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"Principled Pragmatism" Reset: For a Recalibration of the EU's Diplomatic Engagement with the MENA Region


The launch of the EU Global Strategy in 2016 raised many expectations concerning the EU’s willingness and ability to reconcile its normative agenda with its interests. In setting out “principled pragmatism” as its modus operandi, the EU has attempted to bridge the existing gaps between values and principles, on the one hand, and interests on the other. Five years of implementation of the EU Global Strategy has unveiled significant shortcomings and has tarnished the EU’s credibility and leverage. This is mostly evident with regard to the EU’s engagement with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which has suffered from the most acute pragmatist turn in foreign and security policy. When addressing ongoing conflicts or looming crises in the region, the EU has not been able to conceive and lead coherent and effective diplomatic actions that live up to the expectations raised by the EU Global Strategy. Only by clarifying principled pragmatism by underpinning it with a fully-fledged rights-based approach anchored in international law and its underlying norms could the EU aspire to foster its credibility and leverage as a foreign policy player in the MENA region and in general.

Paper produced in the framework of the EUDIPLO network, September 2021.