April 14, 2018

Nepalese PM K.P. Oli visits India as Both Countries Hope to Turn the Page in Relations

Nepalese PM K.P. Oli visits India as Both Countries Hope to Turn the Page in Relations

Nepal’s Prime Minister, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, arrived in India Friday for a three-day visit. The visit comes after a major downturn in India-Nepal ties.

Background: In 2015, Nepal begandrafting a new Constitution. Oli, the Prime Minister then as well, was the primary architect of this Constitution and publicly rallied for it to be adopted, but India took an opposing point of view, arguing that the document did not address the concerns of certain communities. The episode culminatedwith India supporting a blockade by a group called the Madhesis in an attempt to generate pressure on Oli’s government by blocking supplies. However, Oli used India’s actions to push forth an ultra-nationalist, and even anti-India narrative, as well as call for closer ties with China. The episode ended with Oli and his coalition decisively beating a coalition backed by India in the general elections this year.

Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Oli

Insight: This visit, therefore, is a crucial moment in the ties for both countries.  Both countries recognize that they need to move forward as they engage on important bilateral issues. But Nepal will continue to express a more assertive tone, especially as Oli seeks to ensure his country is treated as an equal in the relationship with India. India, on the other, will have to move past the strategic errors it has made since 2015, and try to repair ties and turn the tide in its relations with its immediate neighborhood. That means, as one Indian official said “putting the past behind us and presenting big ideas for moving ahead.”

Recommended Reading: Suhasini Haidar, the Diplomatic Affairs Editor atThe Hindu, conducted an exclusive interview with Prime Minister Oli in the lead-up to his visit to New Delhi. They discussed a whole host of issues, including the bilateral relations, ties with China, the Belt and Road Initiative, and Nepal’s Constitution going forward. Read the transcript of the interview here.

The Ambivalence of Syria’s Child Reporters


The Ambivalence of Syria’s Child Reporters

Mariam Sleiman

April 9th, 2018

Often referred to as the most documented war of the 21st century — if not ever — the Syrian war and the trove of reporting, images and videos around it, have introduced a new dynamic into the modern mediation of war. The removal of major media empires from the day to day of war reporting and the involvement, instead, of Syrian citizen journalists has seemingly righted a wrong intrinsic to journalism, namely that the role of the discipline is to give voice to the voiceless — in this case, by allowing the voiceless to speak and broadcast for themselves. The rise of Syrian citizen journalists and their filling of a major gap in news reporting has engendered an entirely new way of communicating the daily terrors of war, one that does not shy away from the activism inherent to journalism, and has created an ecosystem that privileges truth over the valorized objectivity and distance of traditional media reporting.

Emerging from this landscape is the particularly unique phenomenon of the child reporter and narrator. For many, including American and European celebrities like J.K. Rowlingand Alyssa Milano, the 2016 fall of Aleppo was made profoundly more palatable and poignant thanks to the reporting of Bana Alabed, a seven-year-old girl who live tweeted the battle and her family’s subsequent displacement from Aleppo. There was something particularly heart wrenching about bearing witness to Bana’s pleas, her terror, her seeming normalcy in the face of unimaginable violence that ignited a digital storm of solidarity and support, propelling Bana into fame and eventual safety for her and her family. Soon, she was out of Syria, in the arms of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and eventually o the stage at the 2018 Oscar awards.


Since Bana, a crop of Syrian child reporters documenting the daily tragedies of life under siege has risen on Twitter and Facebook. These include Noor and Alaa, two girls from Eastern Ghouta, who, like Bana, speak English. The girls’ social media accounts broadcast pleas to the world to bear witness to the Syrian war’s horrors. Affective as it is, however, their reporting also occupies an ambivalent space in the saturated media terrain on Syria . To scroll through the girls’ accounts is to confront the moral vacancy that now characterizes much of our consumption of images, reports, and statistics coming out of Syria. That children under the age of ten are necessary, in order to legitimize the depth of suffering in Syria and command the attention and sympathies of the world says much about the time we live in.

After all Syrians have been through in the past 7 years, it is shameful that children are bearing the brunt of narrating the war’s effects. This phenomenon not only elides the complexity of the conflict, flattening it into a lazy politics driven by a simplistic morality, but it also creates a dynamic that transforms these children into martyr-angel-icons who are wrecked twice over: once by war and a second time by the public’s ambivalent gaze

Has China’s massive navy parade soothed a century of wounded national pride?


Has China’s massive navy parade soothed a century of wounded national pride?

Show of maritime power comes more than 120 years after a catastrophic military loss

Zhuang PinghuiUPDATED : Saturday, 14 Apr 2018, 10:01PM


The staging of China’s biggest display of naval power this week prompted comparisons with a catastrophic military defeat at the hands of Japan more than a century ago.

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was the centrepiece of a massive parade off the waters of Sanya in the South China Sea on Thursday.

The display, watched by Chinese President Xi Jinping, involved about 50 warships and nearly 80 aircraft, including jets, bombers and early-warning planes.

The parade came 124 years after the navy’s collapse in the first Sino-Japanese war, known in China as the Jiawu war, despite efforts to modernise the fleet and the deployment of two German-built battleships.

The loss accelerated the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and is still considered in China to be one of the biggest humiliations in the country’s naval history and a source of wounded national pride.

Coverage of Thursday’s event prompted a flurry of online comments comparing China’s military strength with that at the time of the 1894 loss.



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“I couldn’t help thinking about China’s maritime territory and naval forces more than 100 years ago,” Weibo user Baban Caiye wrote.

“We suffered a crushing defeat in the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894 and had to sink our own warships in the Yangtze River in 1937 during the second Sino-Japanese war … But now we are truly strong.”

China announces surprise live-fire Taiwan Strait drills after massive navy parade

Another internet user “Xiaoan Leo” said China’s navy had existed in name only since the Jiawu war, a situation that had since been remedied.

“Should a war come again, navy, please don’t break our heart and let us down,” he wrote

The United Nations of China: A vision of the world order


The United Nations of China: A vision of the world order

China Analysis

François Godement, Moritz Rudolf, Marc Julienne, 
Marie-Hélène Schwoob & Kata Isenring-Szabó
12th April, 2018

UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré - ©


Articles in this edition of China Analysis include:

François Godement: IntroductionMoritz Rudolf: Chinese scholars’ increasing outspokenness on UN reformMarc Julienne: China’s evolving role in peacekeeping operationsMarie-Hélène Schwoob: Chinese views on the global agenda for developmentKata Isenring-Szabó: China’s views on the Human Rights Council (UNHRC)


François Godement

China’s participation in the United Nations system is often viewed through a succession of single lenses: its use of the veto over the last few years (less often than Russia, but more than Western permanent members of the UN Security Council); its financial contribution (now the second largest, but this is a simple consequence of China’s GDP); its contribution to peacekeeping operations (at 2,350 blue helmets at the time of writing, it is far less than is often surmised, but with a vast potential increase in participation); its fight against interference on human rights and for prioritising development and dialogue over sanctions and intervention (but China has avoided full-frontal opposition in many cases, now preferring backroom action via its influence  on the UN budget).

What the sources deftly mined for this edition of China Analysisreveal is that there is sophisticated thinking, and hints of policy debates going on about the UN, its reform process, the various stands taken by other member states, and, to some extent, China’s present and future role in the organisation.

The phrase “to some extent” is important, because many of the writings captured in this edition seem to take a disembodied view of China. Vetoes are not discussed, nor is persistent opposition to a permanent Security Council seat for Japan (and less obviously to India’s – although one source takes the line that accepting India would bond the country to a neutral foreign policy, therefore closer to China). The role of the secretary-general does not even merit an allusion. And the true extent of China’s longstanding fight against human rights action within the UN is hidden under criticism of the “politicisation” of human rights and the mention of Chinese NGOs – in fact, quasi-governmental organisations – showing up in Geneva to enrich collective thinking. How far speech can deviate from actual policy is even more elegantly revealed when one source reclaims the Republic of China’s human rights spokesman in 1948, when nothing could have been farther from the politics of the actual winners of China’s civil war.

But the above is only the negative face of China’s increasing discursive power (话语权 huayu quan) along with some sophisticated analysis and overall proposals. What comes through is how much China values the UN – as an intergovernmental rather than a supranational institution, that is; how much China thinks of the UN as part of a continuum with some of its international efforts (the newly minted Belt and Road Initiative above all) but also with the branding of its own developmental and financing style; how much Chinese experts openly debate the interests and coalitions in the UN General Assembly – and most of all on the intractable reform of the organisation, and even more precisely on UN Security Council membership. And it is also clear that China’s increasing contribution to the UN, including in new sectors comes with the global export of China’s thinking. Drily, one author notes that a reduced US budget contribution will simply mean less American influence over the organisation. One can apply the reverse judgment to China, of course.

Many of these endeavours still face the test of reality. China claims to defend the UN above all, but the limitations and constraints it puts on the UN’s role, as well as its use of coalitions within the G77 group of so-called developing countries, may well be neutering a more effective role for the organisation. Is it with tongue in cheek that one of our sources deplores that member states lack a coherent and mature reform programme?

What this actually says is that China in the UN has gone well past the stage of being the conductor for an orchestra of those who can say no … Disunity – or lack of interest – among key members of the UN often ensure that China is far less under pressure than in the aftermath of 1989.

One day, a neutralised UN could become a vehicle for China’s worldviews; it is clear that China has the analytical capacity to canvass the ranks of UN members, and therefore to coddle or press them in the direction that it seeks. If and when it achieves that goal, the concept of multilateralism, which has very little prominence in our sources even though it figured in Xi Jinping’s 2017 UN Geneva speech, will surely return with force.


Moritz Rudolf

As China re-emerges as a global power, it is assuming a prominent role in the United Nations reform process. Chinese scholars and think-tanks have recently been more outspoken in identifying deficiencies in international governance, and have become more detailed in their reform proposals.

The necessity of UN reform

A study by the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations Research Group (CICIR) argues that the UN is facing unprecedented challenges in maintaining its authority.[1] It argues that the UN system has lost credibility, since globalisation and transnational phenomena constitute a challenge to the principle of sovereignty as anticipated by the UN Charter. Sovereign governments are less able and willing to participate in seeking to fulfil the UN’s mission. In addition, the rise of emerging powers does not sit comfortably with the traditional global power structure underlying the UN system. The authors point to deficiencies in the UN safeguarding international peace and security and they express doubts about whether it is able to effectively address global development issues. In addition, they question the ability of the UN to solve global problems in the areas of finance, cybersecurity, counter-terrorism, and epidemic prevention.

The reform process: an overview

The CICIR study notes that over the past 70 years the UN has shown resilience and proved capable of adjusting its “three pillars” – safeguarding peace and security, promoting development, and human rights – to the shifting international environment. According to Chen Xulong of the China Institute of International Studies, the main achievements of the reform process, in recent years, when it comes to security are: establishing the UN Peacebuilding Commission, reforming the UN peacekeeping mechanism, and strengthening the UN anti-terrorism mechanism.[2] On development, Chen emphasises the UN Millennium Development Goals, while with regard to human rights, he points to the establishment of the Human Rights Council with its Universal Periodic Review mechanism. In addition, he cites efforts to increase the efficiency of the UN administration, including the establishment of an ethics office, advances in risk management, and improvements in resource management – personnel, capital, and material. However, Chen identifies reform of the UN Security Council (UNSC) as the most difficult task and argues that it has reached a deadlock.


Key obstacles to reform

According to Li Dongyan of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, changes in the international balance of power are the main driving forces behind UN reform, but Li also criticises UN member states for lacking a coherent and mature reform programme.[3] According to Chen, underlying political power conflicts complicate the reform process. The CICIR study points to fundamental differences regarding the direction of UN reform. While developing states focus on poverty reduction, developed states aim to promote human rights, good governance, and the rule of law. In addition, the study addresses fundamental disagreements among those states around whether to prioritise humanitarian concerns or the national security concerns of sovereign state.

Security Council reform

Mao Ruipeng an associate professor from the Shanghai University of International Business and Economics analyses the intergovernmental negotiation process of UNSC reform. The author divides UNSC reform since 1992 into three stages.[4] In the first period (1992-1998), reform forces focused mainly on the question of fair representation.[5]During the second stage (2003-2007), competing groups emerged, including: the G4, consisting of Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil, which all sought a permanent seat of their own; the Uniting for Consensus Group (UfC Group), which opposes increasing the number of permanent UNSC seats; and the African Union (AU), which backs permanent representation for African countries.[6] Mao attributes the failure of UNSC reform during this period to the competition between the G4 and the AU, as well as to opposition from the permanent UNSC member states. The third period started in 2009, with the official launch of the intergovernmental negotiations.

Mao points out that the unity of the AU, which the author believes is crucial to the prospects of UNSC reform, deteriorated due to competition among African countries over permanent UNSC representation (during the second stage). Mao argues that the L69 Group (a group of developing countries promoting UNSC reform), which includes co-sponsors of the draft resolution which paved the way for the intergovernmental negotiations (A /61/L.69), is trying to establish itself as a link between the AU, the G4, and the “Alliance of Small Island States”. Mao attributes the role of coordinator to India, given its membership of the G4, its leadership of the L69 Group, and its efforts to act as a mediator among the different groups.


Chen advocates the “7-7-7 proposal” as the best means of actually achieving UNSC reform, which was introduced by Kishore Mahbubani, the former Singaporean ambassador to the UN. Under this proposal, seven permanent members would sit on the UNSC: the European Union, the United States, China, India, Russia, Brazil, and Nigeria. Seven “semi-permanent” members would be selected from 28 eligible countries, with each country eligible for election every eight years for a term of four years, and seven “non-permanent” candidates from the remaining countries.

The authors of the CICIR study provide a set of recommendations for UN and global governance reform, including reform to the institutional structure. In addition, they propose more coordination among the permanent UNSC members and between the UN and entities like G7, G20, or BRICS as well as with regional international organisations. The authors say the UN should guide NATO to play an active role in the maintenance of international peace. They argue that in the past NATO has used the UN as a tool to interfere in internal affairs under the banner of “responsibility to protect”. Moreover, they demand enhancement of the UN’s ability to respond to new challenges of global governance, by reforming the international financial system and climate regime, and strengthening the governance of “global commons” such as the internet.

Zhang Guihong of the UN Research Center at Fudan University argues that UN reform is necessary in order to effectively deal with new threats and challenges.[7]However, Zhang singles out Donald Trump’s ten-point declaration on UN reform for particular criticism. The ten points include cuts in funding for UN peacekeeping, which Zhang calls a pragmatic policy of short-sightedness lacking strategic vision. He argues that US financial contributions to the UN are not only a burden but also a source of influence. If the US withdraws financially, this should also have an impact on the power distribution within the UN, he argues. Zhang says that Beijing has continuously strengthened its support and financial contributions to the UN, yet few UN agency offices are based in China, and Chinese nationals remain underrepresented.

Recommendations for Beijing

Mao proposes that China adopt a strategy of “low involvement” (低介入的策略, Di jieru de celüe) in the UNSC reform process and publicly endorse India to become a permanent UNSC member. He reasons that doing so could help maintain India’s neutrality in foreign policy issues that are relevant to China, including the South China Sea. Since UNSC reform is unlikely to reach a conclusion soon, it will take considerable time until India actually becomes a permanent member. Mao further urges China to avoid intervening in the debates among African countries, but to remain committed as a mediator between developed and developing countries.

