On May 8, the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted a private roundtable with FRIDE Director Richard Youngs, Kawa Hassan of Hivos, and Aboubakr Jamaï of the Robert Bosch Foundation.
Hariri Center Director Michele Dunne moderated a discussion on US and European Union policy toward the Middle East in the wake of the Arab uprisings.
Youngs highlighted the main arguments of his and Dunne’s recent policy brief: Europe and the US in the Middle East: A Convergence of Partiality. He argued that before the beginning of the Arab revolutions, US and EU policies often undermined each other, but since the Arab Spring, their policies have begun to converge, as both attempt to react to the emerging challenges in the region. Despite this convergence, Youngs pointed out a number of areas in which the European Union and the United States still play different roles, including the special importance that the European Union holds in mobility and trade issues within the region.
Hassan subsequently provided insight on why the European Union and the United States did not see the uprisings coming, critiquing an over emphasis on state structures and an under appreciation for the importance of social actors. Finally, Jamaï explained how policy in the region is still driven by three main factors: oil, terrorism, and Israel. He argued that the United States still has not decided if democracy is the best way to protect these interests. Attendees had the opportunity to engage the speakers on a variety of topics, including questions on how Gulf aid may frustrate the US and EU’s ability to influence the region and whether there may be issues in the future that cause EU and US policy to once again diverge.