Alone in the desert? How France can lead Europe in the Middle East

Press release

Punching above its weight: French leadership in Europe's Middle East policy

France is an offensive power in the Gulf, a manoeuvring power in the Levant and a prominent power in North Africa’s Maghreb region.

As Emmanuel Macron contemplates air strikes in Syria – perhaps even going it alone against Assad – this timely new study considers why France consistently finds itself a lonely power in this most contested of regions.

In Alone in the Desert? How France can lead Europe in the Middle East, former diplomat and ECFR Paris office head Manuel Lafont Rapnouil delves into the strategic thinking that drives France’s foreign policy in the region. Time and again, Paris regards the Middle East and North Africa as a stage for great power politics and an opportunity to punch above its weight.

France’s inclination to act alone leaves its European partners wondering if it can ever move beyond a self-interested approach in the region. But Emmanuel Macron’s pro-Europeanism and ambitions in the Middle East present an opportunity for France to lead on forging a new European strategy.

“France is well placed to lead a more assertive and comprehensive European Middle East policy,” says Manuel Lafont Rapnouil. “But to do so, Macron must renew France’s own approach and rally other key European states like Germany, Italy, Spain, and – despite Brexit – even the UK behind it.”


Note to the editors

About the author: Manuel Lafont Rapnouil is head of the Paris office and a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Media inquiries: For interview requests contact ECFR’s communications officer, Wiebke Ewering, at [email protected] T: +49 (0)30 3250510-27 M: +49 (0)176 42065425 or ECFR’s communications team at [email protected].

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