The CICIR study calls on China to firmly safeguard the authority of the UN, and to use the existing governance framework as a foundation for continuous adjustment and improvement. China should assume greater international responsibility and provide more conceptual support for the UN, since it has introduced new concepts like the “community of shared future of mankind” (人类命运共同体,renlei mingyun gongtongti), the “new developmental concept of win-win cooperation” (合作共赢的新发展观,hezuo gong ying de xin fazhan guan), and a “new security concept that goes beyond zero-sum game thinking” (超越零和博弈的新安全观,chaoyue ling he boyi de xin anquan guan).



Marc Julienne

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) replaced the Republic of China (Taiwan) as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 1971. China’s involvement in United Nations peacekeeping operations (UNPKOs) did not start before the late 1980s, during Deng Xiaoping’s period of reform and opening up. This involvement has since gone through several phases of “gradual adaptation, gradual expansion, and gradual improvement” (逐步适应、逐步扩大、逐步提; zhubu shiying, zhubu kuoda, zhubu tisheng), and has evolved from “passive and simple” participation to “proactive and constructive” (主动和建设型; zhudong he jianshe xing) participation.[8] Today, China proudly claims to be the largest contributor to UNPKOs among the UNSC permanent members (although out of all UN members it is the 12th largest contributor of troops, police, and military experts). In January 2018, China had 2,634 staff participating in UNPKOs in South Sudan, Lebanon, Mali, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Western Sahara, Cyprus, and Afghanistan.[9] China’s role in UNPKOs has been transforming rapidly, especially since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012-2013. China is contributing in terms of troops, but it also intends to contribute in terms of norms and concepts, and it therefore tries to influence reform processes in the UN. China’s new role in UN peace and security actions, however, is facing challenges.

China’s growing contribution to UNPKOs

China’s first participation in a UNPKO was in 1990, when it sent five military personnel to the UN Truce Supervision Organization in the Middle East. China’s contribution to UNPKOs was then low but stable during the 1990s, and started to increase rapidly in the early 2000s, reaching its peak in 2015 with more than 3,000 Chinese blue helmets worldwide. Under Xi, China’s contribution to UNPKOs has entered a new, more proactive, phase. In 2014, China dispatched 400 contingent troops to Mali, in addition to the 400 engineers, doctors, and security guards sent there the previous year. That same year, the decision to send 700 peacekeeping infantry battalion to South Sudan confirmed a new trend.

Source: aggregated data from https://peacekeeping.un.org/(every year in December)


During the 2015 UN Peacekeeping Summit, Xi restated China’s commitment to becoming a major actor in international peace and security. He announced that China will: join the UN Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System; set up a standing peacekeeping force of 8,000 troops alongside a standing peacekeeping police force; train 2,000 foreign peacekeepers; carry out 10 de-mining assistance programmes; and provide $100m in military aid to the African Union.[10] By December 2016, China had set up a 300-strong standing peacekeeping police force (ie. the equivalent of two Formed Police Units – FPUs), which is based in Dongying (Shandong province) and is composed of troops from the People’s Armed Police.[11]

By September 2017, the standing peacekeeping force had completed the registration of 8,000 troops, including six infantry battalions, three engineers companies, two transport companies, four second grade hospitals, four security companies, three fast reaction companies, two medium-sized multipurpose helicopter units, two transport aircraft units, one UAV unit, and one surface naval ship.[12] This shows the wide scope of missions that Chinese peacekeepers intend to deal with.

China also stepped up its contribution to the UN Peacekeeping Police, which was set up in 2000 and whose numbers rose considerably in 2013 with the dispatch of its first FPU to the UN Mission in Liberia. Comprising 140 police staff, it constitutes almost the entirety of China’s worldwide total of 153 peacekeeping police. It is therefore surprising that the Chinese provisional representative to the UN, Wu Haitao, did not mention this in his statement during the UN Peacekeeping Police Summit in September 2017.[13]Praising China’s active role in peacekeeping police in current UN missions, he only mentioned South Sudan, Cyprus, and Afghanistan (13 staff altogether).

The trend towards increasing Chinese contribution to UNPKOs in conflict areas, such as South Sudan, is also linked to China’s interest in protecting the growing numbers of Chinese nationals abroad, argues Li Dongyan, from the China Academy of Social Sciences. She believes that this trend continues, noting that “China refers to both the UK’s operation in Sierra Leone, as well as France’s operation in Mali”. These two operations were launched on the initiative of the two European powers, without a UN mandate, to evacuate foreign citizens (in Sierra Leone) and to support the local army (in Mali). China’s particular interest in these two operations further supports the notion that China is likely preparing to send national forces abroad in the future.

“Sovereignty” and “peace and development”: China’s conceptual contribution

As a rising power and permanent UNSC member with an increasing role in peace and security, China is contributing more and more on the ground. But China is also seeking to influence the development and reform of the UN and the UNSC, and it is attempting to do this through the promotion of its own concepts.

The concept that China by far emphasises the most is that of sovereignty. Pointing to the UN Charter, China advocates the principles of “sovereignty, equality of sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, and peaceful settlement of conflicts”. It constantly promotes its “Three principles of peacekeeping” which it holds should be the “cornerstones of ensuring the sound development of PKOs”: the “neutrality principle” (中立原则zhongli yuanze); the principle of the “approval by the concerned country” (当事国同意原则 dang shi guo tongyi yuanze); and the principle of “not using force otherwise as under the circumstances of self-defence or duly authorised” (非自卫或履行授权不使用武力原则 fei ziwei huo luxing shouquan bu shiyong wuli yuanze).[14]

The second concept important to China is that of “development promotes peace” (发展促和平fazhan cu heping). Li explains that the UN approach to peace and security is based on democratic elections and the building of the rule of law, while the Chinese approach of peace-building is based on development: “development is the guarantee of security”.[15] These two approaches, according to Li, are complementary and the UN should put more emphasis on development, in order to better balance the “three major fields of security, development, and human rights”.

This “Chinese way of thinking” (中国思路 zhongguo silu) reflects China’s expectations of the UN’s reforms. According to Li, “China has always stressed that the reform should help enhance the voice of developing countries in international affairs, and emphasised the need to promote reforms that have yielded positive results in the area of development. As for reform of the UNSC, China advocates giving priority to expanding the representation of developing countries, especially from Africa.”

China’s conceptual contribution in the sphere of peace and security dovetails with Xi’s new concepts of international relations, like: the “new type of international relations with win-win cooperation as the core” (合作共赢为核心的新型国际关系 hezuo gong ying we hexin de xinxing guoji guanxi); the “democratisation and the rule by law in international relations” (国际关系的民主化、法治化 guoji guanxi de minzhu hua, fazhi hua); the “new concept of win-win, increased benefits, and mutual benefits” (双赢、多赢、共赢的新理念shuangying, duoying, gongying de xin linian); and the “new concept of community of interests and destiny” (利益与命运共同体的新概念liyi yu mingyun gongtongti de xin gainian), developed by foreign minister Wang Yi before the UNSC in February 2015.[16]

The future of China’s role in PKOs

China still faces significant challenges in developing its role in international peace and security. These challenges include its own limited experience and innovation capability in fields like “promoting political settlement, controlling conflict situations, [or] easing humanitarian crisis”.[17] And there are also external (来自外部laizi waibu) challenges that restrain China’s involvement. Li points out that the “China threat theory” still exists, and that it undermines cooperation on peace and security within the UN. The theory foresees a time when, after becoming a great power, China will impose its “model” (模式 moshi) and “path” (道路 daolu) on the UN. Li argues that, although there are differences and disputes between Chinese and Western “ways of thinking”, these two kinds of model can co-exist and even complement each other. Thus, China struggles to make the weight of its position felt within the UN, including the UNSC.

Facing these challenges within the UN, China might consider using regional (whether formal organisations or ad hoc regional groupings) and even national PKOs. Sheng Hongsheng, from the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, argues that China should anticipate and carry out studies on the legal issues regarding regional PKOs, in order to “enhance the legitimacy and legality of future operations”.[18]Sheng argues that security in China’s periphery is deteriorating, and that the potential of an outbreak of an armed conflict in China’s own region is increasing. In this context, China is likely to “participate or even lead the organisation and implementation of a regional PKO”.[19] China’s lead on regional PKOs could follow existing examples whereby regional or intergovernmental organisations have taken the lead, such as the African Union in Sudan, the Commonwealth of Independent States in Moldova and Tajikistan, the NATO and EU in the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, as well as state-led PKOs (France’s Operation Turquoise in Rwanda).

Sheng then touches upon the controversies regarding the legal basis of regional PKOs. The main controversy is twofold. The first centres on the question of whether regional organisations have the jurisdiction to deal with international peace and security issues. The second controversy emerges around the question of exhausting whether a regional solution is not feasible before the UNSC considers stepping in to solve the dispute. For Sheng, the legality and legitimacy of a regional PKO rest on two conditions: firstly, it must be carried out based on the UN Charter and the basic documents of the regional organisation. Secondly, it must obtain the approval of the country concerned to carry out any political and diplomatic actions (this relates to the sovereignty principle). Sheng notes that Chapter 8 of the UN Charter sets out provisions to encourage “regional arrangements” to settle international disputes.

In sum, Sheng Hongsheng advocates that regional or state-led PKOs should not replace UNPKOs, but if they are used then they must be based on the UN Charter. In this regard he believes them to be fully legal, and so China should prepare for the possibility of PKOs in its neighbourhood in the future.

Finally, with China’s increasing interests in unstable foreign countries, PKOs could prove to be a way to both stabilise a country and protect its own interests at the same time, like in South Sudan. Li takes two examples, which, she says, could serve as references for China: UK’s operation in Sierra Leone, and France’s operation in Mali. These two operations were launched on the initiative of the two European powers, without a UN mandate, to evacuate foreign citizens (in Sierra Leone) and to support the local army (in Mali), as well as to preserve assets in those countries. China’s particular interest in these two operations further supports the notion that China is likely preparing to send national PKO abroad in the future.



Marie-Hélène Schwoob

Over the past few years, the position of China on the international stage has gradually evolved, following its rise as an economic power, visible in its rapidly increasing trade and investment flows. China’s evolving role has also had implications for its place in global governance, through a greater involvement in activities ranging from United Nations peacekeeping operations (China is by far the biggest contributor of personnel, with more than 3,000 troops and police committed) to contributions to development funds (Xi Jinping pledged $2 billion in support for the development of poor countries at the Sustainable Development Summit in 2015).

Numerous Chinese scholars have started to rethink China’s role and consider new strategies that would help the country offer alternative models for international cooperation and governance for development.

Cui Wenxing, a post-doctoral fellow at Fudan University, writes that there have been three main stages of evolution in China’s development policy. Firstly, under Mao, when the country’s south-south cooperation was essentially based on political considerations (such as providing assistance to socialist countries).[20] Secondly, after the reform and opening up, when China shifted its focus essentially to economic cooperation with other countries (in all directions), and, finally, the acceleration of the “going out” movement (走出去 zouchuqu) in the 21st century, when south-south cooperation became a way for China to encourage its enterprises to go abroad and to take part in global development.[21] Cui believes that both the “going out” movement and China’s development agenda provided opportunities for Chinese enterprises for more economic cooperation (for instance, via low interest loans provided to Chinese enterprises in developing countries). For Xu Qiyuan, associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and Sun Jingying, postdoctoral fellow at Beijing University, even if “it is clear that China is still a developing country”, its role has evolved from that of recipient country to one of donor country, and China has become an important partner of international development agencies.[22] China’s role in the development of south-south cooperation has been increasing tremendously. The time has come, say these authors, for China to build a “new global partnership for development” (建新型全球发展伙伴关系 jian xinxing quanqiu fazhan huoban guanxi), arguing that this new approach should put aside political issues but focus partnerships on pragmatic interests.[23]

Chinese criticism of the UN development agenda

Chinese scholars point to the imperfections of the development framework that the United Nations has promoted since its foundation in 1945. Some Chinese scholars, such as Xu and Sun, recognise that the UN’s development framework managed to gradually mobilise the international community, that it has achieved some level of agreement on key concepts relating to development (such as environmental issues, climate change, or sustainable development goals), and that it has contributed to the formulation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, several problems remain in the view of these authors. Among other issues, they note that the MDGs have had mixed results, such as uneven progress geographically, and areas of development lagging behind, such as universal access to primary education, maternal healthcare, and environmental sustainability.

In addition, they believe that the development framework has sometimes focused too much on political issues – for instance, the controversial conditions attached to aid, which relate to governance, transparency, and human rights. In their view these issues should be separated from a country’s development goals. In particular, Xu and Sun argue that donor countries often link environmental aspects of sustainable development to political aspects that oppose the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, a phrase which is important to developing countries. Developed countries (“traditional aid countries”) indeed usually put emphasis on a “universal” principle of environmental responsibility, resulting in environmental sustainability goals being placed at the forefront of priorities.[24] In addition, for Cui, the “shock therapy” of the World Bank has had significant downsides, by forcing countries to adopt austerity policies and to engage in market liberalisation over short periods of time, instead of progressively changing policies based on long-term research and experimentation.[25]

China’s development agenda and the UN

In the view of Xu, Sun, and Cui, China has implemented a successful economic development model and it has performed well in its progress towards the MDGs, all of which (in their view) relate to Deng Xiaoping’s  development paradigm “crossing the river by feeling the stones” (摸着石头过河 mozhe shitou guohe), which provided a smoother alternative to the shock therapy of the World Bank.[26] However, the author/authors believes that there is a role for China to play in redefining a more balanced global partnership for development, that would better reflect the rise of south-south cooperation and the growing role of emerging economies.[27]

Xu, Sun, and Cao Jiahan (assistant research fellow at the Research Institute of Comparative Politics and Public Policy) recognise that the new role that China could play at the global level should take into account organisations which already exist, such as the development agencies of traditional aid countries or the UN agencies in charge of implementing the 2030 Development Agenda. For them, connecting Chinese development initiatives to the agenda of these organisations could indeed help increase trust in these initiatives. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), in particular, has recently raised some concerns in the international community, in Western countries in particular. For Cao, connecting the BRI agenda to the United Nations’ 2030 Development Agenda could be a way to “increase trust and dispel doubts” (增信释疑 zengxin shiyi) and to exert greater international influence, as the BRI represents “an attempt by China to explore a new model of international cooperation for development and global governance”. [28]

Chinese scholars insist on the similarities that exist between the two agendas. The BRI indeed aims to bring economic development to a number of countries where the gross national product per capita is less than half the world average. They believe this will create a new impetus in world economic growth and lay the foundations of regional peace and stability. Cui draws a link between the BRI’s focus on developing infrastructure and global partnerships, two priorities that are also included in the 2030 Development Agenda.

