Peaceful Europe - Something different


PressInfo # 112

 January 17, 2001 


By Christian Hårleman, TFF Associate & Jan Oberg, TFF director



Peace is promoted by constructive proposals and dialogue

Four preceding PressInfos have expressed concern over -- and criticised -- the ongoing, militarisation of the EU. Some will say: but there are no alternatives. We believe that there are always alternatives, that democracies are characterised by alternatives and choice, and that openly discussed alternatives will improve the quality and legitimacy of society's decision--making.

In addition, it is an intellectual and moral challenge to not only criticise but also be constructive. If we only tell people that we think they are wrong, they are not likely to listen. However, if we say: what are your views on this set of ideas and steps? -- we may sometimes engage them in dialogue and sow a seed. Most people in power circles live their daily lives in in a time frame and a social space where certain ideas, viewpoints and concepts are just not supposed to be brought up.

TFF is one small and constructive voice with proposals that reduce, wherever possible, the use of structural and direct violence. When it comes to the EU, it leads nowhere to be "anti" about the project or sceptical of some of its manifestations -- such as its militarisation and conflict-management role. What is needed is a systematic, world--wide dialogue about the meaning of peace and how various meanings will compete in influencing the future of the EU and its day-to-day policies. A first precondition is that we liberate ourselves from the belief that the things which happen are the only things than can or should happen. Democracy is not about voting 'yes' or 'no' to one presented option, it is about engaging people in the dialogue about many alternatives and then have a vote to get to the one that suits most with a stake in the issue.

Peace is promoted by constructive proposals and dialogue. Authoritarianism and violence by its negation.


A catalogue for your further brainstorming and dialogue

To make the EU and broader Europe a factor for world peace, here follow 32 proposals, big and small, for everyone to discuss, grouped in a few categories. The list is not indicative of priorities and a EU peace policy would have to be pieced together by many elements, ideas and steps in different combinations depending on circumstances:





New economy &endash; could mean something different

- If the EU developed a new economics and a set of relations with the disadvantaged countries and peoples all over the world and provided less and less exploitative trade and investment conditions, it would -- over time -- make a visible contribution to poverty-reduction and also reduce the risk of war and environmental catastrophe. For the EU to not only define itself as a peace project but actually be one, it must not only help reduce direct violence but also reduce its present contribution to structural violence.

- In its concrete day-to-day operations with the world, it must put people first, place basic human need satisfaction among the poorest as its absolute, inescapable top priority.

- Its leaders must even have the courage to say to European citizens: "we in Europe are so many times more wealthy and secure than those at the bottom of the world society. We need your understanding and assistance to solve the largest problem of all and solve it as quickly as we can: we must forever abolish those mechanisms which force 1,2 billion of humanity to live on less than $ 1 per day and 2,4 million to lack adequate sanitation. We in Europe must hold back our luxury consumption for a while until those lives are saved." (Figures from UNDP's Human Development Report).


A historic contribution to global violence reduction

- And they would not talk about it. They would do it. And when they had done it, they would have made a larger contribution to world peace than any other organisation in modern history. They would have given the words "humanitarian intervention" a relevant content. They would have globalised humanism, and not just financial transactions and profit-making. They would have shown that the EU is something new and entirely different from the United States. And they would have shown that all this can be done for a fraction of the world's military expenditures today. And when it was done, there would be less need for military expenditures, because wars also (not only, for sure) grow out of unequal relations, hopelessness and injustices at many levels.

- To do things like that require more civil courage and vision than letting the military-industrial complexes and interventionism, consumerism and environmental decay, the market and profit motives continue unabated and label repairs of their consequences "peace--making" and "conflict-management."





Reducing violence against women and children

- Around the world on average, about one in every three women has experience violence in an intimate relationship. World-wide, about 1,2 million women and girls under 18 are trafficked for prostitution each year. There are 100 million children living on the streets, there are 300,000 child soldiers and 6 million injured in armed conflict. We have seen how soldiers behave in this respect, not only in wars but also in so-called peace missions such as Bosnia and Kosovo. Those who want the EU to become a militarised actor can not also act with credibility on reducing violence against gender and children. In short, the EU cannot develop in whichever way its adult male leaders feel like and simultaneously call it a peace project.


