Understanding EU’s Role in the MENA Region: The Threat of Terrorism

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Written byJohanna Stapelberg

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are fragmented and unstable regions due to ongoing security issues and high levels of conflict. However, MENA is one of most important geopolitical regions for the European Union (EU). The threat to European borders and national security issues such as the increased activity of insurgent groups, the growing number of terrorist attacks and radicalisation within the EU are only a few issues that need to be addressed.

The volatile MENA region and unstable southern border of the EU, may lead to “security threats like migration, arms proliferation and the spread of terrorist organisations” (Gugan, D., 2017:7).The EU has not done much to update the counter-terrorism strategy since it was adopted by the council 13 years ago. This demonstrates that the EU is not responding appropriately to the threat of terrorism despite past events in Paris, Brussels, Stockholm, Nice and other European capitals. However, in 2014, the Council adopted guidelines for the implementation of a revised strategy that considers things such as lone-wolf terrorism, foreign fighters, and the use of social media (European Council, 2018). The internet coupled with globalization has not only made radicalization easier, it has also made it easier for people to learn new tactics and to spread radical ideas

Previous tactics in the early 2000s are no longer relevant since the current situation in the MENA region is far different and more threatening than the situation in Europe. Nevertheless, the EU has expressed its concern and increased its cooperation on counter-terrorism with third countries and neighbouring countries in the south, North Africa and the Middle East. Even though there have been important moments of cooperation, the mistrust and instability between the MENA region and the EU is still prevailing (Facett, L., 2017:78). There still needs to be better aligned and long-term European policy to help stabilize MENA countries. The EU must revaluate its policies with relation to MENA. This is vital for economic development as well as to handle any potential security issues in Southern Europe.

About the author: Johanna Stapelberg is an eager and positive learner who previously studied Global Communication and is now doing her second Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs at Vesalius College in Brussels, Belgium.

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