The EU needs an effective early warning system to match its ambitions to prevent conflict and promote peace
Lucia Montanaro and Julia Schünemann
Date de publication: 

Executive Summary

The aim of this paper is to identify the shortcomings and constraints of the current EU early warning system and suggest ways to overcome these in order for the EU to match its ambitions to prevent conflict, promote peace in the world and mitigate threats to EU interests and international security. Early warning is an essential key to anticipating and preventing violent conflict. Early action is impossible without early warning. Early warning must be grounded on the reality of conflictual dynamics in the field and serve as a basis for decision-making and early and effective action.

The current EU early warning and response system is characterised by short-termism and ad hoc decision-making. It lacks prioritisation grounded in evidence, and sub-optimal decision-making contributes to inefficient policymaking. The system suffers from problems in the production, communication, warning receptivity and disconnects between early warning and early action, which limit its capacity to anticipate and nip the development of risk factors in the bud.

In order to ensure real impact, the EU needs to make changes in its current plans for the European External Action Service (EEAS) and develop an effective and holistic early warning system. The current EU early warning centres, information sources and strands need to be woven together in order to use them to their full potential. To do this the EU needs to establish a fusion centre and an effective indicational warning system.

On the basis of the definition of priorities and established requirements by decision-makers, tailored indicators need to be developed by analysts in the suggested fusion centre. An effective EU early warning system requires skilled early detection and comprehensive trend analysis of developing risk factors that are likely to coalesce to precipitate outbreaks of violence. Such an indicational warning system would enable analysts to effectively manage the mass of information and extract the critical elements for developing holistic critical assessments and scenarios. This, in turn, would facilitate the EU’s capacity to carry out early and effective action and ensure targeted, maximised and sustainable impact rather than applying a reactive short-term approach.

This paper also argues that the EU has a comparative advantage in increasing its engagement in conflict prevention. Given that resources are scarce and EU effectiveness as a global actor needs to be strengthened and better communicated to its citizens, the EU needs to identify where it can have the strongest impact on conflict, instability and security. The EU should therefore engage more in countries with latent conflict dynamics, where it could have substantial and sustainable impact. At present, resources are predominantly targeted for consolidated conflict settings, where the EU’s potential for real impact is very limited.

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