Same Table, Different Menus? A Comparison of UN and EU Mediation Practice in Kosovo

Julian Bergmann

The United Nations (UN) is the most active international organisation in the field of international mediation. Compared to the UN, the number of cases of European Union (EU) mediation is marginal. Nevertheless, the EU has been increasingly involved in mediation activities in recent years. In addition, by introducing the 2009 Concept on Strengthening EU Mediation and Dialogue Capacities, the EU has set in motion a process to develop a more comprehensive approach to mediation. The EU's increasing significance as an actor in international mediation raises the question of how the EU's approach to mediation is distinct from other international mediators like the UN. Consequently, this paper seeks to shed light on the question concerning the extent to which the UN and EU differ in their approach to mediation and how this influences their mediation effectiveness. To address this question empirically, it compares UN and EU mediation efforts in the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia. While mediation effectiveness is defined in terms of conflict settlement, the paper focuses on mediator leverage and strategy as well as the conflict parties' willingness for compromise as main conditions of effectiveness. In the empirical analysis, UN mediation in the Kosovo status talks in Vienna is compared to the ongoing EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. The main finding is that the EU's relatively high degree of effectiveness compared to the UN effort can be partly explained by the application of different strategies, partly by pointing to the conflict environment which has been more favourable to mediation since 2011 compared to the situation in 2005-7. Tentative evidence also suggests the existence of a 'cumulative effect' of mediation in the way that the EU's effort to some extent benefitted from the experience of UN mediation in the Vienna status negotiations.

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