EU strategic communication with the Arab world

Briefing 02-05-2016

Good relations with the Arab world have been one of the EU's main objectives ever since the Barcelona Process was launched in 1995. Driven initially by security concerns and the need for stability, the dynamics between the two sides of the Mediterranean have increasingly shifted towards support for democracy, human rights, and promotion of economic and social development. However, this relationship has never been an easy one, and the European Union has struggled to communicate its vision for the region effectively. At the same time, instability in the Middle East and North Africa has become a source of insecurity in the EU and has challenged some of the basic assumptions of EU policies – both internal and external. As recent terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, Tunisia and Egypt have shown, the rise of violent extremism and the threat of radicalisation know no borders. Therefore, countering terrorist propaganda and the jihadi narrative plays a key role. Against this background, the European Union has taken several steps aimed at designing a more strategic vision for engaging with stakeholders in the Arab world – including governments and civil society – and countering radicalisation propaganda. Concrete initiatives to this effect are the establishment of the Task Force for Outreach and Communication in the Arab world and the Syria Strategic Communications Advisory Team, among others.