Alternative defence and common security

- What a marvellous opportunity in human history: no countries in the EU feel threatened by any other EU country and many do not see a military threat from anybody else. This means that all they need is a defensive military, a civilian component and then protection of citizens against embargoes, environmental catastrophes and the like. Of course it cannot be excluded that some kind of threatening situation may develop in the future. Thus, the EU does not need any long-range offensive weapons anymore to deter any enemies as it did in the past. This means conversion to purely alternative defence methods, predominantly civilian but perhaps also military (defensive, only for defence on one's own territory but non-threatening to others) since it is as much a democratic right to be in favour of military defence as it is to be in favour of non-violence only.

- Common security was a concept developed during the end of the Cold War and cannot be applied today. But in a broader perspective the Palme Commission was essentially making a very wise point: we can't build security and trust with anybody if at the same time we threaten them or have the capability to threaten and kill them should we one day decide to.

- Isn't it time to develop some kind of security doctrine for common defence in Europe &endash; before we continue with weapons technologies, strategies and doctrines that were comme il faut during the Cold War -- and before the EU venture into peace, security and stability actions on the ground up to 6000 kilometres from Brussels?

- Such a new thinking would also reduce arms trade and other profiteering from warfare by European companies. They would produce only what their own countries need.


Strengthen and expand the OSCE

- no other governmental organisation has been so useful to confidence-building and tension--reduction in contemporary Europe. It has a machinery for conflict analysis, early warning and on-the-ground missions which, given its small size and resources, have done very impressive things. With all its members in the former Soviet Union and its basically civilian approach, it would be much more relevant to build peace with than the EU.

- Strengthening the OSCE would also be EU's real gift to the UN, its peace-making capability and the norms of the Charter, whereas EU integration with NATO will not.


Nuclear weapons freedom and nuclear weapons--free zones

- as long as European states either possess nuclear weapons or participate in nuclear-based strategies and policies, there is no substance to the assertion that Europe is a peace project. Neither is it democratic. If government dared, they would let Europe's citizens participate in a referendum with a question such as: would you like your country to be defended by the use of nuclear weapons? It would hardly yield a 10 per cent in favour. As long as EU countries conduct nuclear policies, they also provide an excuse for nuclear threshold countries. Possession means proliferation; the solution is abolition.


Conflict-- or violence risk assessment

- in the same way environmental assessment studies focus on the probable consequences for the environment of certain economic, technological and other policies, the EU could spearhead a similar development in the field of peace: to assess the risk for heightened tension, conflict behaviour and direct violence of EU policies and their likely effects within and outside the EU.


Reconciliation institutes, East--West and North--South

- It would be natural for Europe, a centre of humanism and Enlightenment, to focus more strongly on the human dimensions of conflict, war and peace. What would be more natural than setting up reconciliation research and action centres in places of conflict, inside the EU -- say, in Serbia or Croatia, the Basque province, Kosovo, somewhere on the line that once made up the Iron Curtain?

- What about an African-European effort to deal with the hurt and harm throughout history and how to make use of that in a constructive manner to help the African continent to finally rise to the position of an equal to Europe in cultural, economic, religious and many other ways.

- What about a similar effort to bring peace-loving Palestinians and Israelis together in a long-term effort to focus on the human , socio-psychological, cultural and societal factors in that conflict? With a view to the future, it might be useful for Europeans to learn more about Islam, Arab culture and the ways of living throughout the Middle East and the Caucasian region.





People--to--people: EU and the world

- One very good argument for the EU is that it helps bringing young people together and study abroad and thus promote international understanding. This is true, well and good. But intra-European understanding is already much better and easier than broader inter-cultural encounters. It is not enough to improve European-European understanding. In a globalising world it is actually provincialism. Better global understanding (and thus peace), requires many more programs that make it possible for young Europeans to meet, work with and do projects together with people from Africa, the Middle East, Arab, South America, the former Soviet Union, India, Asia etc. -- and exchanging places to live for extended periods, mutual aid and not one-way.


