The EU as International Mediator: Conceptualising EU Mediation Engagement

Arne Niemann

The use of mediation to settle international conflicts is not a new phenomenon in international relations. While mediation is applied in a wide variety of political conflicts and can take very different forms, its key characteristic is the introduction of a third party to help disputants to settle their conflict in a non-violent way through the means of negotiations. In this introductory article, we identify main conceptual and empirical perspectives from which EU's involvement in mediation may be analysed. First, we briefly present different understandings of mediation in research and practice, and compare them with the EU's own conceptualisation of mediation. Second, we map the EU's mediation activities across different regions and briefly discuss the specific political context in which the EU is operating. Third, we review the existing literature on EU foreign policy and conflict management and justify the particular focus on mediation activities, which encompass both direct EU mediation engagement and indirect forms of support of mediation efforts. Based on this review, we derive three research questions that have not been sufficiently addressed in EU foreign policy studies and mediation research. Correspondingly, we propose three key themes through which it is possible to analyse EU mediation activities: (1) motivation, describing the different possible motives and drivers for the EU to become involved in international mediation (ranging from security-driven motives to normative objectives); (2) roles and strategies, reflecting particularly on the type of mediation arrangement and the degree of control the mediator exerts on the negotiations; and (3) effectiveness, referring to different standards of evaluation for EU mediation involvement (process vs. outcome-oriented understandings). We then discuss and analyse contributors' key findings on these three themes. Finally, we draw conclusions from our analysis of contributors' findings and propose avenues for future research.

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