EU and Middle East relations: crisis and opportunities

Ghazal Poorhasan

Signing the Joint Comprehensive Action, or the Iran Deal, on 2015 after years of diplomacy, brought the hope for a period of stability in the Middle East. However, the withdrawal of United States of America and new circumstances have illustrated how Europe has no strategic influence on stabilising the restless and fast-changing region of the Middle East.

In the process of sustainable peace-building in the Middle East, what role can the EU play? What are the impacts of the ongoing events in the Middle East on the European Union, in the moment of particular uncertainty for its policies, markets, economies and even unity?

The Middle East, the most contentious restless region of the last hundred years, has witnessed numerous burdensome experiences in its recent history. The Israel-Arab issues, the Islamic revolution of Iran, the Iraq and Iran war being the longest war of the twentieth century, the First and the Second Gulf wars, the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, the rise of extremists and, finally, the so-called Arab “Spring”, are essentially the seeds that sprouted into the challenging consequences of not only the Middle East, but also the entire world.

A region where ally attacks ally, where uncertainty in relationships is an ordinary concept when it comes to alliance or hostilities, and where the regional players should always take necessary steps for compromises in order to achieve their individual objectives. The chronic and seemingly never-ending issues, richness of energy sources, endless fights over religious issues, and wealthy countries which are ready to put into action their enormous storage of Western and Russian purchased weapons, distinctly made the Middle East a tempting playground for both international and regional powers, in spite of its hazardous traps for any actor that decides to play a role in the region.

The first wave of “Arab Spring” resulted in a great number of failed and fragile states, which made the whole region even more unpredictable. The explosive growth of proxy wars has modified interests, equities, conflicts and the territories of influence.

The outcome of all these changes has created a variety of hard knots in the region of Middle East already exhausted from wars, revolutions, coups and totalitarian regimes. In the meantime, the small states of the region are not also playing traditionally anymore, but looking for involvement, even if it is limited. The members of Gulf Cooperation Council are obviously illustrating this intention. The role of United Arab Emirates and Qatar in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Syrian conflicts cannot definitely be ignored.
At the very moment the region is coping with serious conflicts that are affecting the stability of the states not only in the region, but also on an international level. The European Union has been affected vastly from the on-going events in the Middle East. Even though the EU, unlike United States, Russia or China, is not playing an active role in the Middle East, the aftershocks of the so called “Arab Spring” have been felt strongly in the EU.

What role can EU take in dealing with the Middle East? Is the EU able to fill the vacuum of power in the Middle East? The vacuum which is rapidly being filled by Russia and China. How influential can the EU be in the region? How flexible are the ill-prepared EU strategies to mediate among regional players in any conflict? The Iran Deal or Israel and Saudi Arabia? What are the Reaction plans toward the Syrian or Yemen conflict? How should the EU cooperate with the GCC members rich in energy and resource while they behave in contrast with its values? Lacking of a common, consistent and realistic strategy is making it quite challenging for EU to deal with the conflicts without long time hesitations. These long hesitations surely are against the interest and security of the EU.

In the upcoming articles, regional states will be overlooked based on their roles, interests and security concerns in order to identify the possibilities and the channels of cooperation for an influential role for the European Union in the process of transition and rebuilt Middle East.

Ufficio stampa e Comunicazione dell'Istituto per la Competitività (I-Com). Nata a Roma nel 1992, Giulia Palocci si è laureata con il voto di 110 e lode in Scienze Politiche e Relazioni Internazionali presso l’università Luiss Guido Carli con una tesi sul contrasto al finanziamento del terrorismo nei Paesi del Sud-est asiatico.

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