An old man with a medical mask goes with his few purchases through a deserted street of Tunis
Brahim Guedich / Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 4.0,

, Analysis : How Europe’s southern neighbours are experiencing the corona crisis

Surprisingly, the corona pandemic has not hit the crisis- and conflict-ridden societies in the EU’s southern neighbourhood as hard as was originally feared. This may be due to the early and strict lockdown implemented by those societies, and to their relatively young populations, the high level of commitment evinced by their civil societies, and their experience dealing with crises.

At the same time, the official figures do not always reflect the real situation due to insufficient testing and the restrictive information policies enforced by some regimes. As is also true of the six countries in the EU’s Eastern Partnership (see the project report by Miriam Kosmehl), the health and social systems in the southern neighbourhood are very weak.

The collapse of the EU internal market will have consequences

It is already foreseeable that the economic and political measures taken by the West and its companies to combat the crisis and the economic slump expected in the EU’s internal market will have a considerable negative impact on the economies and social systems of neighbouring countries in the South.

The latter’s governments, businesses and civil society organizations will ask for more help from Brussels – even if the EU and its member states will be fixated on their own problems in the coming months. Yet the EU’s attention and support are needed to ensure that reforms are not jeopardized and stability is maintained.

Who organizes stability in the EU’s neighbourhood?

These three examples of war and conflict (Libya, Syria, the Gulf region) illustrate that, in addition to managing the corona crisis, more political and diplomatic energy would have to be mobilized by the European Union and its member states to promote stability in the neighbourhood.

Brussels must not leave this stabilization to Russia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the US or China alone. After all, these powers usually pursue other interests in the Middle East than European politicians do. Brussels is propagating a stability in its neighbourhood that is meant to help the countries there transform towards participation, the rule of law and a social market economy – based on European values.


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