The European Union and the Arab Region

A Realistic Portrait of Challenges

The ACRPS has published The European Union and the Arab Region: A Realistic Portrait of Challenges by Ahmed Qasem Hussein, a study of European integration that focuses on the main issues that frame the common European Union goals in the Arab region.

The 432-page book comes in two parts: the first is a theoretical foundation, which deals with the roots of the integration process from World War I up until the founding of the European Union, and the agreements that preceded and followed it. It details EU institutions, their functions, and their working mechanisms. It discusses this integration from a realist international relations perspective. The second section presents the interaction of the European Union as an aspiring international actor within the Arab region on four different fundamental issues: democracy, the Palestinian cause, the Gulf crisis of 2017, and irregular migration from the southern Mediterranean.

The first chapter begins by presenting the initial ideas about the unification of Europe after World War I, and the emergence of a current believing unity to be the best way to avoid warfare between European countries, especially after the Second World War, where the polarized international system contributed to launching European integration through a series of joint treaties between the countries of the European Community. In the second chapter, Hussein discusses the accelerated steps to move forward in completing the European economic and political unification after the Cold War, which ended with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty and the subsequent treaties (Amsterdam, Nice, Lisbon) regulating the work of the European Union, the emerging international actor in the international system and the development of the capacities of EU institutions. The third chapter explores the main premises of the realist school of international relations and its suitability for interpreting international phenomena whose main subject is political, economic and involves military alliances within and outside international organizations. It applies this to the European Union, which is one of the most internationally active and effective regional blocs.

The second section delves into the interaction between the European Union and the Arab region, and begins with the fourth chapter, which presents the issue of democracy within European projects for the Arab region. The author argues that conditionality in the European Union projects is a cornerstone of the common European discourse towards the countries of the Arab region. He sought to answer a set of questions about those projects in the field of promoting democracy and the transition from authoritarian regimes to democratic regimes, based on two hypotheses. The first is that EU projects for supporting democracy in the Arab region, which are in essence the result of the consensus of the main forces in the Union towards Arab countries, are a response to the new challenges that emerged with the end of the Cold War, imposed by the formation of a new international order in which the European Union, along with the United States of America and the rising powers (China, Russia and Japan), is looking for an effective role that guarantees the interests of its member states. The chapter examines these two hypotheses in the determinants of European foreign policy on democratic transition towards the Arab region through three joint European projects: the 1995 Barcelona Process, the European Neighbourhood Policy, and the Project to Support Partnership, Reform and Inclusive Growth in 2011 (Spring).

Chapter 5 discusses the European Union's approach to the Palestinian issue, starting with the historical break with the post-World War II regime that the 1990s represented, especially in Europe. It presents the heated debates about the necessity of establishing a common European foreign and security policy in line with its huge economic potential, and removing the borders that were drawn during the Cold War. Europe has thrown off the role of pawn diplomacy, which was evident in its adoption of positions that respond to its interests. The peace process between the Arab countries involved in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership track and Israel was one of the main issues present in the new orientation of the EU towards the region. Each time, the peace process faced increasing problems, while the Union was developing its capabilities to deal with such crises that occurred in a region of such geopolitical importance to it.

Chapter 6 deals with the Gulf crisis, explaining that the European Union, within an institutional framework, has adopted a role based on strengthening its diplomatic efforts, seeking to resolve rather than exacerbate the Gulf crisis. The crisis was detrimental to the political, economic and security interests of the EU member states in a region of geopolitical importance. A European vision matured in Brussels to resolve the Gulf crisis based on a multilateral approach in dealing with crises and thorny issues that threaten international security, laying the foundations for a European sub-policy in the Gulf.

Finally, Chapter 7 discusses the issue of irregular migration to the EU from the Libyan coast on the southern Mediterranean. It begins by discussing two issues that governed the European Union's approaches to the phenomenon of regular or irregular migration: First, the demographic decline in the countries of the Union and their need to bridge this gap by relying on immigrants with experience and competence. The second is that the phenomenon of migration is linked to a set of security, economic and social challenges. Accordingly, the member states of the Union have come to the conviction that they have insufficient tools for migration management at the national level. This is a result of the development of the European integration process that began in the 1950s. It led to a series of joint agreements and treaties that contributed to the unity and cohesion of the Union, which has developed a common migration management policy. It triggered the accumulation of endless legislation by EU institutions over the past three decades and resulted in a set of financial and military mechanisms used to manage migrant flows. It must be noted that these European legislation and laws in the field of migration management have reflected, in a large part, the contradictory interests of the member states and their opposing perspectives on migration management given that approaches of the Mediterranean countries contradict those of Northern Europe.

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