over the years. This has led to difficulties in the implementation of the network concept, as many complain that it is still more an index of experts than a network. In spite of the gap between the database and network concepts, the CPN has developed a niche and raison d'être as the advisory instrument for the European Parliament and for the Commission. The analysis carried out by the experts could notably help the Commission in arguing its positions in relation with the Council Policy planning and early warning unit (PPEWU).
The effectiveness of this instrument should be formally evaluated in a few months, but clearly depends on the degree of legitimacy which it will be given within the Commission. There is now a privileged relationship between the network and the Commission which could be explored. The network could also develop a reference system based on European Community actions, aiming to provide, for example, a typology of actions required according to the situation on the ground. A methodology would then allow the Commission to identify situations and actions with a risk reduction potential.
2.4 Emerging trends in foreign policy
Since the entry into force of the treaty of the European Union, a quick overview of the decisions adopted within the framework of the second pillar for the South Caucasus indicate five decisions were adopted. These were for Abkhazia (21.11.1996 and 2.06.1998), the abolition of the death penalty in Georgia (24.11.1997) and in Azerbaïjan (19.02.1998) and the meeting in Geneva of the Presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia (22.07.1999). Beyond expressions of preoccupation or of encouragement, none of these declarations were followed by actions. Hence, it is mostly in the community area that one must find specific measures susceptible to an impact greater than purely diplomatic démarches. However the definition of a veritable foreign policy could confer a much greater impact to EU measures in CFSP. If they have rarely been used to date, some of the mechanisms instituted in the Treaty of Amsterdam offer new possibilities.
The personification of a Common Foreign and Security Policy
A great innovation in the Amsterdam Treaty was to give a public face to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Up to now, the external representative function had been given to the six-months rotating Presidency of the European Union. At times this was given to a Troika which included the current President, the predecessor and the successor, so as to give continuity and a certain diplomatic backup when the Presidency is occupied by a small country. The Troika is still in existence, although it has been modified.
However, a new post of High Representative of CFSP, who is also the Secretary General of the Council, has been created and given to Mr Solana. It should be noted that it is not an extension of the former post of Secretary General of the Council, which has now become the one of Deputy Secretary General (given to Mr de Boissieu).
This " Monsieur PESC ", as he is called, supports the Council in matters of foreign policy: "by contributing to the formulation, elaboration and implementation of political decisions, and, when required, acting in the name of the Council upon request of the Presidency, so conducting a dialogue with third parties" (art.26 TEU).
Only practice will show the real reach of this disposition. However, the nomination of the former Secretary General of NATO to this strategic post leads one to believe that the Union is acquiring a new visibility in foreign policy and diplomacy. This will, for the first time, not be subordinated to a rotating country membership. The effectiveness will depend in particular on the instruments which this new office is given. A new Cell has precisely been created, and is currently recruiting to take on its new role: the Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit.
The Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit
In a joint Declaration of the Treaty of Amsterdam, the Member States have agreed to create a Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit (PPEWU) placed under the authority of the High Representative for CFSP (i.e the Secretary General of the Council). It is however stipulated that an adequate cooperation will be created with the Commission so as to ensure the coherence of the Pillar I and Pillar II policies.
This unit will have as its role the monitoring and analysis of patterns in areas belonging to CFSP. It must provide assessments and advise the Union on the orientations to give and the strategies to be adopted within the framework of foreign policy. It has also been tasked to provide advance warning of potential crises and their repercussions on the EU.
Its role is, as can be seen, close to that of the CPN, but in this case the contact with the Secretary General is quite direct . It should be possible, in this case, to get Cabinet level information, and the analysis should be brought closer to the political decision making. The Treaty stipulates that: "the Member States will support the policy planning process by providing, in the greatest measure possible, relevant information, including confidential information".
This unit is unusual in that it is to be made up of personnel drawn from foreign policy circles, mainly diplomats. It should include one Commission official, one representative from the Western European Union, three from the Council, and one representative of each Member State. The assumption is that technical analysis will prevail over national perspectives. The choice of the seconded staff will consequently be of the utmost importance, and the effectiveness of the unit will depend on the role which the Secretary General will give it.
