Regional Issues

35 - Regional security in MENA region

Grade: D+
Unity 2/5
Resources 2/5
Outcome 1/10
Total 5/20
Scorecard 2014: C (8/20)

With some (uncoordinated) exceptions, Europe has been largely a bystander as chaos has engulfed its southern periphery.

Conflict and instability have greatly marked the EU’s southern neighbourhood in 2014.

It would be harsh to criticise the EU for its inability to act in the chaos of Syria and Iraq. Five member states (France, the UK, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands) have joined the US air campaign against ISIS, contributing between them 15 percent of the strikes in the Iraq theatre, at the cost of heightened terrorist risks at home. The turmoil in Libya similarly excuses the failure of efforts to help the Libyans improve border control. But the EU has also failed to make any real impact on the other, potentially more tractable conflicts of North Africa and the Sahel. With individual exceptions (such as France and the Netherlands) Europeans have preferred to leave the dangerous work to the UN and the African Union, opting in Mali for an (ineffective) effort to train the army, and in the CAR, after months of delay, for a small bridging force to protect Bangui airport pending the UN’s arrival. (Germany has sent a fine field hospital to Mali.) Unable to prevent or mitigate another Israeli assault on Gaza, the EU will again pay for the damage.

In the Horn of Africa things do look better, with continued EU training for African troops slowly trying to restore order to Somalia. European diplomats also believe they have helped to defuse further conflicts between Southern Sudan and Uganda and in Burkina Faso.

Europeans, severally and collectively, have been generous with their humanitarian aid. But their failure (the British being an honourable exception) to respond quickly enough to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, and their collective refusal to follow the Italian effort in the Mediterranean with a proper search-and-rescue operation for ship-borne refugees, has cost lives and tarnished the EU’s reputation. Overall, 2014 was a year in which Europe opted to respond to turmoil to its south less by reaching out to help than by putting up the shutters.