As with the Maghreb region, Europe has a complex set of historical legacies, close economic, social and political ties, and deeply embedded fears and security concerns that define and characterize its overarching relationship with the ‘classical’ Middle East, meaning the countries of the Levant or Mashreq and the Gulf region. 1Although the European colonial penetration of the region was less intensive or drawn out than in the Maghreb, European states, in particular the United Kingdom and France, became the undisputed external actors after World War I and in large part created the modern Middle Eastern state system, including its most acute and enduring conflict over Palestine/Israel. 2European domination was only finally displaced in the mid-1950s when the Middle East was incorporated into the structure of the Cold War, with the countries of the region being aligned with their respective superpower patrons. In this more rigid bipolar structure, an independent European strategic role either was made redundant or became, as with the continuing presence of the British in the Persian Gulf, economically unsustainable.
Despite the loss of Great Power status, Europe’s social, economic and political stakes in the region have only grown in magnitude along with the sense of vulnerability to the various developments and conflicts in the region. In the 1970s the OPEC embargo and the oil price rises appeared to threaten the economic lifeblood of the European economies, and Palestinian international terrorism presented a complex challenge to European internal security. The Iranian Revolution in 1979 raised the spectre of Islamic fundamentalism and the perceived threats not only to international and regional security but also to European and Western values of secularism and humanism. The potential appeal of this ideology to the disaffected among the 10 million Muslims in Europe created a new internal security challenge for European governments. The end of the Cold War, which eliminated or at least greatly reduced the perceived threat from the East, only accentuated the sense of ‘otherness’ of the Arab and Muslim Middle East, and, with the exclusion of most of these states from the enlargement process, appeared to confirm their non-European status, with all its cultural and value-laden connotations, despite their geographical