FRIDE senior researcher, Kristina Kausch, has written an opinion piece for the LSE Europp Blog, arguing that If Europe is to preserve influence in the Middle East and North Africa, it must move on from technocratic policies towards more flexible cooperation.
The EU’s economic and governance crisis is widely regarded as harming Euro-Mediterranean relations precisely at a time of unprecedented opportunity. The EU has less money for aid, while European investment and tourism to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have slumped as political unrest stemming from the Arab Spring has curbed both investors’ and travelers’ confidence. Bilateralism and geo-economic zero-sum behaviour among EU member states have been on the rise. Inward-looking policy making on both shores of the Mediterranean has increased populism, decreased strategic foresight in foreign relations and lessened policymakers’ preparedness to invest in long-term cooperation schemes. At a time when increasing political pluralism at home leads Arab governments to demand a more balanced, reciprocal relationship with their European partners, the crisis in Europe makes meaningful progress on some of the most delicate Euro-Med dossiers (including trade and visa liberalisation) highly unlikely. Paired with increasing competition by non-Western actors in the region, the ensuing deadlock is slowly but steadily eroding the viability of conditionality based policies.
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