Book Review: Managing Crises, Making Peace

Maria Grazia Galantino and Maria Raquel Freire (eds.), Managing Crises, Making Peace. Towards a Strategic EU Vision for Security and Defense (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). 297 pp., $79.99 (e-book), ISBN: 9781137442246.

In this age of crisis, state and non-state actors, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, international, regional and sovra-national institutions, are all faced with changing threats, as well as old and new security challenges. The multi-dimensional nature of threats to global stability and security urge the actors involved to rethink policies and instruments to identify effective measures. In such a complex context, the European Union strives to perform as a ‘crisis manager’.

Since the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the wars in the former-Yugoslavia and the redefinition of the EU neighbourhood, both academic and diplomatic circles have been exploring new EU roles in the changing global system. The EU has tried to adapt its global roles to the new security challenges – inter alia – with the decision to give institutional form to the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) at the 1999 Helsinki European Council, promoting a strategic vision with the adoption, in 2003, of the European Security Strategy ‘A secure Europe in a Better World’, and implementing the new provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, in particular with the establishment of the European External Action Service. However, due to political and institutional constraints, its achievements have been often regarded as uneven and below expectations.

The book edited by Maria Grazia Galantino and Maria Raquel Freire entitled Managing Crises, Making Peace. Towards a Strategic EU Vision for Security and Defence tackles the controversial issue of the EU’s (in)capacity to develop a strategy to effectively shape and influence Europe’s security environment. The book investigates the EU’s ambition to act as a crisis manger by reorganizing and reinforcing its ESDP, and explores the prospects of a comprehensive EU approach to crisis management that relies on intertwined military-civilian operations. More recent crises, the financial crisis of 2008, the Arab protests in 2011, or the Ukrainian crisis in 2014, have relaunched this debate, which is still ongoing also thanks to the new élan resulting from adoption of the European Union Global Strategy in June 2016.

The book is divided in two parts. Part I is devoted to ‘Conceptual Approaches to EU Crisis Management’; Part II – entitled ‘The EU in the Field’ – addresses specific crisis areas. By combining a sociological and politological approach, the book contains conceptual contributions on the EU as a peace keeper/builder/maker (Battistelli), analyses of public opinion about the common security and defence policy (Galantino), research on the EU’s practice of informality (Drent), studies of the role of women (Carreiras) or stakeholders and interest groups in peace operations (Tsevetkov), and enters into the theoretical debate by providing factual analysis of ESDP operations deployed by the EU. In 10 years, the EU has gained considerable experience in crisis management; several EU missions have been conducted, and are examined in detail in the book: EULEX in Kosovo (Malesic, and Juvan and Vuga), EUMM in Georgia (Freire, Lopes and Nascimento), EUROFOR in Chad (Churruca), EUTM in Mali (Rouppert), and multilateral peace operations in Afghanistan (King).

Managing Crisis, Making Peace is not just another book on the EU as a crisis manger. Far from being prescriptive, this edited book combines theoretical and empirical analysis to explain why, in some cases, the EU engages in crisis response or, conversely, does not commit. By combining quantitative and qualitative analyses, it identifies the EU’s undisputed expertise in specific areas. But it also acknowledges that – short of a supra-national policy framework – the common security and defence policy has always been (and still is) the EU’s Achille’s heel. It offers political and institutional critical explanations, and identifies EU shortcomings in the management of security issues (e.g. Hellendorf on the management of natural resources).

Moreover, it acknowledges that the construction of a common strategic culture is challenged by a diversity of views on the use of force, different defence traditions and diverging geopolitical interests among EU member states; different perceptions of threats and attitudes towards instruments to address them can weaken the establishment and implementation of the EU’s comprehensive approach.

This is not a normative book on the reasons why the EU should respond and how. Relying on empirical research, this book addresses the key question ‘Why does the EU commit or not?’ The dilemma ‘to intervene or not to intervene’ deserves careful contextual analysis, paying attention to the local dimension and to exit strategies, alongside a clear definition of mandates. Embedded in a well-established field of research, the book depicts the real capabilities of the EU when faced with regional crises.

Despite the institutional constraints that limit the EU’s capability to respond, due to the lack of a more integrated European defence and security policy, the EU has its niche of action and can deploy its expertise. Peace operations is one of these sectors, and human security represents a common framework supported by EU member states’ shared agreement. These are insightful future research paths for investigation.

Stefania Panebianco, University of Catania

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