The EU engagement in protracted crises: Towards a comprehensive approach?
Protracted crisis situations often last for years or decades, and derive from a complex mix of factors such as violent conflict, natural disasters, poverty, natural resources scarcity, institutional fragility, political instability, and limited economic opportunity. As they feature both emergency needs and structural vulnerabilities, protracted crises require a comprehensive approach that brings different actors and policy communities together under single political leadership, focusing on a common objective of paving the way to stability, resilience and development. This article addresses the question of whether the European Union (EU) is well positioned to respond comprehensively to such protracted crises. It explores a diversity of EU financing instruments as these are ‘enablers’ for the EU comprehensive approach, also taking into account the role of EU Member States. In fact, the EU has a wide array of financial instruments and mechanisms available to address protracted crises and to pursue different objectives across short – and longer-term time horizons. However, their comprehensive use is seriously constrained by the fragmentation of EU decision-making, strategic incoherence, and overlapping instrument mandates. EU institutions have made serious efforts to overcome such limitations, including through a harmonization of concepts and strategies. Furthermore, mechanisms for coordination and information exchange at the political and operational levels allow for collaborative responses. However, many of these technical solutions can only bring limited results in the absence of clear political leadership driving EU external action.