While China could continue to export its “poverty reduction model with Chinese characteristics” through such initiatives, thus further enhancing the country’s soft power, both Cao and Cui, in particular, acknowledge that the country will face challenges if it does so. For the BRI, challenges include security challenges as well as a clash of different views: central Asia is often considered the “backyard” of Russia, which might not look favourably on such initiatives, and the United States is looking at alternative connectivity models, which could compete with BRI. Other challenges might emerge if China takes further part in international development initiatives, such as labour issues and environmental concerns. Cao notes, however, that because “ecological civilisation" was listed as one of the five goals in China’s development plan at the 18thNational Congress in 2012, Beijing pushed Chinese enterprises to take the safeguard of the environment more seriously. Cui believes non-state actors should be given a more important role in China’s development agenda, noting that China, which often relies on government-to-government partnerships in the framework of south-south cooperation, should involve a wider diversity of players, such as civil society or private stakeholders. Cao reinforces the view that non-state actors from civil society organisations and the private sector should play a more active role in China’s new type of global partnership for development. So far, mostly government departments such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Commerce have dominated China’s development agenda.

In sum, China needs to overcome a range of challenges if it wants to further develop and participate further in global development. In order to overcome such challenges, Beijing will need to develop and strengthen different cooperation platforms. These could range from “platforms with Chinese characteristics” such as the BRI Fund, or platforms connected to the United Nations process, such as the platforms of the WTO, or the G77 promoting south-south cooperation.[29]



Kata Isenring-Szabó

As a founding member of the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2006 and party to more than 20 international human rights conventions and protocols, China regards its UNHRC membership as a sign of greater involvement in international affairs. There is no doubt that China’s perspective on the subject of human rights differs from the Western perspective and is often contested. This is reflected both in the country’s activity at the UN and in Chinese scholars’ own writings.

Having been re-elected to the UNHRC for the third time by the UN General Assembly (UNGA), China increasingly uses the intergovernmental body to strengthen its own agenda-setting power as well as that of developing countries. Chinese scholars Liu Huawen and Sun Meng welcome the institutional reforms the UN has introduced over time and the mainstreaming of human rights. However, they are both convinced that the deeply rooted political and ideological differences between UNHRC members will burden the future development of the institution.

Intensifying participation throughout history


“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, endowed with reason and conscience, and should be treated in the spirit of brotherhood.”

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Liu Huawen, secretary-general of the Center for Human Rights Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), notes that from its earliest days Chinese scholars have been contributing to international human rights legislation. For example, the word “conscience” in the above quote from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came from Chinese representative Zhang Pengchun, who based his proposal on Confucian values.

China maintained its proactive stance over the years and obtained member status at the Human Rights Commission at the UN Economic and Social Council in 1984. Since then, China has continually delegated human rights experts to the Human Rights Commission.[30]

China welcomed the establishment of the Human Rights Council in 2006, as it came after a period of time in which its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights, had “lost its credibility” among developing nations, as Liu puts it, “as it only discussed human rights issues in developing countries and never in western European or northern American countries”. Although the resolution which established the UNHRC passed with an overwhelming majority, the fact that the United States and Israel voted against it, and that Venezuela, Iran, and Belarus abstained, was a sign that political differences did not disappear with the creation of the new institution.[31]

Constructing a “community of common destiny”

Despite existing political and ideological differences between members, China constantly looks for ways to contribute to the reform of the international system of human rights management. By doing so, the country is “breaking the Western monopoly of discourse in human rights issues” and “promotes a more just and fair international human rights system” – so says Ma Zhaoxu, permanent representative of China to the United Nations in Geneva in an interview with the People’s Daily.[32]

Adopting resolution 35/21 in June 2017 was a milestone on this path: for the first time in the history of the UNHRC the resolution was initiated by China. Moreover, as Ma Zhaoxu points out, the resolution (named “Contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights”), “truly reflects General Secretary Xi Jinping’s policy of Constructing a community of human destiny and at the same time, it contributes to the reform of the global governance system.” With the help of resolution 35/21, China put forward a series of initiatives that focus on poverty reduction, reflecting the interests and aspirations of many developing countries, says Ma.[33]

Welcoming NGOs?

Sun Meng, associate professor at the Institute for Human Rights, China University of Political Science and Law, writes that non-governmental organisations have an important bridging role in countries and territories where the UN cannot supervise due to lack of access. “By coordinating the interests of all parties, NGOs can further the supervisory role of UN human rights mechanisms and thus gradually promote the development of human rights”.[34]

Liu argues that NGOs have an important role in promoting transparency and democracy in the practice of international organisations and international law. The reality, however, is that the voice of NGOs has become “amplified”, in Liu’s view, mostly due to the development of communications technology, modern transport, and the widespread use of the internet. This has greatly promoted the exposure of human rights issues. Liu welcomes the fact that NGOs actively promote and popularise UN human rights treaties, promote the implementation of human rights conventions, and directly participate in UN human rights work and activities. In his view, the activities of the NGO in the international arena empower the United Nations human rights mechanisms and create a “tremendous boost to the international human rights movement”. The author believes that this development can cover the shortcomings of international human rights law implementation. Nevertheless, he notes that while maintaining a positive attitude towards the rise and participation of non-governmental organisations, China should also be cautious about the complexity of their role.

Liu points out that the activities of NGOs in their home countries and abroad are intertwined and thus pose a jurisdictional problem. The CASS expert argues that, on the one hand, the unprecedented degree of international attention and participation in human rights issues has played a positive role in the development of the UN and its expansion. On the other hand, due to the uneven development of the world, not every stakeholder has the same chance to participate.

“Developed countries have the advantages of capital, language and international exchange capabilities. Their non-governmental organisations are obviously more active than those in developing countries, leading to imbalances in the representation of non-governmental organisations in the United Nations.”[35]

Liu also criticises NGOs that ignore international law during their actions and confuse domestic and international human rights activism.

Liu also mentions that during the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (which started in 2012), there has been a new development in the form of NGOs from China participating. [36]

According to United Nations regulations, NGOs can organise “side events” during deliberations to introduce and discuss the human rights situation in the countries concerned.

During this time, representatives of Chinese NGOs such as the All-China Women’s Federation, the China Society for Human Rights Studies, and the China International Exchange Association appeared among others at the Palace of Nations in Geneva and organised three side events around the themes of “Promotion of Women’s Rights in China”, “Human Rights in China: An Integrated Approach”, and “China’s Non-Governmental Organisations and Human Rights”. Speakers included NGO employees, Chinese human rights experts, and foreign China-watchers. Liu also attended the side event and witnessed personally how Chinese NGOs briefed the international community on specific issues and development paths in the field of human rights in China. Considering that the participation of NGOs in the field of human rights in Western countries is self-evident, Liu regards the work of Chinese NGOs as increasingly significant – especially their activities abroad and their cooperation with the UN.[37]

Constructive criticism

Liu suggests that the UN needs to “consolidate its achievements in the field of human rights”. Even though the current human rights approach of the UN is encouraging, there is the danger of over-politicisation and radicalisation. Despite the fact that the basic legal principles required by the UN Human Rights Council are non-political, non-confrontational and non-selective, ideological disagreements and influence-seeking between member states will continue to exist for a long time to come and will require the UN and its member states to deal with them properly.[38]

Sun rejoices that the formerly fragmented nature of the UN human rights mechanisms has clearly changed for the better since the end of the 20th century, especially after mainstreaming human rights became imperative in the UN and overall oversight of UN human rights mechanisms was significantly strengthened. At the same time, she also argues that human rights mechanisms are plagued by problems of politicisation, lack of resources, and institutional design flaws.[39]

Specifically, Sun finds that there is a huge gap between available resources and required functions, meaning there is a lack of both human rights experts and administrators as well as financial resources. She finds the lack of funding especially worrying as it “shows the lack of political will on the part of the member states”. She warns: “if the financial issue cannot be solved effectively, it endangers the survival of the entire UN human rights mechanism”. Moreover, Sun also identifies overlapping functions and the lack of follow-up operations as a problem. The above-mentioned shortcomings have made the UN human rights mechanism, which was already critically resource-hungry, even more overwhelming and have imposed a heavy workload on the member states.[40]

Sun recalls that the UN has successfully coped with similar problems in the past by integrating its human rights mechanisms with other UN agencies and external agencies as well as non-governmental organisations, ​​mainstreaming human rights, and strengthening international human rights supervision through multilateral cooperation. Indeed, measures like this enable the UN to “create a sound international image of human rights.”[41]


The Chinese have long been obsessed with strategic culture, power balances and geopolitical shifts. Academic institutions, think-tanks, journals and web-based debates are growing in number and quality, giving China’s foreign policy breadth and depth.

China Analysis introduces European audiences to these debates inside China’s expert and think-tank world and helps the European policy community understand how China’s leadership thinks about domestic and foreign policy issues.

While freedom of expression and information remain restricted in China’s media, these published sources and debates provide an important way of understanding emerging trends within China. Each issue of China Analysis focuses on a specific theme and draws mainly on Chinese mainland sources. However, it also monitors content in Chinese-language publications from Hong Kong and Taiwan, which occasionally include news and analysis that is not published in the mainland and reflects the diversity of Chinese thinking.

About the authors

François Godement is director of the Asia & China programme and a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. He is also a non-resident senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, and an outside consultant for the Policy Planning Staff of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He can be reached at francois.godement@ecfr.eu.

Marc Julienne is a PhD candidate at INALCO, as well as a research fellow with the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) in Paris. His research focuses on China’s security and defence policy, especially on counter-terrorism strategies. He can be reached at m.julienne@frstrategie.org.

Moritz Rudolf is founder of Eurasia Bridges and is currently pursuing his PhD in international law. His dissertation focuses on how China shapes the international legal order. He can be reached at moritz.rudolf@eurasia-bridges.com.

Kata Isenring-Szabó is a China-observer with a special interest in political and business cooperation between China and Europe. She currently holds two researcher positions. At the Center for Comparative and International Studies of ETH Zurich, she analyses Hungarian parliamentary debates within the ‘Constructing Europe’s borders: Membership Discourses and European Integration’ project, which is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Kata holds another research position, at the Swiss Chinese Case Study Center, University of Zurich, where she is currently working on a Swiss-Chinese business case study collection. She can be reached at kata.szabo@eup.gess.ethz.ch.

Marie-Helene Schwoob is an agronomist and political scientist (PhD) and research fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (Iddri). Her main research areas focus on the transformation of agriculture and food systems in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals – systems which she has investigated in various developed and developing countries. She is involved in projects conducted in partnership with research centres such as Wageningen University and under the aegis of UN-SDSN and the European Commission. Marie-Hélène was previously responsible for implementing the Energy-Environment programme at the Asia Centre think-tank, before joining Iddri in 2011 to contribute to research on agriculture and food, in parallel with a doctorate at CERI (Sciences Po Paris) on Chinese agricultural modernisation (thesis defended in 2015). In addition to her research activities, Marie-Hélène also teaches at Sciences Po Paris, Paris Dauphine University, and Paris Sud University, and is a member of the Demeter editorial board. She can be reached at marie.schwoob@sciencespo.fr.

Angela Stanzel is editor of China Analysis and a senior policy fellow on the Asia and China Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations. Before joining ECFR, she worked for the BMW Foundation and the International Affairs Office of the Koerber Foundation in Berlin. Prior to that, Angela worked in Brussels for the German Marshall Fund of the United States (Asia Programme) and in Beijing at the German Embassy (cultural section). Her research work focuses on the foreign and security policy of east Asia and south Asia. You can reach her at angela.stanzel@ecfr.eu.


[1] Wang Wenfeng (ed.), “The Future of the UN Reform and Global Governance” (联合国改革与全球治理的未来), http://www.cicir.ac.cn/chinese/Article_6822.html. Wang Wenfeng is a senior researcher at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. He is also the editor of “Contemporary International Relations”. Authors of the study include: Wang Honggang, the director of the Institute of World Politics; researcher Sun Ru; associate professor Fu Yu; assistant researcher Yao Kun; and researcher Fang Hua.

[2] Chen Xulong, “A Way Forward for the UN Reform” (联合国改革的出路), http://www.ciis.org.cn/chinese/2015-10/28/content_8331768.htm. Chen Xulong is director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS).

[3] Li Dongyan, “Development stages of pushing for UN Reform” (时代发展推动联合国改革), Chinese Journal of Social Science No 810, 18 September 2015, available at http://www.cass.cn/xueshuchengguo/guojiyanjiuxuebu/201509/t20150918_2372478.html. Li is a global governance research fellow at the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

[4] Mao Ruipeng, “Debate and Group Reorganisation – Security Council Reform at the Intergovernmental Negotiation Stage” (争论焦点和集团重组政府间谈判阶段的安理会改革), International Outlook, 2017, Issue 1, available at http://www.siis.org.cn/UploadFiles/file/20170324/201701006%20毛瑞鹏.pdf. Mao is an associate professor at the School of Law at the Shanghai University of International Business and Economics.

[5] In September 1992, India and 35 other states suggested putting UNSC reform on the agenda of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and joined Japan and Germany in submitting a draft resolution calling for the consideration of this issue in there (adopted on 11 December 1992, A/RES/47/62). This led to the establishment of a working group in 1993 (3 December 1993, A/RES/48/26). In 1997, the “Razali Reform Paper” proposed the expansion of the UNSC by nine to 24 seats (five permanent, including two for developed and three for developing countries and four non-permanent members with two-year terms). Together with Italy, developing countries objected strongly and on 23 November 1998 they put forward a resolution which succeeded in stalling the debate (A/RES/53/30).

[6] The G4 formally submitted a draft framework resolution on the reform of the UNSC on 6 July 2005 (A/59/L.64) and proposed an expansion of the UN Security Council to include six new permanent (with limited veto power) and four non-permanent members. In opposition to this, the UfC Group, including countries like Italy, South Korea, and Pakistan, jointly submitted a draft resolution on to the UNGA calling for an addition of 10 non-permanent members on two-year terms (A/59/L.68). The African Union (AU) agreed to the “Ezulwini Consensus” as a further competing proposal, calling for: two permanent seats for African states selected by the AU with full veto power. None of the proposals was able to gain the necessary support in the UNGA.

[7] Zhang Guihong, “Where is the path to UN reform?” (联合国改革,路在何方?), Global Times, 20 September 2017, available at http://opinion.huanqiu.com/hqpl/2017-09/11264228.html. Zhang Guihong is the director of the UN Research Center of Fudan University.

[8] Li Dongyan, “UN and the Maintenance of International Peace and Security” (联合国与国际和平与安全的维护), World Economics and Politics, April 2015, (hereafter, Li, “UN and the Maintenance of International Peace and Security”).

[9] UN Peacekeeping, “Contributors to UN Peacekeeping Operations by Country and Post”, 31 January 2018.

[10] “China is Here for Peace, Remarks by H.E. Xi Jinping President of the People’s Republic of China At the United Nations Peacekeeping Summit”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, 28 September 2015, available at http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjdt_665385/zyjh_665391/t1305410.shtml.

[11] “Ministry of Public Security Peacekeeping Standing Police Force set up” (公安部常备维和警队挂牌成立), Ministry of Public Security, 23 December 2016.

[12] “Chinese troops 8,000-strong UN Peacekeeping Standing Force registration” (中国军队完成人规模联合国维和待命部队注册), Ministry of National Defence of the PRC, 28 September 2017.

[13] “China’s representative elaborated China’s position on the issue of the UN Peacekeeping Police” (中国代表阐述中国关于联合国维和警察问题立场), Xinhua, 6 November 2017 (hereafter, “China’s representative elaborated China’s position on the issue of the UN Peacekeeping Police).

