(This article was written upon request from a third party. It was finally not published)

The ending of a 50 year-old conflict

Over the past decade, Colombia has managed to dramatically change its image. However it is still home to the longest Latin-American internal conflict between left-wing guerrillas and the government, one exacerbated by corruption, drug-trafficking, and extreme-right militias´ activities, which has resulted in more than 200.000 people killed and around 5.7 Million people displaced due to violence[1]-.

In this context, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos invested important efforts in the signing of a peace agreement with the biggest Colombian guerrilla, the FARC. Negotiations with the rebel group have been ongoing for three years now, with a bilateral engagement to sign a peace deal by March 23.

Nevertheless, Santos and his peace process may still face several challenges. Not only the complex transitional legal and social measures that will have to be considered in a post-conflict scene, but the question of the funding of this massive initiative  remains a fundamental point in the national agenda. How to finance this project?

“Paz Colombia”: a “Plan Colombia 2.0”?

After successfully requesting the endorsement of the UN earlier this year, Santos met with Barack Obama in Washington, where the US President announced his plan of reserving 450 Million USD of 2017’s budget to help fund an eventual post-conflict plan in Colombia if the South American country finally signs a peace deal in March.

This plan is called “Paz Colombia” (Peace Colombia), and is the renewal of “Plan Colombia” agreed under Andrés Pastrana and Bill Clinton’s administrations 15 years ago. This plan was a diplomatic and military initiative aimed to fight drug cartels and left-wing guerrillas in Colombia. Although it definitely helped to tackle drug cartels, many Colombian and international organizations and leaders have denounced that the plan has not been effective to cease violence, rather the contrary. Its implementation coincided with the rise of the influence of the extreme-right paramilitary groups aggravated by some of the saddest episodes in Colombia such as the discovery of rural people being assassinated by militaries.

This “Peace Colombia” concept seems for many to be more of the same old thing but rebranded, renewed and much more abstract: Democratic Obamas’s budget proposal has to be first approved by US Congress where Republicans are majority. In addition, this project arrives in a context marked by national debt difficulties, and with a foreign affairs policy soaked in an Asian and middle-eastern uncertainty.

European endorsement to build a sustainable post-conflict scenario

On the other hand, European countries have also expressed their support of the process. Norway, having experience in international conflict resolution, hosted the beginning of the negotiations, and countries such as France and Germany[2] have congratulated the progress of the negotiations[3].

“This is a unique opportunity that can’t be missed”[4] said Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy last year, just before announcing that former Foreign Minister of Ireland, Eamon Gilmore, would be visiting Colombia in January 2016 as an official representative of the EU. Gilmore, as a key player during Ireland’s peace process, visited Colombia and Cuba to meet the peace negotiators. Later this year, Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for agriculture announced in Bogota an eventual agreement of equivalence between the EU and Colombia) regarding organic products, explaining that “Agriculture and rural development will play a key role in the post-conflict scenario.”[5]

Hogan’s visit echoes the EU Parliament’s recent decision to set up a trust fund to support Colombia’s peace process “inter alia by funding the prosecution of war criminals and help for their victims to seek truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-repetition. They approved their resolution by a show of hands.”[1]

Obama’s fantasy, versus a European conservative but realistic support

Although Obama’s announcement was notably spectacular, flattering to Colombia and full of optimism, it faces several barriers. His promise, for the moment, should be seen as just that: a promise, a fantasy.

On the other hand, Europe has supported the peace process in Colombia from the beginning and despite keeping it as a purely diplomatic endorsement, it has not fallen into difficult unrealistic promises. However, European countries have contributed with more concrete propositions: reuniting realistic resources via realistic channels, accompanied by advice, and strategies that will mobilize the private sector via further trade agreements.

[1] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20160115IPR10179/EU-should-set-up-a-trust-fund-to-support-Colombia-peace-process-say-MEPs

[1] http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e492ad6.html

[2] http://www.dw.com/en/victims-of-colombias-conflict-confront-farc-military/a-18257510

[3] http://www.ambafrance-co.org/Resolucion-2261-sobre-Colombia-Explicacion-de-voto-del-Sr-Francois-Delattre

[4] Esta es una oportunidad única que no debe perderse“,

Read more: http://www.lafm.com.co/internacional/noticias/eamon-gilmore-enviado-de-uni%C3%B3n-191774#ixzz3znXlzTwC

[5] http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/commissioner-speeches/pdf/hogan-tastes-of-europe-seminar-bogota-08-02-2016_en.pdf

Cover image: http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/gobierno/fiesta-colombiana-en-la-casa-blanca/16500872