Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

European Approaches to Security in the Mediterranean

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

European Approaches to Security in the Mediterranean

Article excerpt

The EU's "comprehensive" approach to security in the Mediterranean links together economic liberalization, democracy promotion, social cooperation, and strategic objectives. In practice, the EU has failed to fully implement its own declared commitment to attack the underlying causes of instability emanating from the Mediterranean. Notwithstanding the limitations to EU policies, criticism of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership has commonly failed adequately to recognize the evolution in European approaches to security in the Mediterranean. Wholesale dismissals of EU efforts are unjustified; a more legitimate pre-occupation relates to the challenge of better articulating linkages between different policy domains so as to realize the full potential of European strategies.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, the intensification of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Iraq crisis have together rendered European policies towards the EU's southern Mediterranean periphery of even more acute strategic importance. Through the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) established in 1995, the EU established a framework for developing a "zone of peace and stability" encompassing southern Mediterranean states (including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey). The philosophy upon which this strategy was predicated constituted an apparently notable evolution in security policy, in so far as the EU committed itself to a comprehensive and proactive reshaping of the underlying social, economic, and political context prevailing in the Mediterranean basin. The EMP was designed to enhance strategic stability through an inclusive framework of wide-ranging cooperation, extending well beyond traditional forms of collective security regime. The EU's declared philosophy relied upon elements of both functionaliststyle sectoral cooperation and a constructivist-style moulding of shared understandings and values. European policy since 1995 has been almost universally condemned as reflecting, in practice, a more short-sighted and defensive perspective towards the Mediterranean, which has prioritized commercial self-interest, strategic containment, and a protective reaction to immediate perceived threats. In this sense, EU policy has most commonly been seen as conceptually misguided and potentially counter-produclive, and the EMP as a largely unmitigated failure. This article offers a modest reappraisal of such criticism. It argues that, while the EMP has self-evidently suffered from manifest failings and limitations, critics have failed to register the full extent to which European approaches to "comprehensive security" have evolved. The real shortcomings of the EMP are subtler than those for which it is habitually criticized, and relate to the practical articulation of detailed linkages between different components of the EU's comprehensive approach to security. With so much attention currently on apparent US-European differences towards Iraq and the wider security agenda in the Middle East, this assessment sheds light on the foundations from which the EU might develop a distinctive and effective presence in North Africa and the Middle East.1

THE CASE AGAINST EUROPE'S MEDITERRANEAN POLICY

Notwithstanding its basic philosophy of seeking to forge sustainable stability through promoting economic, political and ideational change and convergence, in practice EU policy is criticized for having demonstrated far more tenets of a defensive, symptoms-rather-than-causes, perspective on security in North Africa and the Middle East.

Integral to what the EU often presents as constituting its distinctive socio-economic approach to security has been the apparently tighter tying in of economic policies to strategic objectives. In the EU's new philosophy, security and political aims are seen to hinge upon a new centrality accorded to deepening socio-economic links across the Mediterranean. This flows from policy-makers' claim that they see the southern Mediterranean as presenting soft rather than hard security challenges, with threats to stability deriving more from socio-economic tensions and weaknesses than the region's military strength or any innate, aggressive hostility on the part of the Mediterranean societies. …

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