The European Union has been present in the Middle East and North Africa since 1979, through a growing number of Delegations in the region. The latest one to open was the EU Delegation to the State of Qatar in September 2021.

The EU’s policy towards the North African and Middle Eastern countries seeks to encourage political and economic reform in each individual country in due respect for its specific features (European Neighbourhood Policy) and regional cooperation among the countries of the region themselves and with the EU (Union For the Mediterranean). The EU reaffirms its commitment to a just and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the two state solution, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign, and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security and mutual recognition, and with Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both states. For this purpose, the EU is active in the Middle East Peace Process.

In January 2021, the EU’s first Arabic speaking Regional Media Officer for the Middle East and North Africa took office. His role is to communicate on EU priorities, policies, positions and projects of interest to the MENA region, complementing the work of the sixteen EU Delegations present in the region.

Middle East Peace Process

The Resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a fundamental interest of the EU. The EU’s objective is a two-state solution with an independent, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours.

The EU has consistently expressed its concerns about developments on the ground, which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible. In our view, the only way to resolve the conflict is through an agreement that ends the occupation which began in 1967, that ends all claims and that fulfils the aspirations of both parties. A one state reality would not be compatible with these aspirations. A lasting solution must be achieved on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the Madrid principles including land for peace, the Roadmap, agreements previously reached by the parties and of the Arab Peace Initiative. If an agreement to finally end the conflict were to be reached, the door would open to a deepened and enhanced cooperation among all the countries of the region.

The EU is willing to work with its partners to re-launch peace negotiations, based on the following parameters: 

  • An agreement on the borders of the two states, based on the 4 June 1967 lines with equivalent land swaps as may be agreed between the parties. The EU will recognize changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, only when agreed by the parties. 
  • Security arrangements that, for Palestinians, respect their sovereignty and show that the occupation is over; and, for Israelis, protect their security, prevent the resurgence of terrorism and deal effectively with security threats, including with new and vital threats in the region. 
  • A just, fair, agreed and realistic solution to the refugee question. 
  • Fulfilment of the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem. A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states. 

To that end, the EU undertakes a range of activities – both political and practical – and is the largest donor to Palestinian state-building efforts aiming at a Palestinian state based on the rule of law and respect of human rights. It has also consistently called for intra-Palestinian reconciliation and holding of democratic elections.

The EU – with the UN, the US and the Russian Federation – is a member of the 'Quartet' which in 2002 launched a ‘road map for peace’ aimed at resolving the conflict. The EU has welcomed the Arab Peace Initiative as a significant contribution from the Arab countries. 


European Neighbourhood Policy

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is the foreign policy framework aiming at bringing the EU and its Eastern and Southern neighbours closer, to their mutual benefit and interest. It was launched in 2004 to foster stability, security and prosperity in the EU's neighbouring regions, both in the South and in the East.

In 2015, the High Representative and the European Commission adopted the ENP Review, which brought a change to the cooperation framework and proposed ways to build more effective partnerships in the neighbourhood.

The ENP builds on the commitment of the EU and its neighbours to work together on key priority areas. This partnership is based on shared values, the promotion of democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and social cohesion. The reviewed ENP also adds 3 joint priorities for cooperation: 1. Economic development for stabilisation; 2. Security; 3. Migration and mobility.

Differentiation is a guiding principle of the EU relations with its neighbourhood. This approach recognises the different aspirations of the partner countries towards their relations with the EU. Therefore, the EU offers tailor made partnerships to its neighbours. Joint Documents (i.e. Partnership Priorities, Association Agendas or equivalents) are set together with each country, focusing on shared interests. This allows for a sense of ownership and flexibility in tailoring support to each partner country’s ambitions. Greater involvement of EU Member States and shared responsibility are also among the key principles of the ENP. At the core of the ENP is the ambition to deepen the engagement with the civil society and social partners. The ENP offers partner countries greater access to the EU's market and regulatory framework, standards and internal agencies and programmes.



Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)

The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) with it seats in Barcelona is an inter-governmental Organisation which brings together 43 countries: the 27 EU MS, 9 Arab countries (Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, with Syria suspended since 2011, and where Libya has an observer status) and 7 other countries from the Region (Türkiye, Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Monaco). North Macedonia joined the UfM in November 2022. Since November 2015, the UfM has an observer status at the UN General Assembly.

The UfM has three strategic objectives: to promote regional stability, human development and economic regional integration through established structured cooperation and dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean Region and the implementation of projects and initiatives which have a tangible impact in the lives of its citizens. The EU provides considerable funding to the Organisation and also holds the role of co-chair alongside (currently) the Hachemite Kingdom of Jordan.

EU and the Maghreb countries

Since the 1995 Barcelona Declaration, the Maghreb Countries (Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia) and the EU have been working together to turn the Mediterranean basin into an area of dialogue, exchange and cooperation.

Almost three decades later, guaranteeing peace, stability and prosperity in the Southern Neighbourhood is a mutual interest, based on geographic proximity, economic and geographic complementarity as well as longstanding historical and cultural ties between the peoples on both shores of the Mediterranean.

Through the ENP – the European Neighbourhood Policy – framework launched in 2004,  the EU and the Southern Partners commit themselves to build an effective and tailored partnership that recognizes our growing interdependence and allows us to strategically act together to turn common challenges in opportunities.

EU-Gulf bilateral relations

The Gulf is a dynamic region and an important gateway between Europe, Asia and Africa. Its security, stability and prosperity bear direct consequences for Europe.

The promising societal and economic changes underway in the Gulf countries, based on ambitious transformative agendas (‘Visions’), and their further development, offer a wide range of opportunities for cooperation and investment. The EU stands much to gain from stronger cooperation with the Gulf as new developments emerged that inspired stronger cooperation with the Gulf region such as the need for seeking energy security, seizing trade and investment opportunities, addressing climate change, common security challenges and alignment of positions in multilateral fora. More recently, the conflict between Israel and Hamas and destabilizing activities in the Red Sea has demonstrated the major role of many of the Gulf countries in achieving sustainable peace and stability in the region but also beyond.

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    Gulf Cooperation Council countries' landmark builings

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Gulf cooperation Council

The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) with it seats in Riyadh is a regional organisation, with six members: The Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Set up in 1981, its objectives include fostering effective coordination, integration and inter-connection among the Member States in all fields as well as deepening and strengthening of relations among their citizens.

League of Arab States (LAS)

The League of Arab States (LAS) with its seat in Cairo, Egypt is an intergovernmental organisation encompassing all Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa, established in Cairo on March 22, 1945.

Currently it gathers 22 Arab countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The Arab League’s mandate focuses on strengthening relations between its member states, coordination of their policies and co-operation between them while safeguarding the independence and sovereignty of each member.

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    LAC and EU flags

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Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

The OIC with it seats in Jeddah, is an international organisation constituted by 57 Member States from four continents: Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. Set up in 1969, its objectives are to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace.

Stated OIC programmatic priority areas include Peace and Security, Palestine and Jerusalem, Poverty Alleviation, Counter-terrorism, Investment and Finance, Food Security, Science and Technology, Climate Change and Sustainability, Moderation, Culture and Interfaith Harmony, Empowerment of Women, Joint Islamic Humanitarian Action, Human Rights and Good Governance.