“Collective Security and Multilateral Engagement in the Middle East: Pathways for EU Policy”, Silvia Colombo and Andrea Dessì (IAI, Italy)

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is experiencing deep and profound challenges spanning the geopolitical and geoceonomic domains, as intra-state rivalry and competition mixes with mounting socio-economic threats and fraying social contracts within multiple states in the region. Stepping back from the brink and developing new and inclusive frameworks for dialogue, de-escalation and confidence building in the region represents a generational challenge, requiring the active buy-in and support of regional actors themselves. The European Union has a vital interest in supporting such objectives, but needs to contend with limited capabilities, a retrenching United States and its lack of internal cohesion to have a positive impact. Against this backdrop, the EU should carefully priorities its engagements, working both internally and externally to improve its policies and leverage vis-à-vis three regional cleavages – the Arab-Israeli, the Saudi-Iranian, and the Arab-Turkish – and a number of associated “hot-spots” in an effort to mitigate the prevalence of zero-sum competition and contain the risk of new conflicts or crises, operationalising the EU’s concept of “principled pragmatism” in the region. Paper produced in the framework of the FEPS-IAI project “Fostering a New Security Architecture in the Middle East”, November 2020.

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