New Publication – Neo-Functional Peace: The European Union Way of Resolving Conflicts

An article – now available on open access – by IICRR researchers looks at how the EU’s peacebuilding activities should be framed.

The European Union has expanded its role in preventing conflicts and building peace, but its institutional practices remain insufficiently conceptualized. The research undertaken by Prof John Doyle and Dr Gëzim Visoka argues that the EU’s peace support operations should not only be studied through the lens of liberal peacebuilding frameworks, but should also be seen as self-mirroring of its internal dynamics of neo-functional integration and consolidation. They find that EU’s external actions are partly based on the externalisation of its own self-perception of European peace formation to other contexts, whereby a model of neo-functionalism, widely shared by EU elites as a model to explain EU integration, is modified and applied to other political conflicts outside the EU.

Their study finds that EU’s neo-functionalist approach has played a crucial role in initiating the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and in resolving a range of outstanding political disputes. Neo-functional peace as a European approach of resolving conflicts has worked in the case of Kosovo thanks to suitable background conditions; the path-breaking role of technical dialogue and low politics; the emergence of high-level political dialogue as a spillover effect of technical dialogue; ambiguous meaning and co-existence of multiple intentions; and the prioritization of process over outcomes and impact.

Prof Doyle’s and Dr Visoka’s study concludes that in order for neo-functional peace to work, the meanings of key contentious issues must be capable of deconstruction to isolate pragmatic short-term practical and technical measures, which can be agreed through facilitation rather than arbitration, and materialized through constructive incentives and threats. Its purpose is neither to ignore power politics nor to depoliticize the practical steps involved, but rather, by deconstruction, to isolate those areas where a process toward agreement can begin. It is this logic from its own history which makes neo-functional peace a useful way to think about EU peace support practices.

Key findings of this project are published in the prestigious Journal of Common Market Studies, and is available on open access as an early view via the following link:

Full reference: Visoka, G., and Doyle, J. (2015) “Neo-Functional Peace: The European Union Way of Resolving Conflicts” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, doi: 10.1111/jcms.12342.

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