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Opinion | Dec 11, 2012

EU: A Force For Peace In Europe And Beyond

By Ghanaian Chronicle

This year's Nobel peace prize winner is also a committed partner in advancing peace in Africa.

With news coverage focusing on the euro crisis and budget difficulties, the European Union may not have seemed to many people the obvious choice for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. And yet the Nobel Committee announced the EU would receive the award for having “contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”, reminding us “what can happen if disintegration starts and if we let extremism and nationalism start growing again in Europe”

Given the current economic turmoil, the origin and raison d'être of the EU as a peace process for war-torn Europe is often overlooked. Post-war generations do not necessarily remember that economic integration among the nations of Europe was originally a means to an end - peace, democracy, prosperity - not an end in itself.

In all these goals, the EU has already largely delivered: more than 50 years of peace in a part of the world that has historically been the scene of conflict, culminating in two world wars. It has grown from 6 to 27 member countries, and next year 28, all of which are committed to peace for our 500 million citizens. Today, we have a union founded on shared values and the rule of law with a heart that beats for freedom, democracy and human rights.

The values that have guided the EU from war to peace have also become values we project outside our borders and that others around the world want to embrace. We work to promote peace and security in places that desperately need it, promote free and fair elections, and fight for human rights. And we are proud of being the world's largest trading bloc and provider of development assistance and humanitarian aid.

And it is in Africa where the EU's efforts to help build peace and security are at their strongest. When the African Union was established in 2002 it had a broad political mandate to resolve conflicts in Africa and promote peace, security and stability. Since then the AU has steadily emerged as a key political and security actor in Africa. In parallel with political mediation in conflict prevention and resolution, a number of African led peace support operations have been deployed often in hostile environments and extremely sensitive political contexts.

For example the AU deployed the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) from 2004 to 2007, and the ongoing African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) since 2007. AMISOM has been instrumental in supporting the political process in Somalia and the recent establishment of a new government, through improving the security situation in Mogadishu and south-central Somalia, culminating in the recent takeover of Kismayo port, previously held by al-Shabab.

This determination by Africa to take responsibility for its own peace and security has been strongly supported by the EU, both politically and financially. Under the Africa-EU Partnership the EU is working to support the African Union to strengthen peace and security, democratic governance and human rights. In 2004, the EU established the African Peace Facility (APF). Through the APF, the EU is at the forefront of international support to the African peace and security agenda, providing EU political backing alongside substantial and sustained financing to African peace support operations. Since 2004, the EU has provided more than € 1 billion to support the African Union and regional organisations to strengthen their roles in peace and security, take responsibility for the stability of the continent and become internationally recognised major players in supporting Africa's peace and security.

And these efforts are paying off. Despite continuing conflict in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and the Great Lakes, the overall level of conflicts in Africa has fallen since the 1990′s. With the EU's support, Africa now has the means to prevent and resolve conflicts and restore peace and security when conflict erupts. And it is African voices which are the first to criticise and isolate regimes which attempt to take power by unconstitutional means, and encourage them back on the road to democracy.

Much remains to be done. Africa continues to face major peace, security and development challenges. But the trend is clear: in Africa, as in Europe, the political will to work together remains strong. In both continents there is acceptance that we are more than the sum of our parts and by continuing to work together we can make peace happen.

Gary Quince is EU Head of Delegation to the African Union, based in Addis Ababa

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