Does the EU have a truly comprehensive and strategic framework for its relations with its Southern Neighborhood (SN)?

A new agenda for the Mediterranean: Are the EU tools and means of action up to its ambitions? A new report for the European Parliamentary Research Service by dr Katarzyna Sidło, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department at CASE and Emmanuel Cohen-Hadria, Director of the Euro-Mediterranean Policies Department at IEMed.

The Southern Neighbourhood (SN) of the European Union (EU) remains in what appears to be a state of permanent turmoil. Similarly, the rift in Euro-Mediterranean relations seems to be growing, as exemplified by reactions to the Russian aggression on Ukraine across the SN region and despite a window of opportunity the pandemic offered to relaunch cooperation between both sides of the Mediterranean.

"The New Agenda for the Mediterranean introduces certain adjustments in the EU's approach towards its Southern Neighbourhood, but much more comprehensive changes are needed to truly revitalise the relationship between the two” – dr Katarzyna Sidło, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department at CASE, says.

The Joint Communication on a ‘Renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood: a New Agenda for the Mediterranean’, released in February 2021 and endorsed by April 2021 Council conclusions, is an attempt at addressing both the above mentioned rift, and the multitude and magnitude of challenges facing societies and economies of the SN countries. The present study considers whether the Joint Communication is well-fitted to achieve these goals. Accordingly, it first undertakes an analysis of the geopolitical trends and megatrends, of the political, and socio-economic situation in the region, and the state of Euro-Mediterranean relations. Subsequently, it looks into the text of the Joint Communication and the accompanying Economic and Investment Plan, exploring their potential for launching a new phase in this relationship in the areas of green and digital transitions, promotion of ‘inclusiveness’, migration, trade, and peace and security. The study concludes that more than a year after its adoption, many question marks remain in relation to the implementation of the Joint Communication, and a truly comprehensive and strategic framework to guide the EU’s relations with its SN is still missing.

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