Self-imposed Limitations: Why is the EU Losing Relevance in the Mediterranean

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Series Details No.68, February 2013
Publication Date February 2013
ISSN 2013-4428
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The EU response to changes in the Mediterranean has been confined by the principles that have guided its Mediterranean policy during the last twenty years. Faced with historic changes in the region, the EU has opted for a policy of continuity that is tailored to the needs of those who have designed and implemented it, but does not respond to the needs of its intended beneficiaries.

The EU must consider how to address the immediate needs of developing countries. Trade liberalisation should not be the only answer, and cannot be an end in itself. Moreover, in some cases, it may be counterproductive.

The EU promotes itself as a political model. However, its appeal among leaders and societies in the Arab world has diminished, and it finds itself having to compete with other models, such as those of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The image of the EU could be improved if problems such as populism or corruption were presented as challenges shared by Southern countries.

A more imaginative regional vision, adapted to the political reality of the area, does not need to question initiatives that understand the Mediterranean as a natural space for cooperation. However, the maintenance or encouragement of such initiatives should not prevent the exploration of new frameworks of dialogue.

The status quo is driving the EU into irrelevance. A clear political mandate is needed to adapt European policies to the new reality of the Mediterranean. Such a mandate should include social cohesion in the economic agenda, combine ambition and humility in politics, and develop a new and more flexible regional vision.

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EEAS: The Euro - Mediterranean Partnership

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