MEPs as mediators

Targeted efforts to mediate in disputes

Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations and MEPs Ivo Vajgl and Eduard Kukan sit around a large conference table with Bilall Kasami, Leader of the Besa Movement, in Skopje, Macedonia
European Commissioner Johannes Hahn and MEPs MEPs Ivo Vajgl and Eduard Kukan (on left) meet with Bilall Kasami (right) in Macedonia © European Union, 2017
The European Parliament has established a wide range of parliamentary mediation and dialogue activities, contributing to the EU's overall approach.

Members of the European Parliament engage in mediation and conflict prevention in key thematic areas, such as:
  • building inter-party dialogue and consensus,
  • preventing election-related violence,
  • supporting conflict prevention and peace processes, and
  • the Parliament's Young Political Leaders Programme.
Much of this work has focused on the EU's extended neighbourhood, the Western Balkans, and other priority countries.

The mediation and dialogue activities carried out by MEPs during the 2014-2019 legislature include:
  • supporting Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, particularly through Parliament's Jean Monnet Dialogues;
  • three MEPs' and EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn's mediation in the Republic of North Macedonia, which led to the signature and implementation of the Pržino Agreement;
  • humanitarian medical missions between 2014 and 2016, co-ordinated by MEP Elmar Brok, the former Chair of Parliament's Committee of Foreign Affairs, to liberate Sakharov Prize nominee Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus from prison and to help them leave Azerbaijan.
  • MEPs Eduard Kukan, Richard Howitt and Ivo Vajgl join European Commissioner Johannes Hahn and other negotiators seated around a table during the session in Skopje
    Negotiations including European Commissioner Johannes Hahn and MEPs Eduard Kukan, Richard Howitt and Ivo Vajgl © European Union (2015) - European Parliament

    In 2015, as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (today the Republic of North Macedonia) faced a profound political crisis, three Members of the European Parliament - Ivo Vajgl, Eduard Kukan and Richard Howitt - responded to European Commissioner Johannes Hahn's request for reinforcements in his efforts to mediate in the standoff.

    With a special mandate to facilitate cross-party talks, the MEPs' efforts led to a successful agreement, the Pržino Agreement, which was signed by all the country's main political parties on 15 July 2015.

    The document included a number of breakthroughs, including:

    • the agreement of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia party to return to the parliament,
    • the formation of the new government (following the resignation of the Prime Minister and the establishment of an interim government),
    • preparations for early parliamentary elections, and
    • the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate issues related to the interception of communications.

    Continued monitoring and intervention

    Since July 2015, Commissioner Hahn and the three European Parliament mediators - MEPs Vajgl, Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein (replacing Richard Howitt) - have continued to monitor political developments in the country closely. This work has included verifying the implementation of the Pržino Agreement.

    The three MEPs travelled to Skopje eight times between July 2015 and February 2018. These visits, coming at critical moments, facilitated discussions among political parties and helped resolve a series of serious internal problems.

    A Jean Monnet Dialogue process was also established with the Macedonian parliament.

  • Photo of Leyla Yunus when she visited the European Parliament in 2016
    Leyla Yunus © European Union (2016) - European Parliament

    In December 2014, the European Parliament launched a 15-month humanitarian mission to mediate in support of the Azerbaijani human rights defenders, Leyla and Arif Yunus.

    Led by MEP Elmar Brok, the chair of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, this effort resulted in an agreement with the Azerbaijani authorities for the couple to leave the country.

    Humanitarian and health issues

    Leyla Yunus, a nominee for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and her husband Arif had been imprisoned in Baku and subsequently suffered serious and complex health problems.

    Between December 2014 and April 2016, the European Parliament worked with the Charité Hospital in Berlin to send eight international medical missions to visit the couple. Given both patients' serious condition and the lack of appropriate medical care in Azerbaijan, the leader of the missions, Dr Christian Witt, recommended treatment outside the country.

    After the couple were released from prison, a tacit agreement of the Azerbaijani authorities allowed the couple to leave the country on medical humanitarian grounds.

    In April 2016, Leyla and Arif Yunus travelled for treatment to the Charité Hospital in Berlin. They later applied for political asylum, which they were granted in the Netherlands.