[14] “China’s representative elaborated China’s position on the issue of the UN Peacekeeping Police”.

[15] “Statement by Ambassador Li Baodong to the Security Council Public Debate on the Issue of Security and Development” (李保东大使在安全与发展的关联问题安理会公开辩论会上的发言), Permanent Mission of the PRC to the UN, 11 February 2011.

[16] “Wang Yi chairs the Security Council public debate on the maintenance of international peace and security” (王毅主持安理会维护国际和平与安全公开辩论会), Permanent Mission of the PRC to the UN, 23 February 2015.

[17] Li, “UN and the Maintenance of International Peace and Security”.

[18] Sheng Hongsheng, “Study on the Legal issues of China’s participation to Regional Peacekeeping Operations” (中>国参与区域维和行动的法律问题研究), Jiangxi Social Sciences, October 2017, (hereafter, Sheng, “Study on the Legal issues of China’s participation to Regional Peacekeeping Operations””).

[19] Sheng, “Study on the Legal issues of China’s participation to Regional Peacekeeping Operations”.

[20] “South-south cooperation” is the term generally applied by Chinese scholars to cooperation with “non-Western” countries.

[21] Cui Wenjian, “The 2030 Agenda for Development and China’s south-south cooperation" (年可持续发展议程与中国的南南合作), SIIS, Edition No. 1, 2016.

[22] Xi Qiayuan and Sun Jingying, “The evolution of the UN’s Agenda for Development and China’s participation" (联合国发展议程演进与中国的参与 ), CASS, Edition No. 4, February 2015.

[23] Cao Jiahan, “The “One Belt One Road” Initiative and the 2030 Agenda for Development: linking the two agendas  (一带一路倡议与年可持续发展议程的对接), SIIS, 13 March 2016, available at http://www.siis.org.cn/Research/Info/651.

[24] Xi Qiayuan and Sun Jingying, “The evolution of the UN’s Agenda for Development and China’s participation" (联合国发展议程演进与中国的参与 ), CASS, Edition No. 4, February 2015.

[25] Cui Wenjian, “The 2030 Agenda for Development and China’s south-south cooperation" (年可持续发展议程与中国的南南合作), SIIS, Edition No. 1, 2016.

[26] Cui Wenjian, “The 2030 Agenda for Development and China’s south-south cooperation" (年可持续发展议程与中国的南南合作), SIIS, Edition No. 1, 2016.

[27] Cao Jiahan, “The “One Belt One Road” Initiative and the 2030 Agenda for Development: linking the two agendas (一带一路倡议与年可持续发展议程的对接), SIIS, 13 March 2016, available at http://www.siis.org.cn/Research/Info/651.

[28] Cao Jiahan, “The “One Belt One Road” Initiative and the 2030 Agenda for Development: linking the two agendas (一带一路倡议与年可持续发展议程的对接), SIIS, 13 March 2016, available at http://www.siis.org.cn/Research/Info/651.

[29] Cao Jiahan, “The “One Belt One Road” Initiative and the 2030 Agenda for Development: linking the two agendas (一带一路倡议与年可持续发展议程的对接), SIIS, 13 March 2016, available at http://www.siis.org.cn/Research/Info/651.

[30] Liu Huawen (2015), “The international protection of the UN and human rights ” (联合国与人权的国际倮护世界经济与政治) (4), 23-42, (hereafter, Liu “The international protection of the UN and human rights”).

[31] Liu, “The international protection of the UN and human rights”.

[32] Li Yongqun (2017), “Providing a Chinese programme for global human rights governance” (为全球人权治理提供中国方案), Renmin Ribao, 24 June 2017 http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2017-06/24/nw.D110000renmrb_20170624_2-11.htm, (hereafter, Yongqun, “Providing a Chinese programme for global human rights governance”).

[33] Yongqun, “Providing a Chinese programme for global human rights governance”.

[34] Sun Meng (2017), “Views on the integration of UN human rights mechanisms” (论联合国人权机制的整合). In: World Economy and Politics (世界经济与政治) (7). 118-132, (hereafter, Sun, “Views on the integration of UN human rights mechanisms”).

[35] Liu, “The international protection of the UN and human rights”.

[36] During the Universal Periodic Review, human rights records of all UN member states are reviewed under the auspices of the Human Rights Council. This unique process aims to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations if needed.

[37] Liu, “The international protection of the UN and human rights”.

[38] Liu, “The international protection of the UN and human rights”.

[39] Sun, “Views on the integration of UN human rights mechanisms”.

[40] Sun, “Views on the integration of UN human rights mechanisms”.

[41] Sun, “Views on the integration of UN human rights mechanisms”.

Alone in the desert? How France can lead Europe in the Middle East


Alone in the desert? How France can lead Europe in the Middle East

Policy Brief

Manuel Lafont Rapnouil 
10th April, 2018

John Spooner via Flickr (cropped) - CC by NC 2.0


The Middle East is a key stage for France’s foreign policy, one where it bids to prove its credentials as an international power, punching above its weight and demonstrating the independence that is so important to the French sense of place in the world.In this context, the Arab uprisings and their subsequent upheavals have been a particular challenge, to such an extent that France attempted to recalibrate its strategy. Despite this, France soon settled back into its traditional realism by adopting an approach based on “reassurance”.Under this approach, France sought to foster stability by reassuring its partners against their perceived anxiety in the face of domestic instability, regional changes, and international uncertainties. But “reassurance” did not deliver and France still faces key challenges in the region.France also feels increasingly ‘alone in the desert’, with little European support. Even with armed conflicts, terrorism, and migration flows across the region, France has failed to rally its European partners around strategic purpose.Emmanuel Macron’s ardent pro-Europeanism presents an opportunity for France, and for Europe. But France must move on from its “reassurance” approach and better embed its leadership in concerted European cooperation.


A renewed French strategy needs to

reinforce its strategic approach to securitywalk the walk on averting regional polarisationuse principles consistentlytackle the root causes of the current turmoilsupport civil society more directly

A more consistent European approach should

support more political discussion on the Middle East within the EUmake the most of European diplomatic capacitypush for strategic coherencemake good use of Germany’s new foreign policy posturepreserve and consolidate Tunisia’s successlead the revision of the EU’s southern neighbourhood policy


The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region holds a special place not only in France’s foreign policy, but also in its society, politics, history, and culture.[1]This was evident in the 2017 presidential campaign, when the debate about the region was sharply polarised. Since his eventual victory, Emmanuel Macron has only confirmed this, giving a central role to the Middle East in both his early foreign policy speeches and his specific initiatives.

The ongoing, intertwined, nature of the relationship was lately further confirmed by Macron’s impromptu trip to Saudi Arabia to find a solution to the crisis sparked by the Lebanese prime minister’s resignation in Riyadh. But the Middle East has shaped as well as supported France’s international ambition for over 200 years. And, in turn, France has been continuously active in the region. As a consequence, it has strong political ties, close economic relations, and a major military presence throughout the MENA region.

At times, France’s relationship with powers in the region has been intensely close. It is no surprise, then, that the challenge that the Middle East always presented to France’s ambitions has only heightened since the Arab uprisings. France is deeply concerned at the instability in the region, and not only when it  spills over. As a consequence, since 2011 France has struggled to adjust its traditionally realist approach to the region and its problems.

In particular, despite an initial turn during the late phase of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency and the early part of François Hollande’s term, France has mostly sought to bolster Middle Eastern governments with “reassurance”: providing its partners with reassuring responses to what it perceived as their anxiety in the face of domestic instability, changes in the regional balance of power, and international uncertainties. Cooperation on security, especially against the backdrop of severe terror attacks on French soil, proved a key ingredient cementing the relationship still further.

But these dynamics have failed to gain France the influence and even the kind of stability that it aims for. The unpredictable local dynamics, in conjunction with Russia’s return to big power politics in the region and American disengagement (now complicated by the destabilising Trump factor), have challenged France’s pursuit of its interests.

Due to its ambition to have a significant role in the region, France has maintained its traditional insistence on leading in Europe itself when dealing with Middle East matters. Doing so has the added benefit of reinforcing its leverage. But France’s European partners remain, for the most part, unwilling to follow its lead. Even in recent years, when massive refugee flows and terrorist attacks have amply demonstrated how instability in the region threatens all of Europe, France has often felt alone in the Middle East.

Still, Europe would be foolish to rely upon outside powers – whether a self-absorbed United States or a more assertive Russia – to secure its interests in the MENA region. Rather, Europeans have to take responsibility for their own ability to pursue their interests, project their principles in the region, and protect their own homeland. France, in turn, must find a better way, beyond the pressure of events, to find a common direction and lead on that renewed basis. The truth is that if other Europeans do not follow it, this is at least in part the result of a French unwillingness to Europeanise its Middle East policy.

The election of Macron and his clear ambition – on behalf of both France and Europe – create an opportunity for Paris to take the lead in forging a European strategy. But Macron will seize this opportunity only if he can understand that France has failed in this endeavour partly because it allows itself to bypass the European level when convenient. The president’s first steps have already opened a debate about how ‘European’ his policies really are, and how much renewal he is bringing to French policy.[2] In this regard, it is still not clear how much substance there is to Macron’s effort to distance himself from his predecessors, and how differently he will address the regional instability and threats to security that remain his key priority.

Accordingly, this paper examines France’s approach to the Middle East and North Africa. It takes a look at what drives its behaviour in the region and assesses why this current realist approach has failed in recent years. It also explores the reasons other Europeans have largely left France ‘alone in the desert’. Finally, it offers recommendations on how France can encourage Europeans to unite around a common approach to promoting stability in the region and, by extension, to protecting their own interests.


What is the reassurance approach?

France’s policy in the MENA goes back several hundred years, with some scholars dating it to the 16thcentury. But its postwar features took shape in the wake of the Suez crisis and the Algerian War, when Charles De Gaulle sought to restore France’s role and influence with the newly independent Arab countries, from a situation when, in 1962 (at the end of the Algerian War) France had diplomatic ties with almost no Arab states. What subsequently became known as the “Arab policy” has since attained mythical status in French foreign policy.

The reality is that France never held a homogenous policy with all Arab states and it also included Iran, Israel or the Kurds as key interlocutors in many instances. This policy evolved over time too, incorporating a clearer commercial slant in the 1970s, even before the 1973 oil shock, and a stronger multilateral tone from the end of that decade. Still, recurring patterns are indisputable in France’s realist approach to the MENA region, especially in terms of methods: placing particular importance on personal relations at the level of head of state; a paternalistic approach to regional partners; explicit pride in maintaining “dialogue with all” stakeholders; a certain complacency in working with authoritarian regimes; and an ambiguous relationship with the political role of religions, where France’s history of secularism explains its difficulty with political Islam in particular yet coexists with a strong specific concern over the defence of Christian minorities.[3]



Since 1978: Lebanon, through the UN (UN Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL)

1982-1984: Lebanon, through the ad hoc Multinational Force (MNF)

1990-1991: Kuwait and Iraq, through a US-led coalition (Operation Desert Storm)

Since 1991: Western Sahara, through the UN (UN Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara, MINURSO)

1991-1998: Iraq, through an ad hoc US-FR-UK coalition (Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch)

Since 2009: United Arab Emirates, through two permanent military bases (navy and air force)

2011: Libya, through NATO (Operation Unified Protector)

Since 2014: Iraq, through the US-led coalition against IS

Since 2015: Libya, through special forces

Since 2015: Syria, through the US-led coalition against IS

Since 2015: Mediterranean Sea, through the EU (operation EUNAVFOR Sophia)

But, more importantly, the key to understanding France’s foreign policy on the Middle East is that the country sees the region first and foremost as a stage for foreign policy and great power politics – namely, an opportunity for France to punch above its weight. In this view, this is a place where it can display and take advantage of its much-valued (to France) “independence”, ie. its freedom of manoeuvre.

The “Arab Springs” as a challenge to French MENA policy

This realist strategy faced a major challenge with the advent of the Arab uprisings, at that time described as the “Arab Spring”, and then even further with the new and unstable regional environment that ensued. A late move to support revolutionary governments and political movements lasted for only a short period, and eventually a reassurance approach has come to dominate the French response to this challenge. This approach represents the newest form of France’s long-term realist positioning in the region.

The onset of the Arab uprisings shook France’s traditional approach to its core, exposing long-standing, previously quietly ignored, tensions between its hard-headed willingness to dealing with states as they are and the need to recognise that civil society matters, even for regional security.

This is not just about the disappearance of the Middle East as France knew it. Following the changes wrought by the Arab uprisings, there emerged a much more threatening environment that demanded dramatic readjustments.  For example, although France initially stuck with the regime in Tunisia, it belatedly rallied behind the revolution after Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fell. Elsewhere, Sarkozy had opened his term with high-profile rapprochements with Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, but then moved to help overthrow the former and actively supported a transition that aimed to push the latter out of power.[4]

These sudden changes appeared to call for a wholesale transformation of French policy on the region. Alain Juppé signalled this in 2011 in a major foreign policy speech kicking off his second stint as foreign minister, making clear that France had previously succumbed to “complacency” about working with authoritarian regimes and needed to do more to support the democratic and economic aspirations in the region.[5]

Reassurance as France’s response

And yet, eventually, France’s preference for its realist tradition prevailed. This was not just because Juppé was replaced (by Laurent Fabius) after the May 2012 presidential election. Nor was it only because, with lofty ambitions undermined by limited means, France eventually felt it needed to maintain effective relations with the region’s governments. Instead, the collapse of most of the Arab uprisings into either chaos or authoritarianism created a dire situation in the region, generating a sense of crisis among French officials.[6]

This was not due only to the conflicts as such – although these quickly proved a legitimate source of concern. It was also due to less visible aspects of a deep and broad regional turmoil, with polarisation along geopolitical, ideological, sectarian, and ethnic faultlines dividing the MENA region. There was even a sense that the role and survival of states – challenged in their ability to fulfil their population’s expectations, including meeting basic needs – were at stake. In Iraq, in Libya, in Lebanon, in Tunisia and in other places, France saw a “systematic attempt to destroy states”.[7]

As a consequence, France’s eventual priority was not going to be governance and democratisation, as suggested by Juppé’s speech. Rather, its goal quickly became not just the avoidance of further destabilisation in the region, but also reassuring governments there that France would factor their preoccupation with stabilisation in its own decisions. From a controversial revision of the bilateral agreement on judiciary cooperation with Morocco, to put an end to bilateral tensions after a judge briefly interviewed the head of Rabat’s counter-intelligence, to the close relationship with Saudi Arabia on major issues such as Syria, Iran, Egypt, and Lebanon, France has more than often taken its partners’ concerns on board.[8]

Of course, French reassurance has not always been consistent. Like other actors, events have often taken France by surprise, inspiring its governments to various flights of fancy. For instance, Hollande and Fabius’ France initially had tough reactions against the military seizure of power in Egypt in July 2013, before they  became one of the closest partners of the new Sisi government the very next month. But overall, France followed such an approach in many situations, especially when security concerns were at stake.

For instance, France’s firm negotiating position on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme, finalised in July 2015, stemmed from its traditional concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation.[9] But it also came out of the need for the agreement to be robust enough to tackle (at least in part) the concerns of key regional powers such as Israel and Saudi Arabia – which, at the time, worried that the US administration was ready to yield to Iran.

