Europe and the Middle East
Europe has always had a special political and economic relationship with the Middle
East, dating back to colonial times.
Today, Europe maintains significant economic
interests in the Arab and Muslim world and continues to enjoy easy and preferential access
to the agricultural products of its former colonies. In exchange, Europe has accorded
associate status in the EU to the Mediterranean Middle Eastern states, including Algeria,
Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
"Access to Middle Eastern oil has always been a major factor in Europe's relationship with the Arab and Muslim world."|
Access to Middle Eastern oil has always been a major factor in Europe's relationship
with the Arab and Muslim world. Europe is heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil; whereas
in 1995,Western Europe imported 9.6 million barrels of oil daily, of which 5.5 million
came from the Middle East and North Africa, the U.S. imported 8.8 million barrels daily,
of which 1.8 million came from that region.
European trade with the Middle East also exceeds that of the United States. In 1995,
exports from the EU to the Middle East and North Africa totaled $77.5 billion, or 18
percent of all EU exports to developing countries. U.S. exports amounted to $21.8 billion,
only 8.8 percent of total U.S. exports to developing countries. European imports from the
15 percent of imports from developing countries, while U.S. imports represented 6 percent.
|"...the Europeans view themselves as promoters of economic prosperity, political
cooperation and peace in the Middle East."|
In addition to trade, Europe is a recipient of Middle East investment capital and a
major supplier of aid to the poorer nations in the region. The total economic aid
disbursed by the EU, both collectively and in bilateral donations by its members to the
region, totaled $2.8 billion in 1994, as compared to $2.1 billion by the U.S., $0.6
billion by Japan and $0.4 billion by the United Nations. Europe is currently the largest
single aid donor to the Palestinian Authority.
In addition, millions of Arab, Turkish and Iranian nationals have immigrated to Europe
and have altered the social, cultural, religious and educational milieus of European
societies. The influx of these immigrants and their strong ties to their ethnic and
religious backgrounds draw European countries even closer to the nations of the Middle
Finally, the Europeans view themselves as promoters of economic prosperity, political
cooperation and peace in the Middle East. Preferential trade, scientific and technological
policies toward the countries of the region are part of the EUS strategy to forge
bilateral agreements with all Mediterranean partners and create a stable, free trade zone
among the EU and the Middle East. Specifically, the EU is seeking to create a
Euro-Mediterranean Economic Area by the year 2010. At the November 1995 Euro-Mediterranean
Conference in Barcelona, the EU and the 12 Mediterranean countries with which the EU has
association agreements signed a partnership declaration laying the basis for closer
political, economic, cultural and social ties.
The Director for the Mediterranean and Middle East at the Directorate General for
External Relations of the EU, Eberhard Rhein, summed up Europes ties to the Middle
East in 1995:
"Europe has strong economic, commercial, political, and historical links with
North Africa and the Middle East. From an economic point of view, they are intertwined
geographically and politically; they are our back door. It seems self-evident that we
should do our -utmost within the constitution of the EU to integrate them, to help them
achieve economic prosperity?"
Next: Israel & EU: Economic Allies