The European Union, Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management: A Responsibility to Assist A social constructivist perspective on the ‘role’ of the European Union in the Democratic Republic of Congo conflict and crises
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Since 1945 and the adoption of the San Francisco Charter, the United Nations (UN) have been sacred as the only legitimate builder and guarantor of international peace and security. However, with the end of the Cold War, the consequent increase of violent internal conflict and the gradual overstretching of UN peace-keeping missions, the idea of a division of labour in conflict prevention and crisis management has gained ground and is now being accepted as the appropriate way forward. One actor willing to play a greater role on the international stage and export its recipe of success saw this as an important and meaningful opportunity: the European Union (EU). Not only would this release the pressure on the UN itself, it could actually help define the new ethos the EU was looking for in the post-Cold War era as far as foreign policy is concerned. While a tremendous work on this original role-conception would have to be performed within the EU itself, the new and evolving machinery would also have to be constantly tested so as to better assess the impact and added-value the EU could provide. In this respect, one case appears as particularly relevant for empirical investigation: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the EU has been extremely active in the last few years. Bearing in mind that analysing the EU contribution to conflict prevention and crisis management would require a much more extensive frame than this thesis actually offers, I will here only focus on this latter case and investigate what roles the EU has been playing in this country since violent conflict re-erupted in the late 1990s. More particularly, I will do so through the theoretical lens of social constructivism and sociological role theory which I believe are best suited to explain the European foreign, security and defence policy and in fact provide some original perspective on the EU conflict prevention and crisis management activities and possibilities.