The same regional concerns informed France’s fight against the Islamic State group (IS) – for instance, its strong reluctance on (ill-fated) US attempts to cut a deal with Russia in Syria at the end of the Obama administration, attempts seen as increasing concerns throughout Syria’s oppositions and Sunni neighbours, that in turn swelled the jihadists’ ranks and regional complacency towards these.

Even Syria, on which Sarkozy adopted an early aggressive position, that Hollande then continued, fits with this reassurance approach. Not just as the exception that proves the rule, as the saying goes. But more importantly because French officials saw Syria as an exceptional crisis, calling for an exceptional policy: the absence of an international response to the Syrian government’s horrific violence was seen as contributing to the rise of extremist groups (and to the migration crisis), and as a strong incentive to regional players to step in themselves, feeding further the rise of regional tensions, all trends that eventually threatened Europe.


Three types of reassurance

One limit on the notion of a consistent MENA policy is that the region is too broad and diverse for this. But it is not too difficult to distinguish between three sub-regions where France has followed distinct but still converging strategic paths (see map).

The Maghreb

France has close and dense ties with the countries of the Maghreb, which include strong economic and migration elements. Due to this degree of interdependence, some commentators suggest the Maghreb should be France’s priority in the MENA.[10]However, the fact is that the current trend is one of normalisation, with France’s centrality slowly eroding if only because of the waning of the ‘decolonisation generations’, as well as of the rise of other trade partners, including non-Western ones, and also declining French resources invested in the region. Yet, despite the (many) complications still arising from the post-colonial context, and the continuing mistrust between Algeria and Morocco, France remains a prominent power in the Maghreb.[11] The Arab uprisings turned Tunisia and Libya upside down, but mostly bypassed Algeria and Morrocco. In this context, France has favoured reform on occasion. But it has mostly abstained from applying pressure that could further regional instability, and reassured its interlocutors on key tenets of their relations, as demonstrated by France’s unwavering support for Morocco on the Western Sahara.[12] France has clearly prioritised the enhancement of its security cooperation, mostly at the bilateral level (for instance on counter-terrorist intelligence, which has proven key in crucial instances).[13]This cooperation also exists at the regional level: in Mali, where it has had a military presence since January 2013 to fight terrorist groups, France is working closely with both Algieria (where the inter-Malian peace agreement was negotiated in 2015) and Morocco, which holds significant influence in the region too).

The Levant

In the Levant, existing historical ties are not as decisive as they are in the Maghreb. Still, France usually positions itself as a power able and willing to manoeuvre autonomously if need be, including vis-à-vis the US – as shown by the consistent French nuances on the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) and France’s support for Lebanon’s stability. It maintains a traditional balancing act between the various local, regional, and international actors in order to wield political influence and leverage. Since the Arab uprisings, France’s aggressive stance on Syria may have stood out as stepping away from this balancing act. But, as explained above, this has mostly been an exception meant to preserve broader stability. France has more often tried to balance its usual quest for settling regional conflicts or at least avoid further destabilisation, such as in its support in shielding Lebanon from the flames of the Syrian conflagration, with maintaining good relations with incumbent governments. In particular, France has strongly backed the so-called Baabda declaration (2012) that aims to rally Lebanese parties around a common position of disassociation from and non-interference in external conflicts and led the intenational support to Lebanon, as exemplified by the recent Cedre conference held in Paris.

The Persian Gulf

France has fewer historical ties to the Gulf than to other parts of the MENA region. But since shifting its strategic focus from Iraq to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) powers after the first Gulf war, France has increased its political, military, economic, and cultural investments in these relations, especially those with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. This is despite the fact that it has reaped less benefit from them than press reports about arms sales seem to suggest (see below). Since 2011, France has continued to step up its game, including by trying to take advantage of the tensions between the Gulf powers and the Obama administration, be it on Syria or on Iran – with some success, as shown by Hollande being the first foreign leader invited to a GCC summit, in May 2015.


What drives the reassurance approach – and why it has failed France

Overall, France’s policy under the reassurance approach has remained firmly ‘realist’. The country has on occasion shown its ability to place other factors above its usual concern for maintaining the status quo. But the story of the Arab uprisings is that France inclines towards a preference for stability, with the added benefit, as it perceives it, of maintaining familiar intergovernmental relations. The core of French policy, with only occasional deviation, is to focus on reassuring government partners in the region that their positions of power are not open to challenge. Given France’s often high profile on key issues affecting the region, the drivers behind its approach often find themselves under scrutiny.

France’s traditional drivers and how they play under reassurance

National security concerns, both at home and abroad, are the key driver of French policy in the Middle East. Since the end of the cold war, if not earlier, French governments have consistently identified the MENA region as a major security concern, on issues ranging from armed conflict to non-proliferation to terrorism.[14]For this reason, although its image in the region is often that of a peace-monger, due to its opposition to the war against Iraq in 2003, France has often supported, participated in, and even led military action in the region. In 2017, one-third of French forces engaged in overseas operation were deployed in the MENA region (see map). [15] And the role of the French military is significant enough for the defence minister to sometimes play a key role beyond defence cooperation and arms sales: under Hollande, Jean-Yves Le Drian rather than Fabius was often the key interlocutor with Egypt and Gulf countries, including on regional crises and the fight against terrorism.

That said, France is traditionally more at ease when military action fits within a broader political strategy. For instance, Hollande refused to join strikes against IS in Iraq until prime minister Nouri al-Maliki was replaced (by Haider al-Abadi), as part of his commitment towards a more inclusive political process in Baghdad. And since the extension of these strikes to Syrian territory, France has consistently been more worried about post-IS stabilisation plans both in Iraq and in Syria, including their political dimension, than the US has been.

Notwithstanding this, latterly terrorism has affected the France’s traditional approach to the use of force. For instance, France was long reluctant to strike IS in Syria, for political reasons more than legal ones. [16] But the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris eventually changed the government’s mind. At the end of Hollande’s term, French politics was also divided on Libya, with sharply divergent views on the merits of supporting the independent military effort led by General Khalifa Haftar at the risk of jeopardising United Nations-led mediation there.[17] More broadly, the terrorist threat has raised the stakes in counter-terrorist cooperation (with the police, intelligence agencies, and the judiciary) – a reality only reinforced with the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters.

Observers also often seek to explain France’s approach in the Middle East through the prism of mercantilism – a desire to secure lucrative export contracts. This impression only grew following renewed efforts of “economic diplomacy” under Hollande and Fabius and, more importantly, the winning of some major contracts, especially in the military area (such as the sale of Rafale jets to Egypt and Qatar, and Egypt’s repurchase of two Mistral vessels using Saudi money). And indeed, officials admit that the recent reassurance approach is conducive to securing economic “dividends” from the region. Even if they were not “fooled by the fact that partners like Riyadh are using France to express discontent with Washington”, they saw “no reason not to take advantage of it”.[18] But policy is not devised only or even mostly for economic purposes. Trade interests rarely outweigh foreign policy goals. On the last steps towards the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, for instance, France’s hardline position went against its economic interests, and actually against active lobbying from French companies.[19]

Domestic factors also drive France’s policy in the Middle East. Preventing an “import” of the conflict between Israel and Palestine into French society has been a growing concern contributing to France’s position on the MEPP for several decades.[20]But in the new regional environment, other sensitive topics, such as migration and Islam, have taken on a growing role. Domestic concerns with terrorism, which appeared consistenly among the top concerns within the French public according to polls in the recent period, has also been central in French policymaking. In particular, at the end of Hollande’s term, the January and November 2015 attacks in Paris were instrumental in shifting France’s policy on Syria from Fabius’s “Neither Bashar, nor Daesh” towards Le Drian’s “The threat for France is Daesh. Bashar is his own people’s enemy”.[21]

Finally, France’s policy is sometimes suspected of being driven by a degree of anti-Americanism, a sentiment that some saw emerging again during the most recent presidential campaign.[22] Such a suspicion exists in the US, but also among some of France’s EU partners, and as such it may have obstructed closer foreign policy cohesion within Europe. This may have been the case even more once France adopted its reassurance approach. Indeed, under the Obama administration, French officials pointed to US responsibility in the regional turmoil on various occasions. Fabius argued that US policy was causing “a strategic vaccum […], mainly in the Middle East”.[23] And Hollande himself repeatedly lamented the 2013 US (and UK) decision to forgo airstrikes against Syria after the regime used chemical weapons.[24]

It is true that France’s obsession with foreign policy independence has a lot to do with the MENA region – and actually stems from the 1956 Suez fiasco.[25] But in France, both Sarkozy and Hollande have been accused of being too aligned with the US.[26] The fact is that taking the opposite view to the US is not Paris’s compass. And reassurance does not boil down to reflexive anti-Americanism. Hollande opted for a number of different policy options from Obama’s, both more hawkish (on issues such as Syria and Iran) and more dovish (on the MEPP and Hezbollah) depending on the issues. But US-French cooperation has mostly worked out these difficulties, and both countries have cooperated closely on as central an issue as the fight against IS.[27] France’s reassurance approach meant that, even before Donald Trump entered the White House, it was seeking to work with the Americans wherever possible, while preserving the capacity to operate without them when needed.

How the reassurance approach has failed France

France’s reassurance approach is a strategy meant to secure various French interests under the circumstances in place since the failure of the Arab uprisings. To achieve its goals, France needs to remain a player, and even a leader, in the region, particularly on the various security crises that have erupted across the Middle East. Not only does France have direct interests in the region, in addition it can also leverage the centrality of the Middle East in global affairs to maintain its relatively high diplomatic profile. In that context, reassurance has probably been a reasonable short-term adjustment to the current turmoil. But it does not seem able to meet to France’s ambition.

To begin with, reassurance has brought France little loyalty in the rough and tumble of the Middle East. On Syria, many actors France considered to be its closest interlocutors – especially in the Gulf –quickly sought to accommodate Russia while Paris was holding a hard line, supposedly in their defence. France’s continuing exclusion from key negotiation formats have shown that neither Russia, nor Middle Eastern powers, really see France as an indispensable player.

Threaded through the French preoccupation with reassurance is the paternalistic idea – or perhaps ‘avuncular wishful thinking’ is a better description – that Arab powers need to feel that their status is not being challenged so they can eventually make the right choice. But while Egypt sat on the UN Security Council in 2016 and 2017, it often proved an unreliable partner for France, as demonstrated by its votes at the Council on key issues for France such as the MEPP, Syria, and Libya.

Even on the economic front, reassurance has not really paid off. France’s trade ambitions in the region remain mostly frustrated (see table 1), as illustrated by the fact that contracts announced by the government do not always materialise, by any stretch.[28]France’s traditional trade surplus with the MENA region exists alongside a “relatively modest trading volume”,[29] as well as significant deficits with key partners such as Saudi Arabia, and a weaker trade position overall than that of Germany, Italy, or Spain. In 2016, France recorded its first trade surplus (€348m) with Saudi Arabia since 2010, due to the conjunction of a major Airbus contract and the fall in oil prices. In contrast, 2014 had been the year of the highest trade deficit ever (above €4 billion), and 2015 was among the five worst years since 2002. [30]

A related problem is that reassuring one ally may foster instability elsewhere. The Yemen conflict is a good example of an issue on which France contradicts key principles it has backed in the Syrian war. In Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition continues to pursue a military solution rather than a political one, with little hope of victory, and the war fuels sectarian tensions that have spilled over into the wider region. The coalition’s military operations – and its major violations of international humanitarian law – are clearly a key factor in the constant aggravation of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Finally, the Saudi-led coalition’s focus on fighting the Houthis insurgency has helped al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (a group directly responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015) and IS to grow.

France’s role, although less prominent those of the US and the UK, is at last facing growing questions, whether on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,[31] or on the need for an independent inquiry into international humanitarian law violations.[32] Yemen is not just an example of French inconsistency. It shows how French reassurance for Saudi Arabia eventually risks superseding concerns for the region’s stability. But, for all its support for the peace efforts in Yemen, and even if Le Drian recently made clear he sees the war there as “absurd”, Paris has remained cautious and reluctant to confront Riyadh, sidestepping questions about whether it should end weapons sales.[33] French policymakers argue that, “Yemen is as sensitive for Saudi Arabia as its domestic politics, precisely because it is a domestic issue.”[34]

Recurring doubts in Paris about the Gulf powers’ behaviour in the Sahel region are another case in point, as highlighted by the crisis in Mali. Beyond Qatar’s initial criticisms of the French intervention in December 2012, Paris has not always perceived the influence exerted by several Gulf countries through money and madrassas as stabilising. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s recent decision to join French-led efforts to politically back and financially support the G5-Sahel force is certainly meaningful, but is also likely to have more to do with the extension of the competition between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar for influence in sub-Saharan Africa.

France’s reassurance approach has also seen human rights issues dealt with – at best – through “quiet diplomacy” or private advocacy for some individual cases. It has also often led France to be accommodative, especially in the context of the fight against terrorism. On Jordan, a key ally for France’s actions in Syria, Paris departed from its usual practice when it uttered barely a word in public as Amman lifted its moratorium on capital punishment for terrorists. Quiet diplomacy may have merit in some instances. But in Egypt, for example, the deterioration of the situation has moved well beyond the handful of individual cases French officials say they raise during bilateral meetings – as on Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s most recent visit to France.[35]It now pertains to fundamental policy issues such as media freedom, due process, and the right to non-violent protests. This, as well as the country’s heavy-handed counter-terrorism policy hardly promote long-term stability.[36]

In sum, France has not tackled the strategic challenge identified by Juppé in 2012 on engaging with Islamist opposition forces, and more broadly with the issue of democratisation as a key to long-term stability. As a result, the reassurance approach has only reinforced France’s traditional failure to protect the democratic and secular rights groups that are always among the first victims of political suppression. There is a risk that eventually opponents of such authoritarian regimes will see Islamist groups as their only credible options – and that these groups will perceive violence as their only means of accessing power. Besides, this repulsive alternative is exactly what those authoritarian regimes seek.

Reassurance continued under Macron?

During the 2017 presidential election campaign, Macron tried to distance himself from his predecessors’ policy – making specific criticisms of Sarkozy for the consequences of the intervention in Libya, and of Hollande for his focus on Assad. Referring to De Gaulle as well as François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, Macron hinted that he would adopt a more classical approach to the Middle East.[37]But the single most important argument with which he criticised his predecessors – which was widely shared by the other main candidates in that presidential election, notwithstanding the big differences between them – was that France had ended up marginalised on the Middle Eastern stage. This line of argument was excessive, as befits an electoral campaign. Still, it was substantive enough to ring true, even beyond the issue of Syria.

That said, Macron’s aggiornamento has in practice been quite limited. The president’s first steps on the international stage have underlined that France’s concerns with instability, and its hard-nosed realist policy, will not be overridden easily. The fact that Macron appointed Hollande’s minister of defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, as his minister for foreign affairs speaks volume in this regard. As minister of defence, Le Drian was very well regarded, and for good reason. Still, he is a good example of how French policymakers have a sombre view of the situation in the Middle East (“in crisis, and maybe imperilled”, “sustainable chaos or wider conflagration”, as he put it), and point in particular to the fact that “what we are witnessing today in the Middle East is a systematic attempt to destroy states”.[38]Under Hollande, he certainly leaned in favour of security-driven realism, be it in supporting Haftar in Libya, dealing with Sisi in Egypt, or advocating a focus on IS in Syria.

