Implications of the EU Global Strategy for the Middle East and North Africa

Written by | Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Eduard Soler i Lecha and Nathalie Tocci (The Istituto Affari Internazionali)

The EU‘s global strategy that was presented for the first time in June this year introduces new elements that the Union will apply in relation to third countries and other international actors. In the context of relations with North Africa and the Middle East, the key areas will be counter-terrorism, maritime security and also climate issues and energy.

A common approach by the EU is given by its geographical proximity to these two regions and also by similar problems and risks. In each of these regions, there is a failed state: Libya in North Africa and Syria in the Middle East. It is the existence of two failed states in the EU‘s immediate vicinity that has given a rise to a humanitarian crisis and subsequent problems in the above-mentioned areas, notably maritime security and terrorism. While the sheer dimension and urgency of maritime security and terrorism should essentially be seen in the context of the current events unfolding in the EU, climate issues and energy are among the traditional themes of the Union’s foreign agenda.

The way in which the Union wants to influence other members of the international community is an old-new concept in the context of its global strategy. It should be a ‘principled pragmatism’, which is an approach that will avoid principle-less pragmatism or principled idealism. In practice, this should mean that the EU will continue to defend democracy and human rights, but also that it will take into account the diversity of the ways various actors operate in the international arena. In lieu of explicit efforts to spread democracy, the EU will realize its visions by focusing more on supporting the development of civil societies in these regions.

The EU undoubtedly recognizes – at least at the theoretical level – the need for greater pragmatism in the implementation of its foreign policy, though only practice will show how viable and successful these concepts will be. Despite all these novelties, one can recognize traditional normativity, yet complemented with other procedures. Will this prove to be the right way forward?

(The study can be downloaded here:

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