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EU multilateral relations with southern partners: reflections on future prospects


The Arab awakening and other developments in 2011 have fundamentally changed the situation in the south-eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. While the EU and its Member States have responded to these changes by reinvigorating and re-launching their essentially bilateral European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), they have done nothing from a multilateral point of view. According to EU officials, what should now be done is to reconsider the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) with the aim of setting it back on track. However, despite that the UfM proved to be a non-starter before the Arab Spring and has since lost any residual credibility, no clear proposal has emerged yet for how exactly it can be revamped. Which multilateral approach the EU should develop under the new circumstances - not ruling out a revamped UfM - and if after the Arab Spring a multilateral approach still makes sense at all, are both questions waiting for answers. This opinion piece seeks to reflect on this topic with a view to setting out the parameters that will sooner or later facilitate those answers.