Coronavirus North Africa Resilience & Society
Issue Brief September 29, 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on either shore of the Mediterranean

By Karim Mezran, Emily Burchfield, Paolo Alli, Emadeddin Badi, Haykel Ben Mahfoudh, and Alessia Melcangi

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on almost every nation of the world, creating new challenges and exacerbating preexisting ones. Attention has been focused on the health sector, as it was the first impacted by the pandemic. However, various actors rapidly utilized the effects of the health crisis for political purposes. At the same time, the pandemic has become a decisive factor in many countries’ economic, political, and social development. This necessitates deeper analysis to understand the pandemic’s long-term impact in the various regions of the world. The states of North Africa and the broader Mediterranean region are no exception; in each one, the crisis has become a central factor around which old and new forces have converged. Understanding the interplay between these states’ responses to the pandemic and their struggles to manage conflicts, economic problems, migration, and protest movements is vital for the public and policymakers alike.

The crisis caused by COVID-19 is unlikely to recede any time soon. There is a foreseeable future in which the political, economic, and societal impact of the crisis—and states’ responses—could facilitate a further breakdown in European solidarity, leading to the failure of a “European agenda” toward the Mediterranean, and thereby a rise in conflicts and tensions on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Basin. These dynamics will be further complicated by the US presidential election in November 2020, which could alter the course of foreign policy in the region in one way or another.

With this in mind, this report draws on case studies of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, and migration to the EU to illuminate the key challenges faced in the Mediterranean community, and warns of the undesirable outcomes ahead if international inaction toward the region persists.

Click here to download the report.

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Image: A demonstrator waves the flag of Tunisia as he attends a demonstration held near the building of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) in Bardo, Tunis to call for the dissolution of the parliament on June 14, 2020. Via Reuters.