Europe’s outlook and policy-making in the Mediterranean have undergone drastic changes since the 1995 Barcelona Conference, which had set a foreign policy ambition for the entire region. Since the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Lisbon Treaty and the Arab Revolutions have shaped the way the EU has responded to the many conflicts and tensions in the region. Importantly, the changing dynamics and major developments, such as migration, refugee crisis and human trafficking, have also changed the foreign policies of other major players such as Russia and Turkey.
Despite the changes over the years, the EU is much better positioned and equipped today than it was a few years ago to deal with what is going on in the Mediterranean. Swift actions and deeper changes in EU policies will, however, be needed to influence the developments in this region. The EU’s Mediterranean strategy will have to evolve substantially in multiple directions. This will include also enhancing the EU’s military capabilities and reinforcing the border protection capacities.
The EU also needs to focus on implementing its humanitarian actions for refugees and migrants as a fully built-in part of its foreign policy in the region. The bloc needs to strive towards a deal on an EU migration and asylum policy including on the crucial issue of legal migration routes. Launching a deep cooperation scheme against international network involved in human trafficking is more than desirable and cooperation with countries of origin and transit must be developed in parallel too.
Other initiatives should also include negotiations on the future of Syria in the direction of a sustainable peace accord, conflict resolution and political settlement. The EU should be involved in the reconstruction of Syria, when the time comes, but not just physical reconstruction but also in the rebuilding of institutions and societal structure such as democracy, transition, governance, justice and civil society development.
Engagement with Turkey should also be a priority that will both directly and indirectly have an impact on the Mediterranean. It is important to understand the way to return to an acceptable level of governance and insist on the unacceptability for Turkey’s domestic politics to affect the EU’s own democratic architecture.
‘Mediterranean Area: Dealing With Conflicts, Tensions, and Resets’ – Op-ed by Marc Pierini – Carnegie Europe.
(The Op-ed can be downloaded here)