Europe and the Arab world: neighbours and uneasy partners in a highly conflictual context


This article investigates the dramatically changed context for Europe’s relationship with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The authors base their analysis on the “Logics of Action” approach, which helps to identify structural and ideational patterns of behaviour against the background of an evolving regional and global order. They argue that, since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and especially after the Arab uprisings of 2011, the logics of stability and bilateralism have become dominant drivers of policy on both shores of the Mediterraneanan. Europe started to increasingly securitize the MENA region and on both shores multillateral approaches were pushed aside. The EU has seen its influence in the MENA decline, and its long-standing desire to promote liberal and democratic values in the Arab world, a logic of action in its own right, has ultimately lost momentum. Arab regimes themselves are intensely focused on the logic of regime survival and have also prioritized bilateralism, both of which increasingly chime with European priorities. Harders, Jünemann and Khatib conclude with a critical reflection on the EU’s new global strategy of 2016, which they find to lack convincing answers to the challenges that the Arab world poses. Instead of offering a viable strategy of “principled pragmatism”, it is pragmatism without principles that, according to the authors, inform the EUGS.

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  1. 1.

    Throughout the text, we will be using different terms such as MENA, the EU, the Arab region, Euro-Mediterranean and Euro-Arab relations interchangeably based on the conviction that they all reflect specific political geographies and powerful discursive constructions that carry their own political heritage and thus conceptual limitations.

  2. 2.

    The LoA approach was developed in a research project led by Annette Jünemann on Euro-Mediterranean relations after the Arab Spring (Horst et al. 2014a).

  3. 3.

    This shift in perceptions was exacerbated again, when the Islamist Muslim Brothers made substantial gains in the 2005 Egyptian Parliamentary Elections and when Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections.


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Correspondence to Cilja Harders.

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Harders, C., Jünemann, A. & Khatib, L. Europe and the Arab world: neighbours and uneasy partners in a highly conflictual context. Int Polit 54, 434–452 (2017).

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  • Euro-Mediterranean politics
  • Arab world
  • Security
  • Democracy
  • EU Global strategy