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.
The countries that make up North Africa — Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya — are defined as much by the broad desert expanses of the Sahara and the Atlas Mountains as they are by the waters of the Mediterranean. Wedged between the coastline of the
southern Mediterranean and an ocean of sand, the populations of North Africa have a long history of interaction with Southern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the broader Middle East. Current trends within North Africa — challenges to political stability, regional militancy, changes in energy production and in the economy — given their proximity to Europe and to former European colonial holdings in Africa, and the continued economic and security relationships between these regions, makes events in North Africa resonate in regional and Western capitals.