From the point of view of conflict prevention, this unit has a very obvious interest in that it would allow the EU to focus on specific geographical areas, even prior to crises. The probability of more coherent and effective approaches of a sensitive subject for the Union is hence greater. The question of the nature of the convergence between a resurgent CFSP and conflict prevention should of course also be examined - it does not low automatically the EU policy will be good for conflict prevention. This brings us to the issue of common strategies, one of the ambitions of the new TEU.
The elaboration of common strategies
Although this is a recognised prerogative of the European Council, and is hence situated at the more political level of the EU, the elaboration of common strategies contains in itself the seeds of a new coherence of the external relations of the Union.
It is indicated in Article 13 of the TEU that "common strategies will refine the objectives, the duration and the means which the Union and the Member States must provide". Consequently, they constitute the framework upon which all the Member States, at the highest political level, agree. The interest lies not so much in the nature of the agreement, but in the modalities of implementation. We have already seen that common actions and positions applying a common strategy will escape the rule of unanimity. A qualified majority will now provide much greater flexibility in the implementation of CFSP.
In addition, these orientations will be carried out over the long term, which ensures a minimum level of coherence. It is revealing that the first common strategy adopted by the Council on 4 June 1999 is about Russia. Basing itself on the partnership and cooperation agreement made between the EU and Russia, the European Council has defined in a structured way the main objectives, the instruments, the means and the sectors of intervention of the partnership, over a four-year period. The value of such an initiative is to stimulate a long term form of management, and hence to be proactive, and not only reactive as it has been until now.
The choice made in favour of Russia is not surprising, if one looks at the importance of this state, undergoing a deep crisis. By stabilising its relations with Russia, the Union is enhancing the political influence which it is able to exercise on peripheral conflicts, especially those coming from the fragmentation of the Soviet Union. This common strategy reformulates once more the commitment of the EU to this region of the world. The next two planned common strategies are in fact aimed at Ukraine and the Balkans, followed by the Middle East.
A Joint Declaration was issued during the 22 June 1999 meeting in Luxembourg, between the EU and the Presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. It reaffirmed their will to strengthen their mutual cooperation through the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements which had been just ratified. The EU however stated that:
"the effectiveness of the assistance provided is tied to the evolution of the peace process in the region. The EU is ready to use the instruments at its disposal to support concrete progress. Great importance will be given to regional cooperation, rehabilitation and post-conflict reconstruction, and the need to attract investments into areas which have been through conflict" .
The Declaration also underlines that the strengthening of ties is dependent on the will of the Republics to resolve their conflicts and establish a mutual cooperation of their own. In so doing, it points out the limits of the preventive approaches deployed by the Union, when they are not supported by a sincere intention among the parties to overcome the tensions.
Whatever the aims of the Union, its policies can be cancelled out if it is not given the financial means. At the time of writing, the budget for the year 2000 is being voted, and is in the Parliament for the first reading. A preliminary debate has already taken place between the Parliament and the Council, on the subject of the additional funding for Kosovo, which is proposed without any increase in the overall budget. This implies that the funding will be drawn from existing programmes, to the detriment of overall external relations coherence. It is hence possible that TACIS will not receive the level of support it would need in order to be effective in preventing the emerging conflicts in the region.
This conflict of interest underlines the challenge of determining the order of priorities for intervention, and of convincing all those involved that there should be an intervention in an area where nothing is yet occurring. The reconstruction of Kosovo is a very real need, but there is no doubt that this is politically more popular than actions in more remote and less well known areas.
It also underlines the power of the Member States who continue to determine the political priorities, at times without giving themselves the additional means this would require. Even though the struggle between those two arms of the financial decision making process is not over yet, the financial implications of conflict prevention are clear. This is particularly the case for regions which are situated beyond the reach of the media. It is necessary for the Member States to understand that the absence of any support in this area could have a much greater human and financial cost than what is called for today.