While the COVID-19 pandemic poses new challenges to the European Union in many fields, it also represents an opportunity for the EU to emerge as a stronger actor on the international stage. Initiatives such as “Team Europe” show the EU’s determination to help coordinate a global response to the pandemic and to support its partners, especially its Southern neighbours. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating socio-economic inequalities as well as existing humanitarian and security crises, bringing to the fore crucial questions concerning the EU’s ability to promote conflict resolution, political stability and economic development in its neighbourhood.
Moreover, the pandemic is accelerating a set of trends in international affairs, in particular the rise and progressive consolidation of a multipolar system whose centre of gravity is shifting eastward. While the emerging competition between the United States and China is its most evident feature, this new order will also have implications on the Middle East and North Africa. Here, gradual US disengagement has left room to global and regional players, in competition to extend their influence on the area. Against this backdrop, the incoming US administration may set the stage for a change of course in the relations between Washington and Brussels, opening up new possibilities of cooperation to address the many challenges of the MENA region.
Watch the Dialogue with Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative For Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, European Union.