The EU's diplomatic service will in the next fortnight present a study exploring the possibility of establishing a European Institute of Peace, a mechanism intended to develop the European Union's capacity to prevent conflict.
The idea, which was first put forward by Sweden and Finland in 2010, is modelled on the US Institute of Peace, a mechanism that is publicly funded but institutionally independent.
Proponents believe that independence would be essential, to ease informal diplomacy with groups and states with which the EU does not have official contact.
Nonetheless, it would be financed by the EU and its member states. Ideas under discussion also include using the expertise harnessed by the institute to help train EU diplomats and build up the capacity of the European External Action Service (EEAS). Sweden and Finland envisage a small permanent secretariat, whose primary role would be to identify and help mediators and experts for specific projects.
Independent consultants have been commissioned by the EEAS, at the European Parliament's request, to draft a feasibility study, and the resulting cost-benefit analysis may have a big influence in the speed and shape of the idea's development. But Franziska Brantner, a German Green MEP who is a leading advocate of the concept, argues that cost should not be the determining factor in the decision on the future of what she describes as “a hub” of expertise. “Every conflict you can avoid is a cost-saving,” she said.
Member states are waiting before adopting a position. However, Maria Martinelli, a conflict-resolution expert now at the Open Society Institute in Brussels, says that there is growing “recognition of the need to support the EEAS”.