Internal divisions crack the EU’s credibility as a relevant player in the Mediterranean

28 March 2019 | Press release

Up to 817 experts and actors in Euro-Mediterranean relations from 43 countries comment on the state of Europe-Mediterranean relations in the 9th edition of the IEMed Euromed Survey.

The credibility of the European Union in the Mediterranean is affected by the divisions between member countries on key issues, the rebilateralisation of relations between EU countries and Mediterranean partner countries (EMS) and the inconsistency of the Community’s approach to each of these countries.

These factors, predominantly over others, damage the image and role that the EU can play in the region, according to the 817 experts and actors in Euro-Mediterranean relations from 43 countries consulted during 2018 for the ninth edition of the Euromed Survey.

The survey with which the IEMed annually assesses the state of Euro-Mediterranean relations since 2009 has focused in this edition, entitled “Changing Euro-Mediterranean Lenses”, on changing the Euro-centric approach that often marks these relations and instead focus on Europe and especially on the impact that the recent changes are having on the countries of both the southern and eastern Mediterranean.

Thus, the survey reveals how, for the Euro-Mediterranean experts consulted, populism and nationalism are the main threat to the process of European integration and that the bloc is in a much worse shape today (for 54% of respondents) than in 1995, when the EU launched the Euro-Mediterranean integration process with the countries on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean. However, the EU is still perceived as a player that does not bring instability to the region, a category in which the US (26% of respondents), the Gulf countries (19%) or Russia (18%) score much higher.

The appeal of Europe

For the majority consulted (50% of MPC respondents and 41% in the case of Europeans), the attractiveness of the European Union has increased since 2011 among civil society in southern and eastern countries of the Mediterranean, while it has declined among its rulers (according to 38% of MPC respondents and 50% of Europeans).

78% of MPC respondents consider the EU to be a priority in their country’s foreign policy. In this sense, it is the first partner in the international arena for the Maghreb countries (45%) and the second in the case of those in the eastern Mediterranean (28%), only behind the USA. The most important aspects of the relationship with the EU for most MPC respondents are the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and good governance (19%), as well as cultural and scientific cooperation and in education (17%).

Validity of Euro-Mediterranean relations

A block of the survey assessed the suitability of the frameworks and institutions that currently govern Euro-Mediterranean relations, such as the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) or the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). In both cases, a large majority is critical of the few results obtained by the ENP and the UfM but is committed to its continuity and to rethinking its strategy (84% in the case of the ENP) as well as to provide them with more impetus and resources (75% of respondents in the case of the UfM).

Representativeness of the survey

817 people from the 28 EU countries (51%) and 15 from the southern and eastern Mediterranean (48%) answered the survey in 2018. Half are experts in academia and think tanks and the other half are actors from both the political sphere (representatives of governments, European institutions and international organizations) and civil society (NGOs, companies, the media).

Publication with expert analysis

The results of the survey, as well as a descriptive report of the main results and trends observed, can be consulted online in the publication Changing Euro-Mediterranean Lenses. 9th Euromed Survey. It also includes qualitative articles written by experts such as Emma Bonino, Italian senator, former European Commissioner and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy; Youssef Cherif, director of Columbia Global Centers, Tunisia; Intissar Fakir, researcher and editor of Sada (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace); Abdennour Benantar, associate professor at the Université Paris 8; Jean-Pierre Filiu, Professor of Middle East Studies at Sciences Po (Paris); Anis Nacrour, former head of the EU delegation in Syria (2013-2016), or Tasnim Abderrahim (European Center for Development Policy Management).