e-book Diplomacy and Security Community-Building: EU Crisis Management in the Western Mediterranean

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This book contributes to the ongoing debate in IR on the role of security communities and formulates a new mechanism-based analytical framework.

1. Introduction

It argues that the question we need to ask is how security communities work at a time when armed conflicts among states have become significantly less frequent compared to other non-military threats and trans-boundary risks e. Drawing upon recent advances in practice theory, the book suggests that the emergence and spread of cooperative security practices, ranging from multilateral diplomacy to crisis management, are as important for understanding how security communities work as more traditional confidence-building measures.

Using the EU, Spain and Morocco as an in-depth case study, this volume reveals that through the institutionalization of multilateral venues, the EU has provided cooperative frameworks that otherwise would not have been available, and that the de-territorialized notion of security threats has created a new rationale for practical cooperation between Spanish and Moroccan diplomats, armed forces and civilian authorities.

In line with this focus on very practical areas of cooperation, the French government proposed the creation of a new Union for the Mediterranean. After a number of diplomatic confrontations and a process of re-modelling, the UfM was effectively folded into the exiting EMP although in policy debates both terms are still used. A new UfM secretariat was set up in Barcelona dedicated to funding joint development projects in the southern Mediterranean. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems puzzling today that so much hope was placed in this re-launch.

The UfM started to focus on low-key, technocratic, development projects — apparently blind to the turbulent storm clouds that were evidently gathering over the Middle East.

Account Options

Indeed, in this period, the EU often appeared immersed in arcane institutional questions, to the detriment of broad, geopolitical deliberation. I could have chosen any number of articles from this edition, if more space were available: it is a collection that reflects well the focus of debates at that moment, as the Union for Mediterranean added another layer of institutional complexity to EU initiatives in the region.


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It reflected what would soon be revealed to be a disastrous myopia at the heart of Euro-Mediterranean relations: the new initiative was designed to focus on uncontroversial areas of cooperation and to take politics out of the policy equation — the kind of politics that were just about to erupt in spectacular fashion in Tunisia, Egypt and then elsewhere. Looking back at this volume, it is remarkable how focused EU debates were on institutional structures, internal processes and rivalries — at a moment when, we now know, the social pressures were building up to burst forth in what would be labeled the Arab spring.

Even less did work in the journal foresee the kind of geopolitical shockwaves created by the now-raging conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Self-evidently, the Arab spring marked the beginning of another phase in analytical debate. In this phase of the debate, the inadequacies of the UfM were front and centre of the analysis. European governments sought to regain their sway in overall EU policies towards the Middle East.

Looking back at previous analytical work, one notes the longstanding and common view that democracy support is strongly internalized within EU identities and self-images, and pursued in a somewhat un-reflexive manner independent of geostrategic calculation. However, this was not sufficient as an explanation of EU foreign policy in the southern Mediterranean after The Arab awakening did not open the door to entirely harmonious cooperation and community building across the Mediterranean.

Indeed, many of the architects of Arab change insisted that they sought more autonomy from such deep Western entanglement. And differences widened between member states as they read the potential of Arab reform in different ways. This divergence militated against the prospect of a common Europeanized cooperative security framework being fully realised in the post southern Mediterranean. There was a certain unblocking of regulatory harmonization in the wake of the Arab revolts.

But overall, there remained much resistance to the concept of importing EU governance across the Middle East. Indeed, popular control over decision-making in many areas tipped the scales against this technocratic vision of cooperation with Europe. A number of EU initiatives aimed to deepen civil society and people-to-people linkages. Yet government-controlled power politics also became more prominent.

While some areas of deeper cooperation were pursued within the rubric of the UfM, in some parts of the Middle East the Arab spring encouraged European governments to give greater priority to bilateral, national foreign policy action. Some member states celebrated and contributed to the Arab spring more than others.

Geopolitical calculation became a more prominent strand of the EU policy-making mix. This was particularly so as the process of reform stumbled in many states and instability erupted. A different kind of research agenda was called for. While some elements of decentred, co-owned and non-state forms of governance certainly have advanced since , these have been accompanied by some very traditional elements of realpolitik.

European governments genuinely saw the fashioning of a new Middle East as a positive opportunity, but also sought to deploy national diplomatic means to protect against its risks and uncertainties. In some policy areas the balance between national foreign policies and common EU efforts shifted towards the former. This was seen particularly in Libya, where the divergence between member states was as fundamental as anything witnessed since the inception of the common foreign and security policy.

Both these variables sit uneasily with explanations of EU foreign policy that attribute sole importance to common, socialized EU identities and Europeanized policy instruments.


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However, such inside-out explanations of EU foreign policy decisions look harder to sustain in the awake of the Arab revolts. The faltering path of the Arab spring has posed serious questions for standard models of political transition — models upon which the EMP was heavily predicated. In a sense, European foreign policy has become a dependent as much as independent variable — effected by, not just effecting domestic constellations in southern Mediterranean states.

The EU has responded in flexible and even expedient fashion to the fluidity and specificity of domestic developments within different parts of the Middle East. The EU has supported different types and degree of political reform in Arab states. It has pursued different mixes of bottom-up civil society support and top-down security cooperation.

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Moreover, the disconnect between the EMP and the broader Middle East has become more incongruous and more of a handicap to coherent, region-wide geo-strategy. In sum, the Arab revolts and region-wide geopolitical changes have given birth to a more pluralist set of European approaches in the southern Mediterranean. European policies today reflect less a singular identity and more a calibrated moulding to varied trends in different parts of the MENA region.

It is difficult today to describe EU foreign policy parsimoniously or convincingly to show that it unequivocally accords to only one dominant conceptual dynamic. In conclusion, I have tried to select articles that recreate the story of Euro-Mediterranean relations during the last twenty years. The crucial question is what we should learn from this trajectory.


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How can the articles of the last twenty years inform current debates — when the consensual view is that the Middle East now stands on the precipice of pervasive instability? The articles that follow are offered in the spirit of better delineating the terms of current debates. Others find in the selected articles evidence that the EU always had it wrong — and that its particular, euro-centric vision of international relations never had a chance of putting down roots in the southern Mediterranean. The emerging, geopolitical policy dilemmas bring with them a conceptual dilemma.

CRC Press Online - Series: Routledge New Diplomacy Studies

Skills : By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to analyze the difficulties which states face in the practice of diplomacy, the conditions which normally lead to agreements between states, how states achieve consensus on international issues and the advantage of diplomatic engagement in its various hues over other methods by which states try to influence each other's actions in the international arena with particular reference to the challenges which the EU faces in the Mediterranean region. Cooper,Jorge Heine, Ramesh Thakur eds.

The Diplomacy of the Mediterranean. Athens, Greece. Supplementary Readings - Tavares Rodrigo Paradiplomacy: Cities and states as Global Players. Oxford University Press. Berridge "Diplomacy: Theory and Practice", Palgrave.