Perceptions of the EU

Activists and public opinion in the Middle East

Authored by: Andrea Teti , Gennaro Gervasio , Pamela Abbott

Routledge Handbook of EU–Middle East Relations

Print publication date:  December  2021
Online publication date:  December  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367330767
eBook ISBN: 9780429317873
Adobe ISBN:


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The EU suffers from a poor reputation amongst both the general populations and activists in particular across the Levant and North Africa. This reputation is rooted in a mismatch between how the EU perceives itself and how people and activists perceive its actions and their consequences: the EU believes its policies are rooted in and promote stability, security and democracy, but on the ground its actions appear to have exactly the opposite effect. To show how and why this is so, this chapter builds on existing analysis of the EU’s self-conception by “triangulating” it with evidence from interviews with activists on the one hand, and with public opinion polls on the other. This triangulation maps a perception mismatch between EU, regional activists and MENA populations. In particular, the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy, on the one hand, has at its heart an understanding of democracy which focuses on certain civil-political rights and which continues to assume – despite decades of failure – that “market liberalisation” will support both political democratisation and social justice. Activists and populations, on the other hand, display a holistic and substantive conception of democracy, in which both civil-political and socio-economic rights are integral: There can be no democracy without social justice.

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