All in all, there is much continuity between the end of Hollande’s term and the Macron era – such as on the defence of the Iran nuclear deal or the relationship with Egypt. On the MEPP, if Paris confesses a lack of immediate appetite for taking on the mantle of peacemaker, Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital offered the opportunity to show disapproval of Trump’s decision and to confirm that France’s position on the need to find a settlement and the parameters of it was unchanged from Hollande's time.[39] And although Paris’s rhetoric on Syria has certainly changed, it was Hollande who had de facto accepted the need for negotiations with Assad’s government since 2012, and had shifted its priority in the country to fighting IS since 2015 (notably through Le Drian). Indicating further continuity, Macron and his foreign minister still insist that Assad cannot possibly be part of the political solution that Syria needs.[40]

The analysis on which the reassurance approach is based shows through in Macron’s first steps, irrespective of his differences with his predecessors. It is explicit in various statements in which he identifies “failed states” with the “worst risk in that region”,[41] insists that “the fight against Islamist terrorism” is France’s foreign policy’s first priority,[42] and stresses that, while supporting the JCPOA, there is a need to tackle Iran’s policy in the region which, in Macron’s words, “destabilises the region – or at least contributes to sustaining strong elements of tension”.[43]

Of course, looked at through the lens of wanting to appear an important player, this policy helps France to meet its aim of having a stage on which to perform, and partners to work with. Yet, as stressed above, there was already little at the end of Hollande’s term to suggest that this approach is a long-term solution to the questions of stability and security that the French profess concern about.

As the cases of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Yemen all demonstrated, authoritarian rule in the MENA region often builds up tensions that suddenly explode into crises. Moreover, political, demographic, social, and economic trends in the Middle East are converging to make the current status quo unsustainable. The argument in favour of adjusting to these trends, and to the aspirations set forth by the Arab uprisings remains valid, even if it is hard to realise this shift in the short term. As one European diplomat said, “today’s challenge is to foster a status quo that will be more durable and more stable than the previous one”.[44]

From player to leader? Why France fails to lead Europe

The limitations of France’s reassurance approach have not only revealed themselves in the Middle East. Perhaps more importantly, the strategy has also failed to rally France’s European partners, who, among other doubts on the MENA region, wonder if France is really able to move beyond an apparently self-interested reassurance approach.

French and European frustrations

Since before the end of the cold war, France has been a strong advocate of Europe playing a more assertive role in the region. Paris has long sought to give the European Union a distinct place in the MEPP: it was French diplomats who led the drives for the historic 1980 Venice Declaration and the 1999 Berlin Declaration, both of which sanctioned the goal of a Palestinian state. France has also sought to equip the EU with a southern neighbourhood policy, from the 1985 creation of a European commissioner in charge of “Mediterranean policy and north-south relations” to the 1995 establishment of the Barcelona process, intended to foster shared prosperity in the Mediterranean.

But over the last decade France has taken its foot off this particular pedal. It is as if policymakers believed that the investment needed to motivate European partners was not worth the very limited returns. Overall, Paris is glad to take advantage of EU assets – such as development aid, reforms support, migration policy instruments and trade arrangements – that come with few political costs. But it is in much less of a hurry to see the EU play a political role, where French preferences and interests do not accord with others’.[45]

Part of this has to do with the way in which the EU itself has changed over the years. In private, French diplomats complain that successive enlargements have made the EU cumbersome to work with and less interested in the Middle East.[46]Most of the newer EU members are more focused on the eastern neighbourhood and more deferential to the US on the Middle East.

Still, from the French perspective, the situation is not much better with older members. Even before Brexit (see Box), the UK preferred bilateralism in the Middle East when possible, opting for benign neglect the rest of the time.[47]Germany, for all its growing international assertiveness, remains extremely cautious in the Middle East, even more so on security matters. Italy and Spain have often been helpful supporters of French initiatives, but only rarely shown leadership. And when the EU high representative for foreign and security affairs has taken advantage of this situation to take the lead and assert her own positions, such as on taking a more proactive role on the reconstruction in Syria, Paris has often seen them as rather unhelpful.[48]

What now after Brexit?

The Middle East has long been a theatre for traditional Franco-British rivalry, even when both countries were allied, such as during the two world wars. This competition is still visible in the Gulf, as much on trade issues as on defence. But it has not prevented both countries also proving key partners. Issues on which they have found themselves at loggerheads (like Iraq in 2003) should not hide those on which they worked closely (such as Iran since 2003, Libya in 2011, or Syria since then).

A post-Brexit Britain should focus even more on its traditional MENA partners (and confirm its neglect for others, such as in the Maghreb). It should also prioritise short-term goals such as trade and counter-terrorism – at the expense of other traditional interests. The uncertainty – reinforced by Donald Trump’s victory in the United States – lies mostly in whether a post-Brexit United Kingdom will try to insert itself into some sort of collective framework – and what place it will give to the European Union – or play a less internationalist game.

French diplomats already perceived a UK “retreat” since the Iraq catastrophe. In particular, Britain was a limited partner in Brussels, with rare initiatives and scarce contributions to collective action. But at least it did weigh in significantly in the diplomatic process, pushing in favour rather than against the EU paying more attention to its southern neighbourhood. In addition, without the UK it is clear that the Middle East will look on the EU as a diminished interlocutor.

For France, prospects for close cooperation with the UK after Brexit remain strong. Whatever their degree of competition, both countries complement each other well in terms of their respective zones of influence and cooperate well in many key diplomatic formats (United Nations, NATO, G7, Quint, E3+3, and more). Since Brexit, key domains of cooperation such as Iran, Syria, or counter-terrorism have remained areas of broad agreement. But this cooperation may be hampered by the absence of the UK in Brussels decision-making processes, and become more difficult to implement without full British access to the EU toolbox.

European diplomats find it similarly easy to point to French deficiencies. France has too often looked like it had ambition for Europe if, and only if, European partners accepted the French position. To some European partners, France can seem obsessed with initiatives that promote French visibility rather than address substantive issues. Brussels observers also note a French inability to work with and exercise influence in Brussels, particularly within the European External Action Service (EEAS).[49]Even after Macron’s win, it is not clear that France has taken many, or any, great steps to Europeanise its policy and its approach to its EU partners: rather, its solitary mediation between factions in Libya or its continued interest in a big power format for negotiations on Syria point to the usual pattern.[50]

The need for Europe to act geopolitically

Whatever the history, the main problem facing any French bid to lead in the region is that, for all their growing interest in their southern neighbourhood, Europeans continue to lack strategic purpose. The EU acts like something more akin to a service provider whose job is to give economic, technical, or humanitarian assistance to alleviate or solve the problems of the region. It does not assert and defend direct interests so much as values.[51]

As a consequence, the EU tends to position itself as neutral on political issues, in the manner of the United Nations. Indeed, the EU’s success in the Iran nuclear deal seems to have convinced European officials that it is best suited to the role of facilitator between powers rather than as a geopolitical power in its own right. France would not dispute that the EU played a crucial role in that major success, but it thinks that there was room to defend its own vision of a good deal and of regional stability, and actually, France did seize that role.

MEPP provides another demonstration of this dynamic. Europe is the Palestinian Authority’s biggest donor and Israel’s largest trading partner. Yet it has not been able – or more accurately, not been willing – to translate this position into significant influence on settlements, the humanitarian situation, Palestinian reconciliation, or peace process parameters. It even has trouble abiding by its own “differentiation” language which seeks to avoid economic support for the Israeli settlements.[52] As per the words of Pierre Vimont, Europeans “have not given any impression that they are willing to tackle the problem directly”.[53]

Syria is also a good example of Europe’s inability to act geopolitically. Most EU members initially ignored the crisis in Syria (and Iraq). But then its consequences spilled over into Europe in the form of refugees and terrorists. Regardless of what one thinks of France’s policy, Paris’s insistence that the crisis in Syria is of strategic importance for Europe has proven correct. But disagreement among EU members on the appropriate strategy results in them perceiving the EU as, at best, an apolitical donor to the reconstruction of Syria.

France’s vain quest for alternatives

In part because of the EU’s lack of a political approach, French policy in the Middle East has never relied only on Europe. The UN, for instance, plays a big role in France’s strategy, with the Security Council offering better prospects both for French initiatives and for access to US policy (and its dialogue with Russia) – not to mention the importance Middle Eastern countries attribute to France’s permanent seat on the Security Council. Other formats also play a role. In 2011, France used the (then) G8 to set up the “Deauville Partnership” in response to the Arab uprisings. Paris also supports specific formats with EU partners, such as the initial E3 effort on the Iran nuclear crisis and the “5+5 dialogue” which unites western Mediterranean Europe and the Maghreb.[54]

This diversity of formats was traditionally meant to complement and reinforce a strong EU approach. But under Sarkozy, some of these efforts were quite obviously meant to circumvent the EU, such as in 2007 when he initially laid out his vision for the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) without consulting Brussels, Berlin, or Madrid and outside the framework of the EU. This was not just disastrous – most of France’s partners reacted vigorously – but also untenable: after Berlin simply blocked the project until it was revised, the UfM was eventually folded into the EU framework in 2008.

Hollande avoided making such frontal assaults on the EU. But French interest in ad hoc formats with only marginal European participation persisted during his tenure. For instance, France managed to establish an International Support Group on Lebanon in 2013, built around a P5 format and initially without Germany, Italy, or Spain. In 2015, it then advocated in vain for a similar group on the MEPP to replace the sterile Quartet format. The most vocal opponent of the latter seems to have been … the EU high representative for foreign and security affairs: while she seemed mostly focused on protecting her own position in the Quartet, France argued that as long as the EU does not have a single (but only a common) foreign policy, key member states can still legitimately aspire to take part in such formats.

The inescapable need for a more European approach

Over the last decade, the French habit of ignoring the EU persisted even as developments in the region clearly called for an increasingly European approach. Sarkozy and Hollande had many differences in style and substance, but their similarity in pursuing a less European approach in the Middle East produced a similar lack of results. Dire prospects for better cooperation with the US under Trump and the UK’s absorption with Brexit, as well as current challenges in the region (demography, economy, ideological polarisation, geopolitical tensions, failing states), only reinforce the case.

France has to come to terms with the inescapable fact that, to have influence in the Middle East – be it to weigh in on the Syria crisis, uphold the two-state solution, manage the crisis in Libya, or sustain the Iran nuclear deal – it needs the EU and its European partners. It should treat as a precedent, rather than as an exception, the fact that one of its most important recent achievements in the region – leading the way to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal since 2003 – came about through close cooperation not just under the E3 format with Berlin and London, but also with the close involvement of the EU – if only through its sanctions and its institutions (with Javier Solana, Catherine Ashton, and Federica Mogherini successively leading the negotiations).

All in all, France’s key European partners and the EU often carry less political (colonial) baggage than France, and possess relevant instruments to foster exchanges and capacity-building with local civil society. They also have the resources to provide the necessary levels of development and humanitarian assistance, something which is clearly beyond France’s capacity alone – even if Macron succeeds increasing the French budget for such activity from 0.38 percent of GDP. Multilateralising parts of its policy through the EU could also help France develop bolder policy on more sensitive issues such as human rights. In short, France needs the EU’s diplomatic leverage, its international credibility, and its financial resources. As France’s call for European military solidarity after the November 2015 attacks in Paris made clear, even on the military side, going it alone is no longer a sustainable option.

How France can lead Europe in the Middle East

What works, then, is a combination of French leadership embedded in concerted European cooperation. It is this formula that France must seek to reproduce. Strangely enough, the debate during the French presidential election remained focused on narrow French security interests and whether they should trump other concerns, or inspire a rebalancing of French alliances, including towards those with Sunni Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Overall, it lacked any substantive reconsideration of Europe’s role in the region. Macron himself, although campaigning on a clearly pro-European platform, was much more specific about intra-EU affairs, such as eurozone governance and migration policy, than he was about his European ambition on foreign policy.[55]

Since the election, quite a few opportunities have slipped by already.[56] Macron’s proposal for a Syria format based around the P5 illustrates France’s desire to get a seat at the big powers’ table without having made the prior effort to rebuild a stronger EU position. On Libya, the mediation between the Sarraj government and Haftar, confirmed with the La Celle-Saint-Cloud agreement, took place without including or even consulting with Italy. On substance, the preference for ‘stability’ is still very much present, and Macron’s reluctance to use force seems to be more about French military power itself rather than that of local actors’, whether in Yemen, Egypt, Libya, or elsewhere.

Still, Macron’s victory in May 2017 was the best available outcome for both new thinking on the Middle East and a more European approach to the region. Macron has a number of assets with which to do this. His pro-European record is a major advantage, although he has made little use of it so far. Key patterns in his approach to foreign policy – an insistence on “dialogue with all” stakeholders, expressed scepticism about the use of force, self-professed pragmatism, and interest in a mediation role – should play well to his partners’ ears. And he should certainly be able to use the international environment to unite EU member states, with Trump, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and others acting as foils.

The window for change is still open. After almost a year in power, Macron’s foreign policy is slowly coming to terms with some of the limitations and contradictions identified in this paper. On Yemen, Macron’s call to Riyadh to lift the blockade is probably short of a major policy revision, but is still a welcome step.[57] On Syria, he is already faced with the lack of results of his change in tone and in substance[58] and is looking for other paths: after the adoption last February of UN Security Council resolution 2401 on humanitarian access in Syria, Macron reached out to Angela Merkel to engage with Putin on the resolution’s implementation. On Iran, he knows that, without a strong and united EU policy, there is no way to address of the challenge to the JCPOA the Trump administration has thrown down.

Overall, Macron’s interest in mediating or facilitating positions – in, for example, the resignation of Saad Hariri, the negotiations between parties to the Libyan conflict, as well as in support of Kuwait to ease the tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia – also shows an understanding of regional dynamics different to that of his predecessors.

France has a decisive role to play in creating a bolder, more strategic MENA policy for Europe that brings its partners along with it. And its partners will have to respond to this opportunity. In this context, the following recommendations could help broaden the European conversation and gain some traction, both in the Middle East itself and in Europe.

A renewed French strategy

France’s MENA policy has to move on from the reassurance approach, both to draw lessons from the previous period, and to make it more attractive to and more compatible with the preferences of its EU partners. Such a policy change does not mean ignoring the importance of stability or the pressing nature of current security threats to France and Europe. But, in a nutshell, France needs to strike a better balance between its desire for stability and the need for some transformation in the region. In particular, this new balance needs in particular to distinguish more carefully between the stability of a regime and that of the region, and to address long-term issues and challenges so as to move beyond immediate security interests.

France should:

Reinforce its strategic approach to security: France needs to stop its de facto first-call reliance on the use of coercion and military force, whether by itself or by its regional partners, including against terrorist groups.[59] In particular, a major challenge will be to find ways to be more effective when insisting on the political track in Syria, especially in areas liberated from IS. France will need to be as insistent in Libya, and in Yemen.[60] After all, on the latter, Le Drian recently stated that “it is probably the crisis in the region that would be easiest to resolve if there was the political will on all sides”.[61] In order to make a stronger case for this political and inclusive approach, France could start by relying on its current investment in Iraq, a country where France enjoys some influence (including with the Kurds), and where the greater international consensus on the need to support the current authorities should help make it a test-case for a more inclusive and decentralised settlement. France could then apply this approach to various other crises across the region.


