EU’s external Common Foreign and Security Policy for Mindanao

EU’s external Common Foreign and Security Policy for Mindanao by Jop Hay

NUS MPP PP5342L Part 3: Analytical Paper


In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the inter-relationship between security and development in conflict-affected countries and how multilateral institutions like EU have responded, and whether they are capable of doing more. This short paper attempts to assess how have EU’s external Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) for Mindanao been effective and what further actions would be appropriate. In 2009, the Lisbon Treaty reinforced the institutions of CFSP (Leonard, 261). Together with the recruitment of the European External Action Service (EEAS), they seem to spell well for the future of the EU operations under the CFSP and an improvement in their efficacy. However, many of the decisions to be made are still left to the member states, which have different agendas and political priorities (Howorth, 2005) and these differences could undermine the efficacy of the EU’s foreign policies.

Theories of international relations

To date, there are two main theories of international relations; one being value-driven, the other interest driven or power politics (Crawford, 2000). Even though there is a mix of both strategies, EU’s strategy has been more inclined to the former as it focuses largely on universal human rights and democracy, as opposed to interest-driven approach (which some ague is demonstrated by China). Interestingly, this could be partly explained by the different interests of the 27 nation states (Howorth, 2005), which might be the reason why it is hard to agree on the interest-driven approach.

Summary and Overview of the Mindanao conflict

The Mindanao conflict is a century-long battle, involving complicated issues with regards to sovereignty, racial and religion divides. The two main parties, government of the Republic of Philippines (GRP) and the Bangsamoro people who are represented by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), have engaged in on-off negotiations to no avail. Thus, both parties have agreed to the internationalization of the talks. In 2002, they invited Malaysia to act as the formal facilitator and in 2005, formed the International Monitoring Team.

What has EU done so far?

The EU was invited by the Mindanao government to join in the International Monitoring Team (IMT), together with Malaysia, Libya, Brunei, Japan and Norway to facilitate the peace-making process. After several months of deliberations, the EU accepted the invitation to join IMT in May 2010 to lead the Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development component. The EU has plans to eventually get involved in the International Contact Group (ICG). (European Union, 2010)

Currently, the aid which the EU has given to Mindanao has been largely monetary:

The European Commission development assistance grants to Mindanao since the 1990s have amounted to some €96 million on matters of rural development, environment, agrarian reform and health sector. In addition, the Commission has provided some €21 million in grants for livelihood support and rehabilitation for civilian victims of conflict and €23 million for humanitarian assistance.

Since 2008, the European Commission provided another €14.5 million in humanitarian assistance to help civilians affected by the conflict in Mindanao. This is summarized by the diagram on the left. Even though monetary help is crucial, EU should gradually assist help in other areas of its expertise. For example, for sovereignty-based conflicts, power sharing is often the win-win solution. EU could assist in negotiations for the power sharing arrangements and commitments to observe international humanitarian laws and respect for human rights, thereby enabling the rehabilitation and development of conflict-affected areas.

Areas for improvement: Internal Coherence

The sheer number of EU institutions, the potential interlocutors and the Member States in the peace process makes it a daunting task for internal coordination, which implicates efficacy with external parties. For example, it took the EU five months to decide whether to accept the invitation to join the IMT in Mindanao (Gündüz,C. and Herbolzheimer, K.,2010). Thus, one key challenge for EU would be to improve its internal coherence and the speed of decision-making. It could make use of its strength in diversity, including varying degree of influence in different regions, relationships and interest, to garner support and contribution, in addition to the collective efforts. For example in Somalia, the UK and Italy were able to leverage their influence in addition to EU’s efforts (BBC News, 2011). Coordination by one strong party should bring out the potential in all other members, and not stifle their abilities. More cooperation is also needed to agree on the common positions and actions, and react quickly to developments in the field.

Challenges: New members on board.

As EU looks to expand, its commitment to supporting peace efforts might need more efforts and revalidating as the new members might have different perspectives and priorities. New members might be skeptical as to why EU are supporting costly peace efforts when there are more pressing matters at hand. For example, Poland was strongly against the budget negotiations for the EU Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic. This would indicate that EU needs to settle out some internal issues before being able to continue to help the conflict-affected regions.

Conclusion- Moving into knowledge based leadership?

As the issue of improving efficacy for a union with 27 countries might take time, perhaps knowledge based leadership in areas of conflict resolution could be the niche area where the EU can step up and lead Mindanao, and the conflict-affected countries. For example, the European Commission has funded the Initiative for Peacebuilding (IfP) which pulls together expertise of civil society organizations with member states to develop international knowledge in the field of conflict prevention and peacebuilding. IfP could further study the conflict between the Bangsamoro and the Philippines government to ensure all stakeholders (including the EU institutions) can have access to independent analysis to facilitate better policy for the region.

BBC News. (2011). Timeline: Somalia, a chronology of key events. 3 March 2011. Retrieved from on 6/4/2011
Crawford; Robert M. A.(2000) Idealism and Realism in International Relations: Beyond the Discipline Retrieved from on 4/4/2011
European Union.(2010). EU confirms willingness to participate in International Monitoring Team in Mindanao, Philippines.Retrieved from  on 2/4/2011
Gündüz,C. and Herbolzheimer, K. (2010).Standing United for Peace: The EU in Coordinated Third-party Support to Peace Processes. International Alert, Conciliation Resources. Retrieved from on 4/4/2011
Howorth, J.(2005). From Security to Defence: the Evolution of the CFSP- Common Foreign and Security Policy. Hill, Christopher and Smith, Michael, International Relations and the European Union, Oxford, OUP. Pp 179-204.
Leonard, D. (2010). Guide to the European Union. Tenth Edition. The Economist association with Profile Books. London.
Parker, C.F. and Karlsson, C. (2010). Climate Change and the European Union’s Leadership Moment: An inconvenient truth? Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol.48, 4.,pp923-943
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