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Mediating Peace with Proscribed Armed Groups

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A Policy Workshop Report on the Implications of European Union (EU) Counter-Terrorism Legislation for Mediation and Support for Peace Processes

On 21 October 2010, Berghof Peace Support (Berlin) and Conciliation Resources (London) convened a policy workshop at the European Foundation Centre (Brussels), with funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (UK). The aim of the workshop was to initiate a debate about the direct and indirect implications of EU counter-terrorism legislation on EU led or supported peace processes and to identify possible steps forward. This report summarises discussions and recommendations among 30 participating high-level EU officials, mediators and civil society experts.

KEY FINDINGS OF THE WORKSHOP:

  1. The EU’s mediation and support roles and capacities are inadequate considering the number of protracted violent conflicts around the world. They could be enhanced through increased training, the use of a mediator roster system and the use of best practice models.

  2. Engaging with non-state armed groups is an essential component of any peace process support strategy and a key ingredient to reaching a practicable peace agreement and its successful implementation.

  3. There is a general lack of understanding of EU counterterrorism legislation among the public and the peacebuilding and diplomatic communities.

  4. Though the legal impact of the EU’s counter-terrorism legislation on mediation is relatively limited, the political effects of EU proscription are far-reaching. It has increased the political risk for EU envoys and member states and has reduced European mediators’ credibility and perceived neutrality with some conflict parties. It has also had counter-productive impacts on armed groups’ willingness to engage in peace processes and has created perceptions of criminalisation among some communities living in the EU who have shared aspirations with banned organisations.

  5. Proscription is a blunt tool. As currently exercised it does not reflect the differences of behaviour between various armed groups; nor does it effectively incentivise their decision to abandon the use of violence.

  6. If the EU wishes to strengthen its mediation role it will need to better calibrate its counter-terrorism legislation to enable constructive political engagement.