Events & News


The Limits of Intervention: Why the EU’s Successful Mission in Aceh Received so Little Attention

Associate Professor Stephanie Anderson, Visiting Fellow at EU Centre in Singapore and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Wyoming

14 May 2012

CIT Auditorium, National University of Singapore, Computer Centre (Level 2), 2 Engineering Drive 4, Singapore 117584

3.30 – 5 pm


The EU’s Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) which operated from 2005 to 2006 was successful on many counts. The EU was instrumental in creating a sustainable peace in a conflict that had lasted for decades, if not centuries. The costs to the EU for that operation were relatively low. Why then was the AMM so under-reported, even in the Southeast Asian media, and so little known? Figures from media analyses show that coverage of EU missions is overwhelmingly behind that of missions like NATO’s in Afghanistan.

Dr Stephanie Anderson sought to answer that question by first examining the motivation of the EU behind its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions like the AMM fell under.

Polls since the 1970s may show that 60 per cent of Europeans are not bothered about European integration processes. But on issues on whether the EU should have a rapid military reaction force and have a foreign policy independent of the United States, the same respondents indicated support in the range of 60 to 70 per cent. There is also no question that the EU has been keen to use the CFSP as a visibility tool of its normative power. The money it spends to put up advertisements in every EU capital on the CFSP is just one such indicator.

But for Dr Anderson, one cannot ‘play superman without offending people’. The intergovernmental nature of the mission was one major factor for the poor coverage of the Aceh mission, as she found. the The institutional structure of CFSP was an impediment to the quick and flexible dissemination of news. This boiled down to the nitty-gritty aspects of how public and press relations were handled in the mission. From her research and interviews, Dr Anderson found that the onus had been on the lone, overworked Press Officer working for the EU in the Aceh mission. 

In conclusion, the bold declarations in EU documents like the Laeken Declaration would remain toothless if it cannot be effectively projected to the international media.