The very first stated goal of the European Union is to promote peace. What began as a project seeking peaceful relations between its members, has become one of the principal global actors in favour of peace and security. On the eve of the commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings, the European Parliament is participating in the Normandy Global Peace Forum, held in Caen, Normandy on 4 and 5 June 2019. The European Parliamentary Research Service is contributing to the Forum with several studies on peace and security in the world, and the role of the European Union, including: an overview of EU action in favour of peace and security in 2019 and the outlook for the future; a study on the peace and reconciliation process in Colombia; and a new mapping of threats to peace and democracy worldwide, as an introduction to the ‘Normandy Index’.
Presented for the first time at the 2019 Normandy Global Peace Forum, the ‘Normandy Index’ was developed in cooperation with the Institute for Economics and Peace, and as a result of a formal agreement with the region of Normandy, and aims to provide a better analysis of the risks to peace worldwide. This paper sets out the initial findings of the 2019 exercise, complemented by 25 individual country case studies, derived from the Index. It explains how the index can be used to compare peace – defined on the basis of a given country’s performance against a range of predetermined threats – across countries and regions.
Rather than being limited to a simple measure of the lack of conflict on the territory concerned, which could merely give an illusion of stability, the index measures the risks to peace. These threats include climate change, economic crisis, energy dependence, state fragility, the homicide rate, press freedom, and the quality of the democratic process, as well as the incidence of terrorism, armed conflict and the presence of weapons of mass destruction. To illustrate the method, 25 specific case studies focus on countries that have seen both a rise and a fall in the threat to peace. The examples highlight the EU contribution in terms of development, democracy support, economic cooperation, and peacekeeping operations.
Through the measurement of each threat, the index identifies those countries where peace is most fragile, and consequently vulnerable to threat. It is in these regions that EU foreign policy could prioritise diplomatic means of reinforcing resilience to prevent the outbreak of conflict. In contributing to current thinking regarding the situation in 136 countries, the ‘Normandy Index’ measurement of this wider range of threats enables Members of the European Parliament, experts and the wider public to obtain a more nuanced view of the state of peace in the world.
To analyse and explain the European Union contribution to the promotion of peace and security internationally, through its various external policies, a second edition of the EU Peace and Security Outlook provides an overview of the issues and current state of play. It looks first at the concept of peace and the changing nature of the geopolitical environment. It then focuses on the centrality of the promotion of peace and security in the EU’s external action and proceeds to an analysis of the practical pursuit of these principles in the main areas of EU policy: development, democracy support, and security and defence, as well as in the increasingly relevant area of disinformation and foreign influence. The study concludes with an outlook for the future.
Cyber-attacks can be damaging not only to the economy of the EU but also to the democratic foundations in which it is rooted. One way in which cyber threats affect peace and security is by manipulating the online sphere in order to undermine citizens’ trust in institutions, politicians, the state, media or other elements targeted by the perpetrators. This is usually done in parallel with other malicious activities such as disinformation, economic pressure and sometimes even conventional armed warfare –a cocktail known as hybrid threats. Risks from the digital realm have the ability to destabilise governments and political systems, to sow societal divisions and increase the risk of internal and external conflict.
The 2019 global risk report of the World Economic Forum listed cyber-attacks in the top five likely risks and in the top ten risks in terms of their impact. Also part of the global commons together with space and climate change among others, cyberspace is seen as an increasingly contested political space and a potential source of international tension and even interstate conflict. A key challenge faced by law enforcement bodies lies in the difficulty of attributing and tracing cyber perpetrators.
Another is posed by legal and ethical questions regarding the appropriate state response. One of the most notable examples is the 2007 cyber-attack on Estonian public services, which also served as a wake-up call for other countries in terms of the reach of such attacks and the paralysing effects they can have. Others include the WannaCry attack which spread to 300 000 computers in 150 countries and the Petya and NotPetya which caused financial losses of hundreds of millions.
These attacks illustrate a growing trend of targeting strategic sectors and critical infrastructure for the functioning of a society, such as hospitals, government systems or energy companies, as they all depend on online networks. Such societal disruptions also have effects on peace and security as they can result in violent civil unrest, government distrust as well as geopolitical tensions given that some of the biggest cyber-attacks are suspected of being state-sponsored. It is an increasingly accepted fact that resilience to cyber threats requires a collective, collaborative and wide-ranging approach.