Europe, which has seen itself at the vanguard of adapting to the limits of state power in a globalized world, now faces concurrent threats to its security from the East and the South. How can and should it respond?


Video highlight


‘We have three major issues that we’re dealing with in Europe at the moment: we have Putinism in the east, we have jihadism in the south, and we have populism at home.’

Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister, Sweden (2006-14); Prime Minister of Sweden (1991 – 94)

Key discussion points

The contribution of the European Union to stability is now challenged by an ‘arc of instability’. This comes as a result of two external crises - Russia’s involvement in Ukraine to the east, and the flow of migrants from North Africa to the south - and populist opposition at home. All three are threats to Europe’s normative power.

The EU missed its chance to develop a strategy to stabilize the Mediterranean. Partly due to ongoing internal crises, the EU failed to develop a strategic response to the Arab Spring, and exacerbated the situation by failing to plan for the long term following the NATO intervention in Libya. As internal issues further divide the EU, it is now in no position to establish consensus on dealing with the refugee crisis. Thus North Africa is now looking to develop security partnerships with other regions, including South America.

The EU can harness differences between member states to respond to crises. In the absence of a grand consensus, different groupings and individual member states can tackle portions of the problem on a case-by-case basis, such as helping North Africa to address the root causes of the refugee crisis – security, weak economies and unemployment.

Extremism is both an internal and external threat. While weak states and poverty are helping to fuel extremism in North Africa, social policies in Europe that lead to exclusion and marginalization are just as much a factor. Many of those radicalized in Europe are descendants of migrants that European countries failed to integrate.

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