Education in peace, conflict analysis, conflict--resolution and non--violent policies

- If EU diplomats are increasingly to serve as conflict--managers, they will need education and training in the concepts and skills, just as they would for any other profession such as law, medicine or economics. The Peace Academy mentioned below may be one place, but EU universities could focus much more on these subjects and NGOs could also provide some of the training when they have practical as well as theoretical competence.

- Let's assume that European youth and other citizens would be interested in general peace education and learning about other cultures, ways of thinking and the cultures of peace in order to navigate more smoothly in an internationalising, globalising world. The EU could set up a foundation with funds to enable international, national public and private schools and new experimenting peace schools and NGO universities to undertake a systematic peace education of the citizens.

- The idea is not to have a special peace subject, it is to develop a peace perspective in all subjects, be it history, literature, culture, engineering or physics.

- European media could be encouraged to report peace news, positive events, do reporting from the fields of peace. Radios stations could begin with a peace story in the morning, call-in programs with peace proposals to various big and small conflicts and we could watch peace competitions in the evening. TV could broadcast peace documentaries and have studio discussions about peace and development issues -- all serving to heighten the awareness about world problems and sharpen the creativity toward solutions. And every free media would function as a blow-torch asking EU public figures what the EU does for peace and how peace is built into EU policies and programs.


A European Peace Academy

- Perhaps to be seen as an umbrella institution for peace academies in various countries. A place where students, NGOs, officers and diplomats would come and work together and study peace, conflict-resolution, cultures of peace and nonviolent theories and policies; a place where academic publications would also be converted into popular writings and Internet dialogues with citizens anywhere.

- Internet and other electronic resources could be utilised to create all-European and European-Third World mutual teaching programs, seminars, debates and skills training in everything related to violence-prevention and peace-making. It goes without saying also that new types of peace research institutes could mushroom, both in conflict-ridden regions and elsewhere, something like the New Nordic Peace Research Institute (actual as well as in virtual versions).





A European Civilian Peace Corps, ECPC

- the idea and a concrete proposal already exist in the EU Parliament. It is available at TFF's site. Apart from emphasising political, intellectual and civilian early warning and civilian conflict-management this proposal is an important evidence that alternatives do exist. The first priority of an ECPC will be conflict transformation of human-made crises, e.g., the prevention of violent conflict escalation and contribution towards conflict de-escalation. The ECPC's tasks will be exclusively civilian in nature. Special emphasis will be given to conflict prevention, because it is more humane and less costly in comparison with post--conflict reconstruction. The Corps might also take up humanitarian tasks following natural disasters. ECPC involvement should not be confined to a certain area (i.e. Europe).

- It would be time to utilise the expertise and the human resources invested in most countries Civil Defence organisation and employ them in peacekeeping missions abroad. It is easy to imagine a EU Volunteer Service modelled upon that of the UN or something like the White Helmets proposed some years ago by Mexico. The International Peace Brigades already conduct important mission including accompaniment of, say, refugees to return to their homes.


NATO in a new role

- So, what about NATO, some would legitimately ask? Imagine it was stripped of everything but defence weapons and the extremely professional civilian and military staff were trained in civil defence, conflict--management and non-violence. Imagine NATO's sophisticated intelligence systems were put to serve early warning and monitoring of peace plans and cease-fires. Imagine its transport capacity was oriented towards bringing in humanitarian aid, conduct rescue operations in areas where natural catastrophes happen and assisting in bringing in all it takes to rebuild war-torn societies? It could even fight drugs and criminality.

- If you can bring soldiers to anywhere in the world with heavy equipment and sustain them in battle for months, you can do almost anything you want to also protect people, to go between conflict parties and help them restore normality if war has anyhow happened. In short, NATO as a defensive alliance, able to do humanitarian work better and faster than any other and a peacekeeper alongside with the UN: not such a bad option for proud and competent NATO officers. I guess they would rather do that than plan nuclear weapons and local wars if they were given a choice by decision-makers in their democratic countries.

