This conference was organized by the European Neighbourhood Policy Chair at the Natolin campus of the College of Europe as a part of a series of events taking place during the academic year 2013-2014, dedicated to the analysis of continuity and change in the European Neighbourhood Policy in both its Southern and Eastern dimension.
Recent years have witnessed a growing scholarly interest in analysing and understanding better the role of external actors in the political and socio-economic development of EU Southern Neighbourhood partner countries. This interest has grown even stronger since the outbreak of popular uprisings all across the Middle East and North Africa in early 2011. While for many years the focus was put mainly on the role of the EU and the United States as external democracy promoters, comparatively little attention has been paid to the emergence, and thus increasingly important role, of other external actors in the region. In particular Gulf Cooperation Council member states, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, have scaled up their presence in the Maghreb and Mashreq considerably, though it is noteworthy that the beginning of this engagement preceded the eruption of what is widely called Arab Spring.
In parallel, Russia has shown a renewed interest in the Mediterranean and (re-)emerged as an increasingly significant player. Also China, not least due to its ambition to secure its economic and investment-related interests, is no longer ignoring the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood. These developments and trends come at a time that the United States, after years of costly military engagement in the region and being exposed to a debt-ceiling crisis, are seemingly downscaling their engagement in the Middle East and North Africa, and that the EU, in the context of its revised European Neighbourhood Policy, is struggling to influence the multi-faceted dynamics of change in its "near abroad".
The conference aimed at mapping empirically these developments and trends and discussed the extent to which they are conducive to processes of democratic transition in the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood. At the same time, it analyzed from a comparative perspective the limits and potentials of the foreign (trade and investment) policy engagement of external actors and the degree of competition and complementarity among them.
The conference was open to the public and free of charge, but online registration (firstname.lastname@example.org) was required until 28 October 2013.
The full programme of the conference may be downloaded here.