The EU’s Partnership with the Southern Mediterranean: Challenges to Cohesion and Democracy

Andrea Teti

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned Report

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What are nature and origins/causes of the major political, economic, and social challenges in the Euro-Mediterranean region today (e.g. security, migration, democracy, development)? What role can the EU play in the Southern Neighbourhood to meet those challenges? This report addresses these two central questions. Because there can be no stability, democracy or shared prosperity so long as people’s priorities and expectations are left frustrated, the report begins by identifying the challenges for EU policy: survey research shows protesters demanded both political and economic inclusion, and that the Arab Uprisings were driven by governments’ failures to meet people’s needs and expectations across the board. While experts’ opinions tend to portray the EU’s efforts – if not results – generously, survey research shows people distrust the EU and that contrary to its own self-image, they do not perceive it as pursuing fundamental values of democracy and human rights. The report also shows that an increasingly complex geopolitical environment paired with reduced EU capacity makes local tensions and conflicts more globally entangled and thus harder to address. EU policy should therefore manage expectations and focus on areas in which the EU, due to experience, leverage, and means at hand, is best placed to make a difference. However, the report also shows there is space for external leverage providing the EU addresses people’s needs: to do this, the EU must revise its promotion of policies which increase inequality in the MENA, and which acquiesce to supporting autocrats in the name of the short-term pursuit of security. This does not mean sacrificing European interests, but rather acknowledging that in the long term current policies contribute to destabilising both the economies and political systems in the MENA. Planning economic and security strategy for the long term also affords opportunities: addressing social justice, environmental degradation, territorial inequalities, youth and women’s empowerment, economic diversification and inclusiveness. Reconstruction and reconciliation is not easy, but these can also be the ingredients of a forward-looking Euro-Mediterranean agenda. The EU must finally catch up and implement the lessons from the ongoing Arab Uprisings, returning to focusing on human rights and democracy, providing practical solutions for migration (e.g. circular labour migration schemes), and living up to its fundamental values by routinely speaking out about human rights abuses. It should heavily invest in ties with civil society and democratic forces and ensure economic policies fit the socio-economic needs of Arab populations. While this is no easy task, the risk in not doing so is that brittle, unstable MENA regimes will remain sinkholes of insecurity, destabilising both the MENA itself and Europe
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBrussels
PublisherThe Greens/EFA in the European Parliament
Commissioning bodyEuropean Commission
Number of pages48
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2019


  • EU
  • European Union
  • Mediterranean
  • Middle East
  • Democracy
  • civil society
  • social justice
  • human rights


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