Resilient Anchors in the Southern Mediterranean
urope’s attention to its Southern flank is absorbed by cascading disaster. In the face of war in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, the migration crisis, and the proliferation of terrorism, Europe’s all-absorbing goal is stability, which in most cases means preventing bad things from getting worse. But what about those places that have garnered less attention by remaining stable? Does Europe still have a positive goal for its Southern flank?
The EU global strategy launched by the union’s foreign policy high representative, Federica Mogherini, in June 2016 does not offer much in this regard except that it aims to build “resilience,” defined as “the ability of states and societies to reform, thus withstanding and recovering from internal and external crises.” Yet little of this is visible in current European policies, which are driven largely by the goal of containing security spillover from Middle Eastern conflicts. Alongside its important crisis management, however, Europe needs to think much more boldly in terms of what it can do differently to preempt violent turmoil in the first place.
Europe’s past efforts to support sustainable forms of stability in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have often been thwarted by a perceived trade-off of tolerating partners’ domestic stasis for the sake of regional cooperation. Resilient polities—those able to weather crises through their openness to reform—are more likely to produce predictable partners and are less at risk of coups or popular uprisings. The regional policies of such states are not driven by the erratic quest for regime survival that lies at the heart of many conflicts flaring in the Middle East today. By linking up domestic resilience with regional commitment, Europe must invest much more heavily in countries like Tunisia, Morocco, and Jordan. Over time, they could become resilient anchors for Europe’s relations with the Arab world and Africa.
Photo credit: Eng. Tariq Ibrahim AbdulHadi