Walk the walk on averting regional polarisation: France has been insisting on “inclusive” political processes for some time now. Under Macron, France has gone further and explicitly disagreed with its allies’ strategy where it fears this may feed into further polarisation, especially in the context of the tensions around Iran.[62] But it must now walk the walk, and adjust its positions accordingly – on, for instance, Yemen, or on Egypt. To move ahead, France could more broadly build upon its positions on the MEPP, its favourable relations with all sides within the GCC, and its role on the Iran nuclear deal. It could also propose an initiative to create inclusive collective security mechanisms. A regional security architecture similar to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe seems out of reach, given the level of antagonism between key states in the region. But regional mechanisms that include Iran would play a helpful role; they would aim to minimise the risks of unwanted escalation, encourage respect for international law (including international humanitarian law in conflict situations), foster stronger cooperation in the fight against terrorism, move beyond a zero-sum game mentality, and perhaps even facilitate discussions on broader regional security issues. Due to the current level of tensions, just putting new ideas on the table and challenging regional powers to engage with them would be a welcome development.


Use principles consistently: The problem with raising principles and norms – inclusive governance, humanitarian access, international law, and support for the UN – as France often does is that it makes the case for framing inconsistency as simple pragmatism more difficult. The situation in Yemen is making this increasingly clear. But France could certainly be more coherent on a number of fronts, as its interactions with the Egyptian leadership showed during Sisi’s visit to Paris last October.[63] Increasing France’s limited contributions to international humanitarian assistance, but also its minimal – though recently increased – contribution to taking in and resettling refugees from the region, would be welcome first steps. Being more clear-eyed about the shortcomings of quiet diplomacy on human rights would also help. After all, Le Drian himself has stressed that “political frustrations”, “the absence of democracy”, and human rights violations are playing into the current regional crises.[64] This does not imply less engagement with authoritarian regimes, but it does imply the risk of a more critical and contentious attitude towards them. In this regard, France should seek better coordination with like-minded states and rely more on the EU’s strengths.


Tackle the root causes of the current turmoil: As far back as 2008, the French White Paper on Defence and National Security judged that the “risk of destabilisation [in the Maghreb] deriving from internal factors (political successions, social movements, unemployment, terrorism, and so on) is real. Fifteen years from now and beyond, only economic, political and social development can protect the region against such risks.”[65] But France’s policy in this regard still underwhelms. Addressing political repression alongside issues affecting the future of the region’s youth (such as access to education, jobs, and healthcare) are key in this regard. Macron has begun to move in this direction, with a greater effort on development assistance, and a stronger focus on education in this context.[66] Still, these issues should appear more at the centre of French policy initiatives – and be supported by a better resourced and more adapted cooperation policy.


Support civil society more directly: Finally, France should enhance existing efforts to open up its diplomacy towards social actors. Despite its long tradition in so-called cultural diplomacy, France remains more comfortable with government-to-government relations than working with local civil society. This explains much of the difficulty France faced in Tunisia soon after Ben Ali’s fall in 2011.[67] Macron seems personally insistent on engaging with the local populations, as he did not only in Tunisia in February 2018, but also in the most sensitive context of Algeria in December 2017.[68] But France needs to reach out more systematically to unfamiliar interlocutors such as women, young people, and civil society, and to engage with new topics like professional training and regional inequalities. And it especially needs to do this in countries where these actors face repression. Such engagement beyond the president’s visits requires both sustained political will and integration into the mainstream of French foreign policy, rather than relegation to specialised services.[69] France also needs to diversify its aid policy, with French development instruments currently more focused on public capacity-building and infrastructure projects than on supporting bottom-up initiatives and community organising efforts. In that spirit, it would certainly benefit from fostering its own civil society institutions and their activities overseas. This would, in turn, open up the opportunity to cooperate further with key EU partners, who often benefit from stronger and more dynamic actors in this area.


A more consistent European approach

While getting its own house in order, France will also need to reinvest in European policy in the Middle East. Renewed effort to create a more assertive European policy here should centre on both new initiatives and on a different approach to European coalition-building.

This implies that France should:


Support more political discussion on the Middle East within the EU: France has to engage in an earlier and more strategic dialogue on the region with its partners, both in Brussels and in national capitals, in order to build the coalitions it needs within the EU. A consequence of the recent upsets in the Middle East is that more EU members are looking south and willing to contribute to solutions. France’s unparallelled role and importance over the last few years gives it clout, but also a burden of responsibility to lead the way to a strong, unified European position, especially on the key crises in the region: Syria and Iran, of course, but also Iraq, Yemen, the MEPP, and Libya. This means not only that dialogue is key, but also that France has to be ready to make concessions, both on substance (Macron has yet to complement his new pragmatism on Syria with an effort to forge a stronger EU position) and on methods (as shown by Italy’s reaction to Macron’s solitary mediation summit in La Celle-Saint-Cloud last July). Especially in view of Brexit, France needs to see the merits of succeeding in building a collective EU approach rather than the drawbacks of having to compromise.


Make the most of European diplomatic capacity: France also has to invest more in the Brussels mechanisms for Middle East diplomacy – it needs to use the EEAS more effectively (and to build a better relationship with Mogherini). Its investment in the limited formats (E3, Quint, Big Six, and the 5+5) is still necessary but no longer sufficient, and it cannot continue at the expense of smaller states. France’s handling of its 2016-17 initiative on the MEPP is a good example of an improved way to proceed, especially given that this is a topic on which small differences often trump general agreement. On top of taking the time to consult European partners, including in their capitals, special envoy Pierre Vimont insisted on coordinating closely with the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy (including on how to take the Quartet’s role into account) and associated key member states via working groups.[70]France should persist with this approach.


Push for strategic coherence: There is clearly a lack of strategic agreement in Europe on the MENA region. The EU Global Strategy Mogherini put forward last year provides a framework, but it will not make the EU’s Middle East policy more coherent. Germany’s sensitivity to the refugee crisis and now to migration issues, and the priority France gives to fighting terrorism, offers an opportunity to propose a broader quid pro quo, and a more comprehensive strategy, as the two phenomena are only different aspects of the same crisis, in both Syria and Libya. This can then be expanded to other key partners. More generally, the need to step up to the plate collectively (including with the UK) if Europe wants to have a say in the management of the crisis in Syria could also act as a catalyst. The necessity to develop its own autonomous strategy in the context of the Trump administration’s policy on Iran, or the MEPP, should also help in this regard.


Make good use of Germany’s new foreign policy posture: in last few years, Germany has been more present and active in the Middle East. French and German postures still differ quite significantly, on security, trade, and development. But they could complement each other rather than diverge, especially given that the coincidence of France and Germany’s regional interests has grown more obvious. France’s more pragmatic stance on Syria creates the prospect for closer cooperation – which could materialise via a joint review between the two new governments, and eventually a joint special envoy. Some have also argued in favour of a joint special envoy for the Maghreb, as well as joint visits by ministers; the expansion of the 5+5 format to Germany has also been suggested.[71] In any case, Paris would be wise to coordinate with Berlin – as it failed to, for instance, before proposing an international contact group on Syria. Other topics – Turkey in the Middle East, Kurds, the Iran nuclear deal, Tunisia – are topics suited to joint initiatives. Finally, even if flexible formats are probably key in a more assertive European presence in the Middle East, Franco-German cooperation should avoid being exclusive and ensure that it is able to serve as a springboard for broader European participation.


Preserve and consolidate Tunisia’s success: France should build upon a growing interest from other member states (such as Germany and Sweden, in addition to more traditional actors such as Italy and Spain) in bringing about improvements in Tunisia. It should seek to enhance Europe’s support for this lone success story of the 2011 Arab uprisings. Current EU initiatives – focused on processes and generic instruments, such as the Mobility Partnership and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement – are not commensurate with the fragility of the situation. Bolder support for the Tunisian economy and on security, as well as political backing and broader assistance for democratic reforms, are key.


Lead the revision of the EU’s southern neighbourhood policy: the current stalemate on the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) does not correspond to Europe’s urgent need to deal with the numerous key challenges caused by the chaos and instability in the MENA region. Despite announcements to the contrary at the beginning of his term, Hollande never followed through on his plan to revamp the EU’s neighbourhood policy on the region – a sign of the difficulties that lie ahead, and which are not all due to tensions over the MEPP. In true Macron fashion, this initiative could focus less on processes, tools, and institutions, and more on goals. In that spirit, France should consider a number of options to re-energise the Barcelona Process: more flexibility in the formats (currently under discussion within the EU); more support for economic and democratic reform programmes; a local government track for Mediterranean cooperation; a shift from a securitised migration policy to development and broader legal pathways for migrants to work in Europe; and a greater focus on long-term challenges (such as those relating to demography, education, economic diversification, and south-south integration).[72]  



The much-needed renewal of France’s policy in the Middle East region is only one aspect of a broader challenge for Paris. France is seeking to match its ambition to punch above its weight and shape global politics within a more competitive, more fluid, less state-centric, and more fragmented world. Given the centrality of the Middle East as a stage for France and a place of heightened interest for Europe more generally, the region provides a key test case for realising this ambition.

Yet any renewed European endeavour by France will succeed only if its fellow EU member states come to terms with the need for Europe to play a growing and more assertive role in the region. Direct spillover from the crises there has already roiled European politics, and threatened some of the key policies and principles on which the EU is built. And yet a consistent and coherent European strategy remains glaringly absent. Despite understanding the Middle East’s importance to their security and political interests, European countries still appear to be under the illusion that they can shield themselves from their southern neighbourhood.

Accordingly, the EEAS needs identify what is at stake for Europe, and it needs to protect and promote direct interests that other powers will not take on board. Rather than taking advantage of the lack of direction and consensus among member states to pursue its own agenda, the EEAS needs to focus on building a more meaningful compromise within the EU, encourage “the use of ad hoc groupings of member states on specific issues” in conjunction with a “EU representative”, and “avoid relying too much on technical and short-term toolboxes.”[73]

Other key European states also need to support a more assertive, more comprehensive and more strategic European policy in the Middle East. These states include Germany, Italy, Spain, and even the UK – in spite of Brexit – as well as other partners that understand the importance of what is at stake in the region, from Sweden to the Netherlands. Germany in particular needs to continue its current evolution toward greater activism in the region, and to recognise that its interests cannot be defined only through commercial ties or refugee containment.

Such a revised approach would allow Europe to become a truly geopolitical actor. And it would allow France to step up to the challenges that it claims it wants to tackle.


About the author

Manuel Lafont Rapnouil is the head of the Paris office and a senior policy fellow at European Council on Foreign Relations. Before joining European Council on Foreign Relations in 2015, Manuel worked as a French diplomat, and has spent a major part of his service on UN affairs and international peace and security issues, especially on crises in the Middle East and North Africa region. Between 2008 and 2010, he was also a visiting fellow with the Europe programme at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).



The author would like to thank his colleagues at the European Council on Foreign Relations for their support: Daniel Levy, for putting the project forward and – with Ruth Citrin, Julien Barnes-Dacey, and Mattia Toaldo – supporting him all along, including through criticisms and contrarian views; Jeremy Shapiro, for his close and thoughtful reading, his consistently helpful comments, and his outstanding patience; Tara Varma and Mathilde Ciulla, as well as Pauline Achard, Camille Lons, Lucie Fabiano, Olivia Meudec and Matthew Jablonski for their assistance at various stages of this project. Gareth Davies and Adam Harrison deserve special thanks for their outstanding assistance (and also for their patience) in editing this paper, and Chris Raggett for the graphics. The author also thanks Brigitte Curmi, David Cvach, Gurvan Le Bras, Anne-Claire Legendre, Sophie Pommier, and Pierre Vimont for their advice and insights, as well as all the officials, both French and foreign, who shared their views and time under the condition of anonymity.

However, as with all European Council on Foreign Relations publications, the arguments, conclusions, and recommendations of this policy brief represent only the views of its author.


[1] “MENA” and “Middle East” are used throughout this paper in the broader sense of the region stretching from Morocco to Iran (Maghreb, the Levant, and the Gulf sub-regions).

[2] See James McAuley, “Macron touts Europe’s interests, but early action put France first”, the Washington Post, 5 August 2017, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/macron-touts-europe-but-early-actions-put-france-first/2017/08/03/03fca30c-779a-11e7-8c17-533c52b2f014_story.html (hereafter, McAuley, “Macron touts Europe’s interests, but early action put France first”).

[3] Camille Lons, “Une compassion très politique pour les Chrétiens d’Orient”, Orient XXI, 26 April 2016, available at https://orientxxi.info/magazine/une-compassion-tres-politique-pour-les-chretiens-d-orient,1300,1300.

[4] Gaddafi was invited for five days in Paris in December 2007, and Assad was one of the guests at the Bastille Day military parade on 14 July 2008.

[5] “Colloque ‘Printemps arabe’: Discours de clôture”, remarks by Alain Juppé at Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 16 April 2011, available at http://discours.vie-publique.fr/notices/113000969.html.

[6] “La stratégie de défense française à un tournant. Leçon inaugurale de la Chaire ‘Grands enjeux stratégiques’”, Speech by Jean-Yves Le Drian at Université Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, 18 January 2016, available at https://www.pantheonsorbonne.fr/fileadmin/chairestrategiesorbonne/Discours_Ministre.pdf (hereafter, Le Drian, “La stratégie de défense française à un tournant. Leçon inaugurale de la Chaire ‘Grands enjeux stratégiques”).

[7]  Le Drian, “La stratégie de défense française à un tournant. Leçon inaugurale de la Chaire ‘Grands enjeux stratégiques”.

[8] Ghalia Kadiri, “L’accord controversé d’entrainde judiciaire entre la France et le Maroc adopté par les députésLe Monde, 23 June 2015, available at http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2015/06/23/le-tres-critique-protocole-judiciaire-france-maroc-soumis-a-l-assemblee-nationale_4659727_3212.html.

[9] France has been a proliferating nuclear power in the past, supporting Israel or Iraqi programmes, respectively in the 1950s and 1970s. But it has since shifted to a firm non-proliferation commitment.

[10] Hakim El Karoui, “Nouveau monde arabe, nouvelle ‘politique arabe’ pour la France”, Institut Montaigne, August 2017, pp. 140 ss, available at http://www.institutmontaigne.org/publications/nouveau-monde-arabe-nouvelle-politique-arabe-pour-la-france, (hereafter, El Karoui, “Nouveau monde arabe, nouvelle ‘politique arabe’ pour la France”).

[11] Bart Hesseling-Zarouri, “Macronism in Algiers”, Medium, 13 December 2017, available at https://medium.com/@bhesseling/macronism-in-algiers-22035dabe24e.

[12] Céline Lussato, “Manuel Valls à Alger: le Sahara occidental, ce “boulet” entre la France et l’Algérie”, Le Monde, 9 April 2016, available at https://www.nouvelobs.com/monde/20160408.OBS8114/manuel-valls-a-alger-le-sahara-occidental-ce-boulet-entre-la-france-et-l-algerie.html.

