Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

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Session Overview
Panel 107: Developments in the Middle East and North Africa
Monday, 06/Sept/2021:
9:30am - 11:00am

Session Chair: Assem Dandashly, Maastricht University

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Competing Norms and Lessons Drawn: (non)Democratic norm transfer to the MENA

Assem Dandashly

Maastricht University, Netherlands, The

The scholarship on the impact of international actors on political and economic change in the European neighbourhood has focused mainly on Western actors – the EU’s support policies in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the United States’ (US) policies of selective engagement in the EU’s eastern and southern neighbourhood. The role of illiberal powers in undermining democracy support or directly strengthening authoritarian rule through their political and development/economic policies has featured less in the academic debate. Existing research remains inconclusive to date regarding the rising activity in this field of individual players such as China, Iran, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates (UAE). This paper draws on the International Relations (IR) literature on norm diffusion, and in particular on the scholarship on norm contestation in addition to the public policy literature on lesson drawing. It posits that the degree and nature of domestic contestation of external political norms (both EU and non-EU) has consequences for norm diffusion in specific domestic settings. The paper aims at deepening the conceptual understanding of the encounter between external and domestic political norms by emphasising the agency of domestic societies and the importance of domestic normative structures in the processes of acceptance, modification or rejection of external normative influence. This paper provides empirical evidence about competing normative influences collected from a plethora of case studies from the southern neighbourhood (such as Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt) allowing us to provide interesting comparisons and conclusions about the political ideas that more likely gain traction in the societies of MENA countries. In addition, the paper seeks to draw lessons to the EU policies in regard to democracy promotion.

Russia’s Return to Africa: A comparative Study of contemporary Russian policies towards Egypt, Algeria and Morocco

Natalia Piskunova

Moscow State University, Russian Federation

This paper analyses Russia’s recent return to Africa with a focus on the Mediterranean area and assesses three major cases that highlight a post-2010 Russian policy towards the region - Algeria, Egypr and Morocco . It aims at answering the question if, and to what extent Russia has abandoned its traditional tools of cooperation such as nuclear energy and military cooperation and engaged in new ‘smart’ ones as indicated by former Foreign Minister Ivanov in 2011. This paper builds on three case studies of African countries having the largest trade volume with Russia up to 2019, i.e. Egypt, Algeria and Morocco, and analyses their changing relationship with Russia over the last decade. The results show that Russia has not abandoned its traditional tools but has intensified the use of new ones. The North African region as such has regained significance in Russia’s foreign policy.
Our results show that for Russia, Africa has regained its significance mostly in building new alliances in energy security and defence, traditional areas of Russia’s cooperation. In particular, this applies to North Africa. Russia has recently become the largest arms supplier to Africa, with Algeria and Egypt being the largest importers. Based on numerous arms deals signed recently, this trend will most likely continue. Beside military, Russia has engaged in numerous energy projects across all three analysed countries. To attain the goals, Russia has significantly intensified the use of ‘smart’ tools such as development cooperation, and ‘export of education’ in particular. Available data indicate that mostly in energy policy this proves to be an efficient instrument.

As North Africa intersects the rising interests of Russia in Africa and the Middle East, it comes rather as no surprise that all three analysed North African countries have become Russia’s largest trade partners in Africa. Economic Union most likely contributed to the fact that the mutual trade has significantly increased since 2015. All three countries represent for Russia important geopolitical and geostrategic partners, too. Egypt in pursuing Russia’s rising interest in the Middle East and also in North Africa, Algeria has gained a new strategic position in Russia’s foreign energy policy aiming to exert pressure on Europe in its energy dependency, and Morocco showed its willingness to cooperate in many areas (including military and energy) which has become appealing for Russia to reengage and increase its role in the region.

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