Since 2011 the Middle East has entered a new era. Pro-democracy protests have seen Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain enter into a period of unprecedented turmoil combined with violence and civil war. In Tunisia and Morocco the protest provoked significant changes in political systems. The rise of Islamic State (IS) has increased the Iranian government’s interventions in Syria and Iraq while Saudi Arabia is also involved in the conflicts.
The changes that have shaped a new era of geopolitics in the Middle East can be characterized by failed states, political crises caused by developmental problems and a lack of democracy combined with popular revolts, religious extremism, inter-state conflict, foreign rivalries, and military interventions. These changes have already had a direct impact on Europe. The enormous wave of migrants from Africa to Europe has provoked political tensions and discussions in Brussels. More than 100,000 people, an estimated third of which were civilians, died violently in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and the Gaza Strip in 2014, making it one of the bloodiest years in the Middle East’s history. Consequently, the most recent surge in defections along the EU's maritime borders have been attributed to the growing numbers of Syrian and Eritrean refugees. We are witnessing the worst refugee crisis of our era. According to a report in 2013, for the first time since the 1940s, the number of refugees has been estimated at more than 50 million. In the ensuing two years, millions more have become refugees. In addition, the number of illegal border-crossing defections in the EU has surged, as thousands of Tunisians started arriving at the Italian island of Lampedusa, seventy miles from Tunisia, following the onset of the Arab Spring. Sub-Saharan Africans who had previously migrated to Libya followed in 2011–2012, fleeing the unrest in the post-Qaddafi era.
In addition to these instances of demographic phenomena, the number of Europeans joining Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq has also risen, as has the possibilities of threats of terrorist attacks in European Union countries. Economically speaking, the growing instability in oil-exporting economies such as Libya and Iraq has prompted major concerns about the EU´s oil supply and energy security. With attention being paid and afforded to the impact of the war in the Middle East and Africa on European countries, we shall invite the submission of abstracts from various disciplinary fields which cover one of the main themes. It is anticipated that the discussion will include a variety of perspectives from which this topic can be understood, dealing with all Middle Eastern and African sub-regions.
The following sub-themes are proposed for discussion:
What is the nature of political instability in the Middle East?
Is ISIL a threat to European security and are the EU countries ready to take perceived risks to act against them?
What are the religious, ideological and economic factors of the new wave of jihadism?
What are the costs of the crisis in the Middle East for Europe, including the problem of social stability and cultural identity?
Why are Europeans seemingly becoming terrorists?
Is the crisis in the Middle East likely to affect European companies that have a significant exposure to and interest in this area?
Rachela Tonta, Polish Academy of Sciences