[13] See Steven Jambot, “Attentats de Paris : le rôle du Maroc dans la localisation d'Abdelhamid Abaaoud”, 20 November 2015, available at http://www.france24.com/fr/20151120-attaques-paris-role-maroc-abdelhamid-abaaoud-renseignements-france-paris-raba.

[14] Revue stratégique de défense et de sécurité nationale, 2017, pp. 22-23 and 24-25, available at https://www.defense.gouv.fr/dgris/presentation/evenements/revue-strategique-de-defense-et-de-securite-nationale-2017. See also previous editions: Commission du Livre blanc, Défense et sécurité nationale. Le livre blanc, Odile Jacob, 2008, pp. 43-44, 47-48 and 153. And Commission du Livre blanc, Défense et sécurité nationale 2013, La documentation française, 2013, p. 10 and 32.

[15] For an updated view on French forces deployed in operations overseas, see https://www.defense.gouv.fr/operations/rubriques_complementaires/carte-des-operations-et-missions-militaires.

[16] “Frappes aériennes sur Daesh: pourquoi la France ne bombarde pas la Syrie”, Huffington Post, September 25, 2014, available at https://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2014/09/25/frappes-aeriennes-daesh-pourquoi-france-bombarde-pas-syrie_n_5881058.html. The legal argument for current operations against Daesh in Syria is also a departure from France’s traditional legal reasoning. See Anthony Dworkin, “Europe’s new counter-terror wars”, European Council on Foreign Relations, October, 2016, available at http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/europes_new_counter_terror_wars7155.

[17] Mathieu Galtier, “La Libye toujours dans l’embrouillamini”, Libération, 18 March 2016, available at http://www.liberation.fr/planete/2016/03/18/la-libye-toujours-dans-l-embrouillamini_1440527. See also Frédéric Bobin and Charlotte Bozonnet, “La France lève les malentendus avec le premier ministre libyen”), Le Monde, 28 September 2016, available at http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2016/09/28/la-france-leve-les-malentendus-avec-le-premier-ministre-libyen_5004784_3212.html.

[18] Interview with a French diplomat, Paris, March 2016.

[19] AFP, “Inquiétudes sur l’avenir économique en Iran d’une France ‘bonne élève’”, L’Expansion, June 13, 2014, available at https://lexpansion.lexpress.fr/actualites/1/actualite-economique/inquietudes-sur-l-avenir-economique-en-iran-d-une-france-bonne-eleve_1550925.html.

[20] El Karoui, “Nouveau monde arabe, nouvelle ‘politique arabe’ pour la France” p. 162.

[21] Isabelle Lasserre, “Syrie : comment la ligne Fabius du ‘ni Assad ni Daech’ a volé en éclats”, Le Figaro, 19 November 2015, http://premium.lefigaro.fr/international/2015/11/19/01003-20151119ARTFIG00250-syrie-comment-la-ligne-fabius-du-ni-assad-ni-daech-a-vole-en-eclats.php.

[22] John Vinocur, “Anti-Americanism across the continent”, the Wall Street Journal, 7 November 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/anti-americanism-across-the-continent-1478551296.

[23] “Intervention pour le quarantième anniversaire du centre d’analyse, de prévision et de stratégie”, Speech by Laurent Fabius, Paris, 13 November 2013, available at http://discours.vie-publique.fr/notices/133002689.html.

[24] Hollande mentioned this again in his most recent interview: Marc Semo and Allan Kaval, “François Hollande : ‘Quel est cet allié turc qui frappe nos propres alliés ?’“, Le Monde, 12 March 2018, available at http://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2018/03/12/hollande-quel-est-cet-allie-turc-qui-frappe-nos-propres-allies-avec-le-soutien-de-groupes-djihadistes_5269351_3210.html.

[25] “An affair to remember”, The Economist, 27 July 2006, available at https://www.economist.com/node/7218678.

[26] For an illustration of French discourse on the need to confront the US, see, for instance, Renaud Girard, Le Monde en guerre. 50 clefs pour le comprendre, Carnets Nord, 2016, p. 44.

[27] “Cheese-eating warriors”, The Economist, 27 November 2014, available at https://www.economist.com/news/europe/21635009-france-has-emerged-americas-closest-european-ally-security-policy-cheese-eating-warriors.

[28] Jacques Monin, “France-Arabie saoudite: les dessous des contrats”, France Inter, 5 May 2016, available at https://www.franceinter.fr/emissions/l-enquete/l-enquete-06-mai-2016. See as well Antoine Isambard and Vincent Lamigeon, “Les mauvais comptes de la France en Arabie saoudite”, Challenges, 3 July 2017, available at https://www.challenges.fr/entreprise/defense/les-mauvais-comptes-de-la-france-en-arabie-saoudite_484209.

[29] Ignace Dalle, “Les relations entre la France et le monde arabe”, Confluences Méditerranée, n°96, Winter 2015-2016, iReMMO, L’Harmattan, pp. 53-61.

[30] DG Trésor/Service économique de Riyad, “Les échanges bilatéraux entre la France et l’Arabie saoudite”, 15 October 2017, available at https://www.tresor.economie.gouv.fr/Ressources/17775_les-echanges-bilateraux-entre-la-france-et-larabie-saoudite.

[31] John Irish and Sophie Louet, “Pressure mounts on Macron over arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE”, Reuters, 22 March 2018, available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-france/pressure-mounts-on-macron-over-arms-sales-to-saudi-arabia-uae-idUSKBN1GY24I.

[32] Philippe Bolopion, “Macron aura-t-il le courage de cesser de vendre des armes à l’Arabie saoudite?”, Le Monde, 14 September 2017, available at http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2017/09/14/macron-aura-t-il-le-courage-de-cesser-de-vendre-des-armes-a-l-arabie-saoudite_5185583_3232.html.

[33] Quoted by John Irish, “Skirting Saudi arms sales, France says Iran has ‘lots’ of weapons in Yemen”, Reuters, 6 March 2018, available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-france/skirting-saudi-arms-sales-france-says-iran-has-lots-of-weapons-in-yemen-idUSKCN1GI2N3.

[34] Interview with a French diplomat, Paris, May 2016.

[35] Marc Semo, “Macron fait profil bas sur les droits humains en Egypte”, Le Monde, 25 October 2017, available at http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2017/10/25/macron-fait-profil-bas-sur-les-droits-humains-en-egypte_5205559_3212.html

[36] Yasser el-Shimy and Anthony Dworkin, “Egypt on the edge: How Europe can avoid another crisis in Egypt”, European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2017, available at http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/egypt_on_the_edge_how_europe_can_avoid_another_crisis_in_egypt_7298. See also Anthony Dworkin, “Egypt’s counterterrorism strategy: The missing element”, European Council on Foreign Relations, 1 December 2017, available at http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_egypts_counterterrorism_strategy_the_missing_element.

[37] Manuel Lafont Rapnouil and Jeremy Shapiro, “Macron’s foreign policy: Claiming the tradition”, European Council on Foreign Relations, 5 May 2015, available at http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_macrons_foreign_policy_claiming_the_tradition_7285 (hereafter, Lafont Rapnouil and Shapiro, “Macron’s foreign policy: Claiming the tradition”).

[38] Le Drian, “La stratégie de défense française à un tournant. Leçon inaugurale de la Chaire ‘Grands enjeux stratégiques’”.

[39] Emmanuel Macron, “Conférence de presse du président de la République Emmanuel Macron et du Premier ministre israélien Benyamin Netanyahou”, Paris, 11 December 2017, available at http://www.elysee.fr/declarations/article/transcription-de-la-conference-de-presse-du-president-de-la-republique-emmanuel-macron-et-du-premier-ministre-israelien-benyamin-netanyahou/.

[40] Lafont Rapnouil and Shapiro, “Macron’s foreign policy: Claiming the tradition”.

[41] Quoted by Sylvain Chazot, “Emmanuel Macron veut à la fois une intervention militaire en Syrie et une discussion avec Bachar al-Assad pour qu’il parte”, Le Lab politique, 6 April 2017, available at http://lelab.europe1.fr/emmanuel-macron-veut-a-la-fois-une-intervention-militaire-en-syrie-et-une-discussion-avec-bachar-al-assad-pour-quil-parte-3234992.

[42] “Discours du Président de la République à l'ouverture de la conférence des Ambassadeurs”, speech by Emmanuel Macron to Ambassadors’ Week, Paris, 29 August 2017, available at http://www.elysee.fr/declarations/article/discours-du-president-de-la-republique-a-l-ouverture-de-la-conference-des-ambassadeurs/.

[43] “Transcription du discours du président de la République – Vœux au corps diplomatique”, speech by Emmanuel Macron, Paris, 5 January 2018, available at http://www.elysee.fr/declarations/article/transcription-du-discours-du-president-de-la-republique-v-ux-au-corps-diplomatique/(hereafter, Macron, “Transcription du discours du président de la République – Vœux au corps diplomatique”).

[44] Interview with a European diplomat, Brussels, April 2016.   

[45] Interview with a European diplomat, Brussels, April 2016.

[46] Interview with French diplomats, Brussels, April 2016.

[47] Jane Kinninmont, “A Post-Brexit Britain Would Double Down on Middle East Alliances”, Chatham House, 13 June 2016, available at https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/post-brexit-britain-would-double-down-middle-east-alliances.

[48] Dominique Merchet, “Syrie: la France s’oppose à l’Union européenne sur la reconstruction du pays”, L’Opinion, 5 February 2017, available at https://www.lopinion.fr/edition/international/syrie-france-s-oppose-a-l-union-europeenne-reconstruction-pays-119771.

[49] Pascal Airault, “Pouvoirs : la France, une étrangère à la Commission européenne”, L’Opinion, 16 June 2016, available at https://www.lopinion.fr/edition/international/pouvoirs-france-etrangere-a-commission-europeenne-104899.

[50] McAuley, “Macron touts Europe’s interests, but early actions put France first".

[51] Pierre Vimont, Les intérêts stratégiques de l’Union européenne, Carnegie Europe, 20 April 2016, available at http://carnegieeurope.eu/2016/04/20/fr-pub-63457.

[52] Hugh Lovatt, “EU differentiation and the push for peace in Israel-Palestine”, European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2016, available at http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/eu_differentiation_and_the_push_for_peace_in_israel_palestine7163.  

[53] Pierre Vimont, “Europe must face the new realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Carnegie Europe, 6 December 2017, available at http://carnegieeurope.eu/2017/12/06/europe-must-face-new-realities-of-israeli-palestinian-conflict-pub-75076.

[54] After a first attempt in the early 1990s, the 5+5 dialogue format was established in 2001 and brings together France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Malta, as well as Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.

[55] Lafont Rapnouil and Shapiro, “Macron’s foreign policy: Claiming the tradition”.

[56] See also Chloe Teevan, “Emmanuel Macron Visits Algiers”, Muftah, 4 December 2017, available at https://muftah.org/emmanuel-macron-visits-algiers/.

[57] Simon Carraud and Julie Carriat, “Macron appelle Riyad à lever le blocus contre le Yémen”, Reuters, 27 December 2017, available at https://fr.reuters.com/article/topNews/idFRKBN1EL0PS-OFRTP.

[58] John Irish, “La diplomatie ‘inédite’ de Macron à la peine en Syrie”, Reuters, 13 March 2018, available at http://www.boursorama.com/actualites/analyse-la-diplomatie-inedite-de-macron-a-la-peine-en-syrie-e529d49e295c6e0e68916d23ef83117d.

[59] Anthony Dworkin, “Europe’s new counter-terror wars”, European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2016, available at http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/europes_new_counter_terror_wars7155.

[60] Patrick Markey and Ahmed Elumami, “Paris hand-shakes on Libya peace deal mask deep fractures”, Reuters, 28 July 2017, available at https://uk.news.yahoo.com/paris-hand-shakes-libya-peace-deal-mask-deep-164938438.html.

[61] Quoted by John Irish, “Skirting Saudi arms sales, France says Iran has ‘lots’ of weapons in Yemen”.

[62] Arthur Berdah, François-Xavier Bourmaud, Mathilde Siraud, and Marcelo Wesfreid, “Les confidences d’Emmanuel Macron en marge de ses vœux à la presse”, Le Figaro, 3 January 2018, available at http://www.lefigaro.fr/politique/le-scan/2018/01/03/25001-20180103ARTFIG00309-les-confidences-d-emmanuel-macron-en-marge-de-ses-voeux-a-la-presse.php.

[63] Hala Kodmani, “Al-Sissi en France : chez les démocrates égyptiens, un sentiment d’abandon”, Libération, 25 October 2017, available at http://www.liberation.fr/planete/2017/10/25/al-sissi-en-france-chez-les-democrates-egyptiens-un-sentiment-d-abandon_1605659

[64] Le Drian, “La stratégie de défense française à un tournant. Leçon inaugurale de la Chaire ‘Grands enjeux stratégiques’”.

[65] Commission du Livre blanc, Défense et sécurité nationale. Le livre blanc, Odile Jacob, 2008, pp. 47-48.

[66] Macron, “Transcription du discours du président de la République – Vœux au corps diplomatique”.

[67] Marc Semo, “Olivier Poivre d’Arvor nommé ambassadeur à Tunis”, Le Monde, 8 July 2016, available at http://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2016/07/08/olivier-poivre-d-arvor-nomme-ambassadeur-a-tunis_4966237_3210.html

[68] Sylvie Kauffmann, “A Alger, Macron veut s’adresser aux jeunes : la cible est la bonne”, Le Monde, 6 December 2017, available at http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2017/12/06/a-alger-la-nouvelle-vague-attend-macron_5225233_3232.html.

[69] Yves Aubin de la Messuzière, “L’Elysée était informé des derives du système Ben Ali”, Libération, 26 January 2011, available at http://www.liberation.fr/planete/2011/01/26/l-elysee-etait-informe-des-derives-du-systeme-ben-ali_709901. See also Augustin Scalbert, “Olivier Roy: ‘Comme solution politique, l’islamisme est fini’”, Rue89, 20 February 2011, available at https://www.nouvelobs.com/rue89/rue89-monde/20110220.RUE0931/olivier-roy-comme-solution-politique-l-islamisme-est-fini.html.

[70] Germany and Sweden, for instance, played a prominent role in the working groups respectively on Palestinian statehood and on the civil society dimension.

[71] Isabel Schäfer and Tobias Koepf, “Franco-German foreign policy cooperation towards the Maghreb – converging goals, diverging policies”, November 2017, available at http://www.stiftung-genshagen.de/uploads/media/SG_genshagner_papiere_20_web_01.pdf. See also Avicenne, Maghreb Moyen-Orient : une priorité de politique étrangère pour la France, March 2017, available at https://groupeavicenne.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/rapport-avicenne-def-c.pdf.

[72] Andrew Lebovich, “Still wanted: New approaches to migration for Europe”, European Council on Foreign Relations, 8 September 2017, available at http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_still_wanted_new_approaches_to_migration_for_europe.

[73] Pierre Vimont, “The path to an upgraded EU foreign policy”, Carnegie Europe, June 2015, available at http://carnegieeurope.eu/2015/06/30/path-to-upgraded-eu-foreign-policy-pub-60527.