Final conference: Three years of research on EU crisis management

Held on 18-19 March 2019, near the end of the EUNPACK project, the Final Conference provided an opportunity to look back at three years of research and fieldwork and to consider the policy implications of the findings. The conference provided an opportunity for EUNPACK researchers to share insights and discuss findings with relevant policymakers, other scholars as well as representatives from civil society. Project co-ordinator Morten Bøås (NUPI) opened the event, presenting key findings from the three years of research. His main emphasis was on the need for greater conflict sensitivity in EU operations. The keynote speech was given by Hilde Hardeman, Head of the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments. She agreed with Bøås on the necessity for greater conflict sensitivity, and suggested this was of even greater importance given the heightened focus on prevention of conflict in recent years – both by the Pathways to Peace report by the United Nations and the World Bank, and especially by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Hardeman mentioned three ways in which conflict sensitivity relates to lessons learnt in her work: the need for independent and quality conflict analysis, analyses of potential negative consequences on conflict dynamics, and involving local stakeholders in order to do no harm.  

Held on the premises of EUNPACK consortium member CEPS, the two-day conference consisted of panels that together synthesized key findings: ‘Concepts and policy planning’ which focused on the EU and its crisis response mechanisms and capacities; the EU in Eastern Europe; and the EU in the Southern Neighbourhoud. Throughout, EUNPACK researchers engaged with relevant policymakers from the European External Action Service in particular, but also other EU institutions as well as the policy planning unit at the Office of the Secretary General of NATO. The discussions varied between putting specific case countries under scrutiny and discussing larger scholarly perspectives along with concrete implications for policymakers. Scholars and policymakers had often similar perceptions of EU effectiveness in different countries and ways in which to improve it, but did at other times disagree, engaging in a constructive exchange of perspectives. 

The event ended with a wrap-up session on lessons learnt for EU policymakers and the way ahead. Morten Bøås and Pernille Rieker (both NUPI), in discussion with Steven Blockmans (CEPS), discussed ways in which EU policymakers in Brussels can utilise EUNPACK findings to enhance the effectiveness of EU crisis response. As such, the Final Conference, and the EUNPACK research project as a whole, delivered on its aim to combine an institutional understanding of the EU with in-depth knowledge of the crisis response context. As Jozef Bátora (Comenius University) put it, EUNPACK put up a mirror to the EU, showing its officials how people on the ground perceive it and its intentions, interests and actions.