Global rivalry in the Red Sea : a ‘geopolitical’ European Union should encourage cooperation in the Red Sea region

In 2018, the Council of the European Union adopted conclusions on the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea, finding that there was ‘renewed geopolitical competition on both shores of the Red Sea’. The EU further stressed that ‘at stake are the preservation of the security of the Bab el Mandeb maritime route through which a significant proportion of trade to and from Europe passes; the harnessing of irregular migration flows; the containment of terrorist threats; and the prevention of instability in the EU’s wider neighbourhood’.

The Council also noted that the ‘absence of an adequate system of cooperation and conflict prevention and [a] management mechanism’ may ‘jeopardise EU interests by impacting [on] freedom of navigation
and further destabilizing the Horn of Africa’.

Geopolitical competition in Africa is here to stay, and the question for Europe is not if but how to position
itself in that regard. The geopolitics in the Red Sea points at clear pathways, where the EU should use its
ability to inspire regional models.

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