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A Half-Empty Glass: Limits and Dilemmas of the EU's Relations to the MENA Countries

 A Half-Empty Glass: Limits and Dilemmas of the EU's Relations to the MENA Countries
Silvia Colombo and Eduard Soler i Lecha, with contributions from Marc Otte
Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)
Year of Publication

The document outlines the challenges faced by the EU over time in its relations with North Africa and the Middle East. The EU has had a long and storied relationship with MENA. Its development began during the 1990’s. With the development of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership otherwise known as the Barcelona process. The Barcelona process was a process in which Mediterranean countries wanted to strengthen their ties with North Africa in particular this was after the singing of the second Oslo Accords and there was general regional stability in Northern Africa so it was seen as an opportune time to reinvigorate relations across the Mediterranean. There was then a third phase of the history of EU relations with MENA.  In which the Union for the Mediterranean was founded in 2008. Which led to further strengthened ties in particular in the Middle East. The article details the following challenges that EU countries face in their relationships with MENA countries. The main challenge that the EU faces in its relationship is a defined strategy in its relationship with MENA countries. At first, the EU’s goal was very similar to the US foreign policy at the time in promoting and facilitating democracy in MENA. This provided challenges to the EU as to which countries they wanted to focus their funds towards and how to facilitate the promotion of democracy and follow it up in MENA. Especially in regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The main issue the EU faced in this regard is the geopolitics of Turkey in the region a country that is neither Middle Eastern nor European. Furthermore, the Arab Spring of 2011 challenged the status quota in the relationship between EU states and MENA. This challenged the goals of the EU which at the time wanted to focus on economic growth and development.