To support such a process, EU policy should seek to mitigate the growing trends of conflictual multipolarity that are present at international, regional and local levels with reference to the MENA. At the macro-international level, Europe needs to more effectively contain (and even "roll back") some of the most disruptive impulses of the US Trump administration vis-à-vis Iran and the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It also needs to become more adept at managing Europe's difficult relationship with a key strategic neighbour, Turkey, and seek to proactively engage Russia (and China) in new multilateral frameworks while, at the same time, remaining firm on Moscow's (and Beijing's) most problematic actions in other domains.
At the micro and meso-levels of regional stability and internal governance, Europe should maximise its limited leverage in those contexts where it can truly make a difference, beginning from Israel-Palestine to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Tunisia and Libya. Here, EU MS and institutions should promote targeted and micro-level developmental interventions that provide immediate and sustainable returns to local populations who are suffering from conflict, poverty and a lack of basic services. Most importantly, the EU needs to strive for complementarity between these actions, ensuring that policies in one domain help to foster improvements in others, particularly regarding the broader macro-regional and international priorities outlined above.
Focusing on three fundamental ruptures in the wider MENA region is one way to begin adding direction to EU policy. These include: (a) the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, which remain a fundamental fault line within this region and between MENA and the outside world; (b) the ongoing rivalry and competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has exacerbated tensions in the Persian Gulf, Yemen, Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon; and (c) the often overlooked rivalry between Turkey and Qatar on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and al-Sisi's Egypt on the other. This rupture has undermined the internal cohesion of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and exacerbated ongoing proxy conflicts in Libya and Syria, while also increasing Turkey's isolation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
If left unchecked, any one of these ruptures could explore and entrap the EU in a vicious cycle of escalation. Reactive policies will prove insufficient, not only in terms of the material costs involved by also and more fundamentally due to the fact that emergency situations will preclude the more long-term diplomatic action that is needed to address these challenges. The time for proactive action is now, before any one of these ruptures can explode into a full-blown conflict or crisis, the reverberations of which would have a more direct impact on Europe (and Russia) than on Washington. The recent military strikes in Iraq are precisely the kind of illegal and unilateral US action that risks enflaming such a cycle of escalation, entrapping the EU and its MS in a process over which it has limited manoeuvrability other than falling back in line with Washington.