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IEP Lunch Debate with Dr. Andreas Reinicke: “The role of the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process”

Dr. Andreas Reinicke, EU Special Repre­sen­tative for the Middle East Peace Process, European Foreign Service, gave an address on “The role of the EU Special Repre­sen­tative for the Middle East Peace Process” on 11 June 2013 at the Hotel Maritim in Berlin. Prof. Dr. Mathias Jopp, director of the Institut für Europäische Politik, moderated the event.

Reinicke´s presen­tation and the following discussion focused mainly on two topics: the general role of the EU Special Repre­sen­tative in the EU external relations and the diffi­culties of the Middle East Conflict.

At the outset, Reinicke explained that the role of the EU Special repre­sen­tative is situated mainly in the area between the 27 EU Member States and the European External Action Service (EEAS). The Special Repre­sen­tative receives his mandate from the EU Member States following a proposal by the High Repre­sen­tative, to whom he is required to report regularly. The Special Repre­sen­tative has an office with specially trained staff and a small budget at his disposal.

According to Reinicke, the presence of the Special Repre­sen­tative is of great impor­tance in inter­na­tional conflicts, which are increasing in complexity. This is demon­strated by the fact that there were only four Special Repre­sen­ta­tives when the EEAS was founded compared to twelve today. In general, it can be said that each repre­sen­tative is respon­sible for one crisis region.

Funda­men­tally, a Special Representative’s functions are twofold: to the outside and to the inside. To the outside, it is the Special Representative’s task to explain European foreign policy. According to Reinicke, this is an extremely important role in light of the complex­ities of the EU foreign policy system. Inevitably, there is also a diplo­matic function to the outside. Contrary to EU ambas­sadors, however, which operate from embassies and consulates, a Special Repre­sen­tative usually works across borders in a regional context. To the inside, the Special Repre­sen­tative collab­o­rates exten­sively with the EEAS. Reinicke explained that he spends approx­i­mately two thirds of his time travelling and the remaining one third working in Brussels, where one of his political consul­tants is stationed full-time. He receives background infor­mation from the EEAS and its analysts in Brussels and in return delivers feedback on the situation in the crisis region.

Subse­quently, Reinicke explained the compli­cated political situation between Israel and its neigh­boring countries and stressed the leading role that the EU is assuming in Middle Eastern peace initia­tives. To illus­trate this, Reinicke referred to the Venice Decla­ration from 1980, in which the EU had – already at an early stage – proposed a two-state solution, to the Roadmap for the Peace Process and to the foundation of the quartet consisting of the EU, the UN, the USA and Russia. A more recent example is the EU-2012 report, in which the EU calls the Israeli settlement policy extremely damaging to the peace process. Reinicke pointed out that a uniform stance of the EU not only influ­ences policies in the Member States but also those of the UN due to the voting behavior of the EU Member States and the associated countries.

Reinicke’s job as Special Repre­sen­tative is to conduct conver­sa­tions with ministers and deputy ministers of the Near and Middle Eastern countries. In the Arab world, this is not always an easy task due to the need to arduously build up a basis of trust.

According to Reinicke, the peace process itself has reached a cross­roads: without a new peace initiative in the near future, the two-state solution is in serious danger. While the Arab Peace Initiative could be a starting point, the condi­tions have greatly changed since 2013. Due to the altered geopo­litical situation, old, deadlocked coali­tions have been set in motion. This can be demon­strated by several examples. Egypt is opening up towards Libya, and Turkey is playing an increas­ingly important role. Meanwhile, Qatar is gaining influence, not least due to its immense financial resources. All these countries are new geopo­litical players that need to be integrated into the peace process. Special attention should be paid to Israel in order to ensure that this country becomes a constructive player once again. Reinicke empha­sized that the argument that an agreement will neces­sarily have negative impacts on Israel’s security does not hold, as the Israeli settlement policy poses a far greater risk in this respect.

Finally, Reinicke stressed that the EU´s advantage is its reputation as a neutral mediator. By comparison, individual EU Member States, especially the larger ones, have the disad­vantage of being either too closely or insuf­fi­ciently linked to the region due to their colonial past. However, the EU does not properly convey its signif­icant inter­na­tional role, which conse­quently only receives little attention by most European citizens.

By Anna Wartmann