Ane Teksum Isbrekken

STARTING POINT EUROPE : A team of NUPI researchers is to lead a research project funded by the EU. From the left.: Director Ulf Sverdrup, Senior Advisor Silje Skøien, Project Manager Morten Bøås, Senior Research Fellow Pernille Rieker and Senior Research Fellow Kari Osland. Senior Research Fellow Mateja Peter was not present when the photo was taken.

Unpacking EU crisis response

Published: 9 Nov 2015

How does the EU respond to crises? This is the key question posed by a group of NUPI researchers who have succeeded in the competition for funding within the world’s largest research programme.

Horizon 2020 (H2020) is the biggest-ever EU research and innovation programme, with tough competition between research institutions within the EEA.

EUNPACK is the first H2020-project to be coordinated by NUPI. The research focus is on EU crisis response mechanisms, in order to improve their conflict sensitivity and efficiency.
‘We are very pleased to have been granted funding for this project. NUPI has worked hard on expanding its international contacts and revenues, and it is very satisfying to see this is bearing fruit’, says NUPI Director, Ulf Sverdrup.

Great significance

‘This project does two important things: It brings together researchers from all over Europe with expertise on the EU and with expertise on conflict. This enables us to undertake a systematic evaluation not only of the EU’s mandates and intentions, but also of how these are understood in the countries where the EU is involved in responding to crisis through various mechanisms’, explains the project manager, Morten Bøås, who is a research professor at NUPI.

He adds:

‘Furthermore, the project is important because these evaluations are to be conducted in a whole range of countries, representing different layers of the EU’s foreign policy. These are countries with crises of great significance for Europe, stretching from Ukraine to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, North Africa and the Sahel region.’

Crisis gaps

By combining bottom–up perspectives with an institutional approach, the project aims to shed more light on how EU crisis responses function and are received on the ground in crisis areas.

EUNPACK analyses two gaps in EU crisis response. First, the intentions–implementation gap, which relates to 1) the capacity to make decisions and respond with one voice and to deploy the necessary resources, 2) how these responses are implemented on the ground by various EU institutions and member states, and 3) how other actors – local and international – enhance or undermine the EU’s activities.

Second, the project examines the gap between implementation of EU policies and approaches, and how these policies and approaches are received and perceived in target countries: the implementation–local reception/perceptions gap.

Highly relevant for migration

The project entails close study of the whole crisis cycle, from pre-crisis, through crisis, and into the post-crisis phase.

‘EUNPACK is highly relevant to the ongoing migration crisis, as it can help us to better understand the drivers behind migration as well as the coherence between external and internal politics’, Sverdrup explains.

Bøås notes that Norwegian involvement in the migration crisis is an example of the project’s high relevance also for Norway:

‘The refugee crisis originates in countries where the EU is involved with various mechanisms for crisis response. Unfortunately, at best these seem to yield mixed results on the ground, although the mandates may be advanced as regards theory and the intentions good. Through this project, we seek to shed light on why major international actors like the EU have not been more successful in their attempts at crisis resolution.’

Strong competence

The project consortium consists of researchers with special expertise on the EU, and specialists in peace and conflict studies within several sectors and/or regions (see fact box).

‘The project combines strong research competence at NUPI in the fields of peace and conflict studies, local knowledge and as well as expertise on Europe more broadly’, notes the institute director.

‘At NUPI we have a leading research environment internationally, combining high academic quality with high relevance in the institute sector’, says Sverdrup, adding that also several other project applications from NUPI received very positive evaluations.

NUPI’s administration and the project members will now be working on sorting out the administrative issues, in preparation for signing an agreement with the European Commission.