What role is there for Europe in the midst of the Middle East crises?

Policy Brief:

With an increasingly isolationist United States reluctant to commit resources and keen to encourage regional powers to take a more active role, a vacuum has emerged that has emboldened regional actors to undertake a more aggressive foreign policy that has exacerbated regional conflicts and instability. Yemen remains embroiled in one of the worst humanitarian crises of modern times, Syria is mired in civil war, the GCC is riven with divisions that have led to an unprecedented blockade on Qatar, while Libya witnesses the rise of terrorist organisations and illegal migration in the midst of an as yet unsolvable civil strife.

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Where does Europe stand in the midst of these conflicts? What role does it play? Is there currently a unified approach? What role should it play? To what extent can Europe exert influence and encourage the pursuit of political processes conducive to resolving these crises and promoting greater stability and economic cooperation?

Date: 23/10/2018

Time: 17:30 

Seated dinner will follow

Our Moderator Adnan Tabatabai introducing the discussion: Unresolved crises in the Middle East affect Europe not only on refugee crisis.

European balanced approach is the success story of European soft power among the people of our region and of the Middle East region.


Our speaker Sami Hamdi: Europe's 'neutral' approach to achieve peace inadvertently results in a policy of "equating victim with aggressor" which results in "rewarding aggressor" via 'concessions'.

Europe sees that is in its best interest treating everybody as equals in order not to choose one party over the other. Europeans believe that this approach is the most conducive one in order to achieve peace.

Europe is unsure about what to do, defending its democratic principles or stopping the war..”

Europe is “all talk and no action”, it has noble principals : democracy and human rights, but it lacks the pragmatism to achieve it . It needs to look at what is taking place in the region instead of being scared to get involved.

Our speaker Dr Andreas Krieg: Very few people understand the Gulf region in-depth because it’s too far and there is no former colonial links.

The region is no longer governed by the state but by non-state actors and we need to engage with them. There is a need to empower local non-state actors without putting federal systems aside. Creating liberal environment is about building more liberal civil society open to dialogue.”

Civil Society needs to be flourished in the Middle East to counter terrorism. We need social and economic justice to achieve Democratic Regimes.

Europe has a gold moment now to feed the leadership gap. Soft power, engagement, capacity building, stabilization this kind of actions are more potent than the failed US military interventions.”

Europe should stand for inclusive governance, political pluralism (not only through election boxes), dialogue and open approach to media. We need engagement rather than exclusion. We need liberalization which means providing platforms to all groups state and non-state actors, Islamist or non-Islamist. Aljazeera has created a liberal dialogue where all actors are invited to participate.”

US and Europe allowed the spread of authoritarian and secular regimes and they have invested into it before the Arab Spring. Europe and the West have created the situations where we are in today by not taking a stand early on. Europe does not have currently the power or the leverage to do anything whether in Yemen or in Syria. It can only provide economic lever or play the role of mediator. .”

Our panelist Julien Barnes-Dacey: The history of interventions in the Middle East made the situation worse. There is a need to use European mediating role to de-escalate crises and get long-term stability in the region. 

Europe has to think to its own interest as other actors, and not only be guided by the goodwill. It wants a stable neighborhood as an immediate priority. Migration, extremism, terrorism of conflict, all that drives the political agenda internally and shapes European decisions.”

There is a long term ambition and a need for stability in the region with the visions of good governance and principals . The short term role of Europe in the region is to de-escalate the conflicts

Europe has the ability to do more. There is an European interest in trying to play the role of the mediator. Europe has to take pragmatic approach not only base on the principals nor on the military force

We are in a time where Europe needs to step up and no longer rely on US, there is a growing gap between them. Americans have been shaping Middle East policy for a long time and we agreed with it, but we can no longer do, especially when it concerns Iran or the Middle East process

The reaction of the 3 European powers (UK, France and Germany) towards Khashoggi affair vis a vis Saudi Arabia marks quite a significant turn.

Q & A session Reacting to our speakers’ interventions: A European pragmatic approach is needed in the Region We need regional solutions to the regional problems.


Sami Hamdi

Sami Hamdi is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Interest. An experienced geopolitical risk consultant, Sami advises blue-chip clients and global entities around the world on highly volatile business environments in the Middle East as well as the geopolitical dynamics.
Sami is a regular commentator on Aljazeera, TRT World, CGTN and RT and other media outlets.

Dr Andreas Krieg

Andreas Krieg is an assistant professor for Defence Studies at King’s College London currently seconded to the UK Defence Academy. In his research Andreas has combined his regional expertise of the Middle East with the wider field of Security Studies. He has looked at violent non-state actors and unconventional means of warfare in the 21st century. As an expert for Middle East security more generally and Gulf security in particular, Andreas has employed his regional and subject-related expertise providing strategic and operational risk consultancy to a variety of commercial and governmental organizations operating in the MENA region. He most recently published a book with Palgrave titled ‘Socio-Political Order and Security in the Arab World’. He has a book forthcoming with Georgetown University Press titled ‘Surrogate Warfare - The Transformation of War in the 21st Century’ and an edited volume with Palgrave called ‘Divided Gulf - The Anatomy of a Crisis’.

Adnan Tabatabai

Adnan Tabatabai is co-founder and CEO of the Germany based think tank CARPO - Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient. As an Iran analyst, Tabatabai is consulted by European policymakers and businesses on Iran‘s domestic and foreign affairs. He regularly appears in international media to provide commentary and analysis on Iran and the Middle East. Through CARPO and in partnership with other organizations, Tabatabai has conducted various dialogue initiatives on track 2 and civil society levels dealing with the region of West Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. He holds an assigned lectureship at the Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf and is author of the German book “Morgen in Iran - die Islamische Republik im Aufbruch“ (Oct 2016, Edition Koerber-Stiftung).

Julien Barnes-Dacey

Julien Barnes-Dacey is Director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). He was previously based as a journalist in Egypt and Syria, writing for publications including the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. He also headed the MENA practice at Control Risks, a private sector political consultancy.


​Middle East Dialogue Centre

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