Developing an EU Strategy to address fragile states

Priorities for the UK Presidency of the EU in 2005

The European Security Strategy highlights 'state failure' as one of the five key threats facing Europe-along with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), terrorism, organised crime and regional conflicts. Yet while the EU has devoted considerable focus to addressing WMD and terrorism, it has paid less attention to state failure, which underpins all of these other threats.

Fragile states are those that are unable or unwilling to provide core functions - security, governance and public services - to the majority of their people. They directly undermine the EU's security, as exemplified by the increasing threat of organised crime from the Balkans. They also undermine many of the EU's other objectives - notably, peacebuilding, poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Indeed, as the recent report of the UN's High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change points out, increasing the number of capable states is 'the indispensable foundation of a new collective security'.

The EU has enormous potential to address the issue of fragile states because of the wide range of policy instruments it has at its disposal. It is the world's largest aid donor and a global trade giant. It has diplomatic muscle through its Common Foreign and Security Policy, and Delegations in over 120 countries, as well as an emerging European Security and Defence capability.

Yet, at present, the EU does not apply these instruments effectively in fragile states. Building truly capable states requires that the EU places greater emphasis on tackling the structural causes of state failure. This means going beyond addressing the symptoms (e.g. via crisis management operations) and developing comprehensive approaches to a much broader range of 'fragile' states.

This year provides a unique opportunity for action. The UK Government simultaneously holds the Presidencies of the G8 and EU and has made Africa, the region where the problems of fragile states are most acute, a key priority. The Commission for Africa, launched by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in February 2004 has produced a comprehensive report putting forward a clear agenda for change. Much attention has rightly been focused on the G8's role in delivering this, as it is a key international forum for political leadership. However, in many ways it is the EU with its unique combination of policy and operational instruments that offers the greatest potential for progress. The challenge for the UK Presidency is to build on the work already underway, and to contribute to the development of a long-term, comprehensive EU strategy for engagement with fragile states.

This report assesses how the EU's range of policy instruments and structures can more effectively be used to address the causes and consequences of fragile states and provides practical recommendations targeted at the EU Presidencies, the European Council, Commission and Parliament.