On Tuesday 17 January, the MENARA Project was presented to the Spanish foreign policy decision-makers from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. CIDOB’s Research Team had the chance to discuss the goals of the project with diplomats dealing with the Mediterranean and the Middle East, European affairs and Policy Planning. A member of the International board of the Office of the Prime Minister also joined the meeting. This was the first among similar gatherings that will take place in the upcoming months in different European capitals.

This meeting was also a unique opportunity to assess the main geopolitical challenges of the MENA region and MENARA’s contribution to a better understanding of them. Among the different topics discussed, the dialogue revolved around the security nexus between the Sahel and the Maghreb, Russia’s ambitions in the region, and the impact of Brexit and the election of Trump on EU’s foreign and neighbourhood policies. For Europe to take action, it will have to overcome two critical obstacles: its internal divisions and a depressive mood in light of unfolding events. An important takeaway from the meeting was the need for MENARA to go beyond informed analysis and come forward with transformative ideas for European decision-makers. Too often, the region is perceived as a source of threats yet there is room to explore a positive agenda. Several participants expressed that one of MENARA’s contribution was to open the debate on the future geopolitical configuration of the MENA region and its impact for Europe in all EU capitals and not only in the big Member States and in Southern Europe.