Event Reports

European Union and North Africa

The Path to a New Relationship

The ongoing transitions in the countries of North Africa have challenged traditional European approaches to the region. EU policy makers have been attempting to deal with the changes and challenges that unfolded on the South Mediterranean. In recent years and in light of the failure of traditional policy tools, the focus has shifted towards seeking new approaches – hitting the ‘Refresh’ button became the new paradigm in debates on EU-North Africa relations.

In order to shape optimal policy outcomes for the EU and understand the key issues driving this relationship also from the perspectives of the North African countries, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Regional Program South Mediterranean organized a roundtable entitled "European Union and North Africa: The Path to a New Relationship" comprising officials of the European Parliament and the European External Action Service, representatives of European and North African think tanks as well as experts on the region in an effort to outline short and long-term policy solutions able to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes for both sides of the Mediterranean and to refresh approaches towards the European neighbourhood.

The two-day roundtable in Italy also served as preparation and peer-review workshop for a study commissioned by KAS, which brings together five researchers to identify shortcomings and prospects over the coming decade and analyse how a path to a new partnership of the respective countries with the EU could look like. The expert papers will combine expectations and perspectives from the Southern partner countries with concise recommendations for EU policy makers in Brussels.

North Africa presents itself to the EU as a diverse region in need of tailor-made approaches and strategies. However, looking at similarities and differences of EU engagement and relations in the region, a number of common themes and challenges could be identified, including: the need for a new approach emphasizing resilience and good governance rather than focusing on the overrated prism of stability and migration; building on this the necessity for economic and political institution building; finding effective solutions to the issue of state capture as well as increasing youth unemployment; finding a balance between empowering local governance and undermining the capacity and legitimacy of the nation state; dealing with the issue of finality and determining what North African partners require from the EU while EU institutions need to increase the visibility of their efforts; and the need for the EU to meet these common challenges through a unified approach of long-term strategic thinking and development policies rather than quick fixes.