Since the last EURODEFENSE President’s Council, the situation in the Mediterranean Basin has not improved neither politically nor economically. The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the difficulties that the people in the region are facing. The EU continues to pay great attention to the region, but its political influence remains limited, even though it continues to allocate substantial resources to cooperation with its southern neighbors.
On April 7, 2021, the European Union and Turkey held a meeting in Ankara at the highest level. The Turkish side was headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the EU by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel and the President of the Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen. At the end of the meeting at the Presidential Palace, the leaders moved to a living room where Erdoğan and Michel sat in two chairs flanked by the Turkish and EU flags, while Von der Leyen was left standing. After some hesitation, she sat on a side sofa, just like the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu, who took seat on a sofa on the opposite side. According to the chief of Protocol of Mr. Michel, Dominique Marro, it was thanks to Michel’s intervention that Von der Leyen was not seated on a side chair during the luncheon and was not excluded from the official photo of the meeting.
On 23 September 2020, the European Commission proposed a so-called “New Pact on Migration and Asylum” -document COM (2020) 609 final-. In August 2020, EURODEFENSE-ESPAÑA presented to the Commission a paper on The New Pact, responding to the opportunity offered for interested parties to contribute to this debate. This paper was later distributed within the EURODEFENSE network.
Décidée par l’Union européenne le 18 mai 2015, l’opération SOPHIA faisait partie d’un ensemble de mesures visant à répondre à une immigration massive transitant par la Méditerranée, à la fois en détectant l’arrivée des migrants et en s’attaquant aux causes de cette immigration que sont la pauvreté, les conflits et les persécutions. Au printemps 2019, suite au refus de l’Italie de recevoir les migrants sauvés en mer, l’opération se limitera à une surveillance aérienne et satellitaire de la zone, jusqu’à son arrêt définitif le 31 mars 2020. A cette même date, le Conseil européen décide toutefois de lancer une nouvelle opération, baptisée IRINI.
The outlying regions of the Maghreb in the south, within the Sahara Desert, are part of the old commercial routes along the Sahara and constitute economic spaces with shared identities and are distant sides of national territory. Since independence, the region’s states have devoted the economic development and investment in their coastal centres, leaving vast interior regions and borderlands forgotten and marginalized.
Algeria is undergoing a transformation that might lead either to a true political transition or simply to a change of regime. Since the departure of Bouteflika, the regime’s margin to manoeuvre has increased a bit, but the people seem to believe that the president’s resignation was a way for his clan to gain time to install a successor close to it. The ruling powers are still in control and they do not want to hand over the power to the new Algerian generation until they will be satisfied with a compromise candidate. In the background the Algerian Army is protecting its unrelenting political dominance.
Taking advantage of U.S. and EU hesitation, geopolitical competitors have been filling political and security voids in the Middle East. Europeans need to become quicker in anticipating and acting on power vacuums to avoid being outpaced by global and regional disruptors such as China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey.
Since the last Report on the Situation in North Africa distributed to the Eurodefense Associations in November 2017, there has been some developments in the region worth analysing, because what happens in North Africa affects to Europe. Critical signs of latent instability continue to develop across North Africa. Although mistakes have been made, Western actors can adopt policy options to mitigate further damage. Continuing to ignore the signs or postponing action to address them could have devastating consequences for the entire Mediterranean region and beyond.