Proxy crisis of conflict through insecurity

Taken together, economic inequality, social injustice, and ecological unsustainability provide root causes of insecurity and conflict across the planet. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Global Humanitarian Overview 2020 (2019: 2) states that ‘in 2020, nearly 168 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection . . . the highest figure in decades. The situation will keep getting worse unless climate change and the root causes of conflict are better addressed’. The conflict crisis is the interaction of ontological insecurity, societal safety and security, ongoing domestic and international conflict, and militarisation (IEP, 2019). These measures of insecurity and conflict provide insights into the symptoms of fear and violence, but not the root causes; hence, they are termed ‘proxies’.

Ontological security is the extent to which individuals and groups feel safe and secure about themselves and their world. In contrast, ontological insecurity is the extent to which individuals and groups experience emotional anxieties and fears about themselves and their world (Kinnvall et al., 2020: 2). Eurobarometer public opinion polls show how EU respondents’ main concerns at the EU level were primarily the economy and unemployment from the 2008 global financial crisis until 2015 when immigration and terrorism became major concerns. Since 2018, concerns about climate change and the environment have passed economic and terrorism concerns. At the member state level, the Eurobarometer polls gave different results, with unemployment concerns dominant from the GFC until 2019 when they were passed by concerns about the environment and climate and, more recently, health and social security. Thus, at the root ofEuropean fears and anxieties are insecurities about the economy, society, and environment, and these feed into proxy conflicts about sovereignty, foreigners, and territory.

Societal safety and security refers to internal and interpersonal aspects of violence, such as homicide, incarceration, or availability of small arms (IEP, 2019: 68). In terms of safety and security, EU Member states rank among the most peaceful in the world, far above more unsafe and insecure countries such as the USA, India, China, Russia, and Brazil. Within the EU, Denmark, Slovenia, Portugal, Finland, Austria, and Sweden rank among the most peaceful in the world, while Cyprus, Italy, Latvia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Estonia are less peaceful. The least safe and secure countries in the world are Afghanistan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen. All of these countries were former European colonies, occupied by European empires, or recently invaded by European countries.

Ongoing domestic and international conflict refers to the extent to which countries are involved in internal and external conflicts, as well as their role and duration of involvement in conflicts (IEP, 2019: 84). Ongoing conflicts are found least among sixteen EU Member states (led by Bulgaria), while Greece, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, and Croatia have significantly higher ongoing conflicts according to the GPL However, all but Greece of the EU Member states are significantly more peaceful than India, Russia, the USA, and China on these terms. The most significant ongoing conflicts in the world are in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, South Sudan, Pakistan, Turkey, Libya, and Somalia, with recent EU member state involvements in Afghanistan, Libya, and Somalia.

Militarisation refers to a country’s level of military build-up and access to weapons and its level of peacefulness, both domestically and internationally (IEP, 2019: 84). Within the EU, Hungary, Slovenia, Portugal, Ireland, Czechia, Austria, Denmark, Slovakia, and Latvia rank among the most peaceful in the world. In contrast, France, the UK, Greece, the Netherlands, and Italy are among the most militarised countries in the world, as are Russia, the USA, India, Brazil, and China. The most highly militarised countries in the world are Israel, Russia, the USA, North Korea, France, and Saudi Arabia. According to Stockholm Peace Research Institute, the USA, Russia, France, Germany, China, and the UK are the world’s largest arms exporters, mostly to the Middle East (led by Saudi Arabia).

European communion and proxy conflict crisis

The Treaties of Maastricht, Nice, and Lisbon all contributed to the creation of the EU’s security, defence, and crisis response involving a Common Security and Defence Policy, Global Strategy, Permanent Structured Cooperation in defence, and EU-led CSDP missions and operations (Manners, 2000: 189-229, 2013b:

239-254). Although not discussed in the introduction, proxy conflicts across Europe and its neighbourhood, particularly in Moldova/Transnistria, Georgia/ Abkhazia/Ossetia, and Ukraine/Crimea, are vital for understanding why questions of Russia, succession, and independence are as important for the EU as they are for Ireland/Northern Ireland, UK/Scotland, Spain/Catalonia, and Serbia/Kosovo. These conflict crises have revealed a tension between EU sharing of sovereignty and ‘national’self-determination in the context of proxy conflicts and insecurity. As the evidence of conflict insecurity in the EU and beyond demonstrated, different European states are extremely vulnerable to internal conflicts and succession, while others are more vulnerable to external interference and proxy wars. In general, while the EU has developed a security and defence capacity over the past 30 years, it is increasingly vulnerable to external, in particular Russian, interference in European democracies such as Germany, France, the UK, Spain, Sweden, and Hungary (Snyder, 2018; US Senate, 2018; Taylor, 2019).

Communitarian approaches to conflict crises provide mainstream thinking about insecurity and conflict within the EU and the world, naturalising and fixing monolithic ideas of‘nation’, ‘state’, and ‘security’. Neoliberal institutionalists reify these assumptions through methodological nationalism that sees EU security and defence policy solely in terms of national security. Supranational neofunctionalists move these assumptions to the EU level through methodological supranationalsm that sees EU security and defence policy solely in terms of supranational security. Although different in emphasis, contestation postfunctionalists share these assumptions through allowing methodological ethno-nationalism explanatory space for challenging the EU as undermining majority-national security.

Cosmopolitan approaches to conflict crises shift the focus from the ‘nationstate’ to human individuals and human security. As Mary Kaldor et al. (2018: 2) state, ‘human security ... is about the kind of security that individuals expect in rights-based law-governed societies where law is based on an implicit social contract among individuals, and between individuals and the state.’ This approach is set out in the 2016 Global Strategy: ‘The EU will engage in a practical and principled way in peacebuilding, and foster human security through an integrated approach.’ (EEAS, 2016: 9).

Cosmopolitical approaches to conflict crises seek to combine, or hybridise, the global ethics of cosmopolitan, liberal peacebuilding with the local politics of pragmatic, indigenous peacebuilding. This involves supporting the ambition of the EU’s Global Strategy to ‘pursue a multi-level approach to conflicts acting at the local, national, regional and global levels; a multi-lateral approach engaging all players present in a conflict and necessary for its resolution’ (EEAS, 2016: 29). At the same time, agonistic cosmopolitics must also critique the failure to understand or address the ontological insecurities and absence of safety and security that characterise much of Europe and the world. A cosmopolitical approach to the conflict crises seeks to address the causes of conflict and violence, such as chronic fear and societal insecurity, at the same time as addressing the symptoms such as militarisation and proxy conflicts in Europe and the world in order to achieve sustainable peace.

European communion theory of European (disintegration takes an agonistic approach to the contradictions of communitarian, cosmopolitan, and cosmopoliti-cal understandings of proxy conflict crises. The theory understands the constellation of EU communities as maintainers of‘national’, ‘supranational’, or ‘ethnonational’ security; it understands the EU’s cosmopolitan space as a place for human security; and it advocates how the cosmopolitical coexistence of sustainable peace provides a means of escaping the eternal cycle of proxy conflicts. European communion theory extends the subjective sharing of relations beyond European space to cover the global place in order to resolve the proxy crisis of conflict through insecurity.

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