- An increasingly important dimension is to look at latent conflicts which are far from violent at the moment and therefore more easy to handle. It may be social groups, language communities, minorities in potential conflict with central governments, increasing racism and xenophobia -- which are increasingly manifest phenomena throughout Europe causing violent incidents.


Positive examples -- conflict consortiums -- local expertise

- Yet another would be to disseminate information about examples/cases of viable conflict-resolution, big and small -- such as the Trento Province, the Åland Islands, and Schleswig--Holstein.

- Establish conflict consortiums in EU countries -- small organisations where area experts, former humanitarian and other field workers, NGOs and diplomats come together and asses the risk of violence and conflicts in selected areas and give advise to their governments and the international community as to what can be done to prevent violence.

- Europe is full of people from conflict regions, e.g. people from the Balkans or Somalia. They could offer important input to the question: how shall we understand conflicts in their countries and what is wise and not wise to do, given the local culture: how will various attempts to help solve a conflict be viewed with the eyes of the others?

In short, there are no limits to what could be done to create a more peaceful EU on the road to a non-killing Europe.



Europe has fought enough wars for decades and centuries. In a historical perspective, Europe has created colonial and economic violence historically elsewhere. European countries still exploit, marginalise and profit on the misery of others. The epoch in which we live is a golden opportunity to draw the only relevant conclusion: violence must be reduced and wars abolished. We must finally find new, more intelligent ways to deal with our conflicts. Europe could lead the way in this global, civilisational change process. It is nothing but the highest goal stated as the United Nations Charter. Europe must become a non-war zone.

One of the world's leading scholars on non-violence, Glenn Paige, uses the term nonkilling to describe the norms and policies of a new development for peace. His article about a Nonkilling Korea will be on TFF's site shortly. If we apply Paige's nonkilling concept to Europe, it would have the following characteristics:

- First, there is no killing of European by European, and no threats to kill;

- Second, there is no killing of Europeans by foreigners -- and no threats to kill;

- Third, there is no killing or threats to kill by Europeans of foreigners;

- Fourth, there are no weapons for killing targeted by Europeans against each other, by foreigners against Europeans or by Europeans against foreigners;

- Fifth, there are no ideological doctrines -- political, religious, military, economic, legal, customary, or academic -- that provide permissions for Europeans to kill Europeans, for foreigners to kill Europeans or for Europeans to kill foreigners;

- Sixth, there are no conditions of European society(ies) -- political, economic, social and cultural &endash; or relationships between Europeans and foreigners that can only be maintained or changed by threat or use of killing force.

The EU is not Europe, it's one actor in Europe. Choose the largest definition of Europe in your discussions and ask: is a nonkilling Europe possible? If not, why not? If yes, why -- and how? And then ask: how can the EU lead the way and become a nonkilling EU? What must we do if the EU turns out to promote a killing rather than a nonkilling Europe in years and decades to come? In short, what is the nonkilling and killing capacity of the EU now and in the future? And what is the nonkilling and killing capacity of all that Europe which is not the EU?

We need thousands of informed dialogues all over Europe, broad scope and many levels. But I do not think we need a new (peace) movement that states only what it is against or lobbying NGOs whose N stands for Near-Governmental since all they seek are minor changes within the government agenda without presenting independent alternatives to it.

In a contrasting play on words, we need NPOs: government which are Near-Peoples Organisations (NPOs) but not governments which are Non-Peoples Organisations. The dialoguies about security, conflict-resolution, peace and development must be tuned to the needs of the 21st century and not the 20th which was the most violent in human history.

So, 32 proposals for a peaceful, nonkilling Europe. Scrap some, elaborate on others, produce many more yourself - and ask decision-makers why such things are not on their agenda. For the sake of democracy and peace!



 © TFF 2001



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