Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2009

European Conflict Management in the Middle East: Toward a More Effective Approach

Muriel Asseburg

February 2009

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Since the Middle East peace conferences in Madrid (1991) and Washington (1991–1993), Europeans have gradually stepped up their political involvement in the Middle East. While Europeans have had strong trade and cultural relations with their neighboring region for decades, they have, in parallel with the Middle East peace process and the development of European Union (EU) foreign policy instruments, moved to assert their political interests more forcefully. These policies have largely been motivated by geographic proximity and geopolitical considerations—chiefly, the fear of security threats emanating from Europe’s neighborhood (a spillover of confl ict in the form of terrorism, organized crime, migration, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction), Israel’s security, and access to energy resources. The implicit assumption has been that these different European interests can best be reconciled in an environment where there is peace between Israel and its neighbors (and therefore no contradiction between good relations between the EU and Israel and good relations between the EU and the wider, resource-rich region) and where the people of the Mediterranean and the Middle East fi nd decent living conditions in their countries. As a consequence, Europeans have first focused their efforts on the realization of a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, which they consider to be the core of the region’s instability. They have, second, aimed at supporting comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbors. And they have, third, sought to provide an environment conducive to peace in the region as well as to deflect what were (and still are) perceived as security risks emanating from the region.