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MEDRESET.A comprehensive, integrated,and bottom-up approach to reset our understanding of the Mediterranean space, remap the region,and reconstruct inclusive, responsive,and flexible EU policies in it

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MedReset (MEDRESET.A comprehensive, integrated,and bottom-up approach to reset our understanding of the Mediterranean space, remap the region,and reconstruct inclusive, responsive,and flexible EU policies in it)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2019-08-31

Euro-Mediterranean policies, as well as research on them, have been characterized by a Euro-centric approach based on a narrow geopolitical construction of the Mediterranean. Moreover, stakeholders, policy instruments, and policy issues have been defined from a European standpoint, marginalizing the perspectives and needs of local states and people, and ignoring the role played by new and powerful regional and global actors. In an increasingly multipolar world, overcoming this Euro-centric approach is key for Europe to play a more meaningful role in the region.

MEDRESET’s double objective is to:
• reset our thinking, understanding, and definition of the Mediterranean: mapping a region which has changed substantially in terms of geopolitical dynamics and in key policy sectors (political ideas, agriculture and water, trade and energy, migration and mobility), identifying the old and new stakeholders, their interaction, and the major policy issues around which this interaction flows. This is based on an integrated research design and a multi-method approach that includes a substantive perception component of top-down and bottom-up actors through an elite survey, in-depth interviews, and focus groups with local stakeholders on both shores of the Mediterranean.
• reset EU policies in the Mediterranean: developing new flexible policy instruments which include a variety of crucial actors and respond to the needs and expectations of people on both shores of the Mediterranean and to the changing geopolitical configuration of the area. Country-tailored policy commendations will be given for four key countries for the EU in the region: Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia.
During the first twelve months of the project, four of MEDRESET’s ten WPs were active. The first ones to begin work were WP9 ‘Advocacy and Outreach’, WP10 ‘Coordination and Management’ and WP1 ‘EU historical construction of the Mediterranean’, which all started in April 2016, i.e. the project’s official start date. WP2 ‘Geopolitics’ began its activities in July 2016, while WPs 3-7 are starting in April 2017. Thus far WP1 is the only one to have almost concluded its activities (in month 12 of the project which corresponds to 31 March 2017). All others continue into the second period.

During the first reporting period, MEDRESET has translated its research findings in the following papers:
• Overall Conceptual and Methodological Paper: Daniela Huber and Maria Cristina Paciello (2016), Concept Paper: MedReset, a Comprehensive, Integrated and Bottom-Up Approach (MEDRESET Paper No. 1), June
• WP1 Conceptual and Methodological Paper: Münevver Cebeci and Tobias Schumacher (2016) Deconstructing the EU’s Discourse on the Mediterranean (MEDRESET Paper No. 2), October
• WP2 Conceptual and Methodological Paper: Anoush Ehteshami and Ariabarzan Mohammadi (2016), Re-imagining Mediterranean Geopolitics: The Role of Eight Key Powers (MEDRESET Paper No. 3), November
• WP1 Working Paper: Sally Khalifa Isaac and Haidi Esmat Kares, The European Community Framing of the Mediterranean (1970-1990)
• WP1 Working Paper: Pol Morillas and Eduard Soler i Lecha, The EU’s framing of the Mediterranean (1990-2002): Building a Euro-Mediterranean partnership
• WP1 Working Paper: Münevver Cebeci and Tobias Schumacher, The EU’s constructions of the Mediterranean (2003–2017)

These results are exploited to pursue MEDRESET’s objectives – reset in both thinking and policy - through several dissemination activities targeting a broad audience (academics, students, think-tanks, policy makers and civil society) in both Europe and MENA:
• Website, newsletter and social media
• Public events and activities including the Kick-off conference in Rome in April 2016, and a workshop in Warsaw in July 2016.
MEDRESET starts from the premise that both EU policy and research on Euro-Mediterranean relations suffered from one major gap: a Euro-centric approach which has been characterized by 1) a narrow geopolitical conceptualization of the Mediterranean space driven by European economic and security interests; 2) the application of European concepts and values to the Mediterranean, manifested also in a sectoral (instead of integrated) approach to deeply linked policy issues; and 3) the marginalization of local perspectives and human security concerns/the needs of people in the region.

In phase I - aimed at identifying and deconstructing the dominant EU framing and practices in the Mediterranean since the 1970s - WP1 critically examined the dominant EU framing of the Mediterranean and how this informed its approach and translated into practices in three historical stages: the 1970s to 1990, the 1990s to the early 2000s, and the mid-2000s to today. All papers published in WP1 represent an added value to the existing literature, as they clearly aim at tearing down the Euro-centric construction of the region. They all deconstruct the EU’s discourse on the Mediterranean and reveal how it constructs the region (as a market, as conflictual, threatening, etc.) and its own identity (as transformative, civilian, peaceful, post-modern, etc.) in a specific way and designs and legitimizes its policies (securitized, depoliticized, and technocratic) through such rhetoric.

Phase II, which begun with WP2, is aimed at mapping the Mediterranean according to how different stakeholders (regional and external players, local elites, and non-governmental actors on both shores of the Mediterranean) perceive and practice ‘their’ Mediterranean into being on the geopolitical level and in respect to four geopolitically relevant and contentious policy areas: political ideas, agriculture and water, industry and energy, and migration and mobility. WP2, which has the objective of investigating whether EU policies still match the changing geopolitical configuration of the Mediterranean area, is examining the role, influence and impact of rising major powers (China, Russia, the US on the external level; and Israel, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar on the regional level) in the Mediterranean, their policies and major issues at stakes. In so doing, WP2 represents a key contribution to the literature which has almost exclusively focused on analysing the EU vision of the Mediterranean. Thus, WP2 offers a non-Euro centric understanding of the Mediterranean that integrates the different views/constructions of these rising major powers. WP2’s final report will assess the effectiveness of EU policies by investigating whether the observed dynamics of interaction on the geopolitical level are conflictual, competitive and converging with EU policies, and will come forward with a policy brief that outlines how the EU could better respond to such a re-imagined Mediterranean. Of the 10 papers of WP2, the conceptual paper has already been published. The seven draft working papers are currently being revised by the work package leaders and the scientific coordinators and will be submitted as deliverable in month 14 (May 2017).