EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2016

Regional issues

41 - Regional security in the MENA region

Grade: D+
Unity 1/5
Resources 2/5
Strategy 0/5
Impact 1/5
Total 4/20
Scorecard 2014: C (8/20)
Scorecard 2015: D+ (5/20)

As the MENA region descended into chaos, Europe lacked a coherent strategy beyond reaching for the chequebook

Regional chaos and the resulting refugee flows precipitated an existential crisis for the EU in 2015. The Council recognised that Europe should address the issue by working to stabilise countries of origin and transit. But, beyond throwing money at the problem, no coherent strategy has emerged. Member states prepared to engage diplomatically or militarily did so unilaterally, while the majority preferred to build fences in an attempt to prevent spillover.

The Commission and some member states (with the UK in the lead) contributed generously to the support of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. There is discussion of up to €3 billion being made available to Turkey for its cooperation in managing the flow of migrants to Europe, and a €1.8 billion trust fund for Africa – where many refugees originate – was promised at the Valletta summit in November. However, there was no consensus on diplomatic or military action on this issue. The EU’s Operation Sophia, a new anti-trafficking operation off Libya, looks toothless.

Five member states are bombing ISIS in Iraq; France extended strikes to Syria, as did the UK, while Germany is providing military support. A handful of others are providing military assistance to the Kurds or Iraqis. But the air campaign has helped open the door to Russian intervention, without noticeably “degrading” ISIS – which retaliated savagely against Russia and France.

To the south, where European action could be particularly effective, member states largely ignored the conflicts in the Sahel and beyond, with the honourable exception of France. Modestly useful work continued in Somalia; but three advisory Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions in the Central African Republic (CAR), Niger, and Mali were tokenistic. France has 3,000 troops in the Sahel; the Dutch and Swedes have contributed to the United Nations in Mali. Most other Europeans prefer to leave the job to the UN and the African Union, even as the UN is pleading for thousands more peacekeepers: European pledges at the September leaders’ summit in New York were dwarfed by China’s promise of 8,000.