Perceptions of the EU's Role in Ukraine and Israel/Palestine Conflict: A Biased Mediator?

Natalia Chaban, Ole Elgström & Michèle Knodt

The paper focuses on perceptions of the EU as mediator, which adds an indispensable perspective to "objective" examinations of the EUs mediator role. In order to act as an effective mediator, it is of vital importance to the EU that its brokerage activities are seen as legitimate and relevant by the parties to the conflict at hand. The contribution will compare two cases of the EUs role as an mediator - Ukraine and Israel/Palestine. We will ask how the EU's mediation activities were perceived and interpreted by elites in the respective countries and by EU officials. Our analysis is based on recent interviews with elites in the conflict countries and the EU, which enables us to compare internal with external perceptions. We investigate perceptions of EU motives, roles/strategies and effectiveness, with the help of role theory. Roles refer to patterns of expected behaviour. They are determined both by an actor's own conceptions about appropriate behaviour and by the expectations of other actors. Both role conceptions and expectations may be affected by the actor's role performance, how it actually plays out its role in specific contexts. Expectations/perceptions may relate to strategies (types of mediation; degree of active involvement) and mediator (im)partiality. Thus, we expect that the EU is perceived as a biased mediator in both cases. This could have consequences for perceptions of its role performance and effectiveness as it is frequently assumed in mediation theory that impartiality is beneficial to mediation success.

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