Challenging the notion of Fortress Europe, the research project ‘BORDERLANDS: Boundaries, Governance, and Power in the European Union's Relations with North Africa and the Middle East’ investigates relations between the European Union and MENA countries through the concept of borderlands. This concept emphasises the disaggregation of the triple function of borders demarcating state territory, authority, and national identity inherent in the Westphalian model of statehood. This process is most visible in (although not limited to) Europe, where integration has led to supranational areas of sovereignty, an internal market, a common currency, and a zone of free movement of people, each with a different territorial span. The project aims at exploring the complex and differentiated process by which the EU extends its unbundled functional and legal borders to the so-called southern Mediterranean (North Africa and parts of the Middle East), thereby transforming that area into borderlands. They connect the European core with the periphery through various legal and functional border regimes, governance patterns, and the selective outsourcing of some EU border control duties.

The overarching questions informing this research is whether, first, the borderland policies of the EU, described by some as a neo-medieval empire, is a functional consequence of the specific integration model pursued inside the EU, a matter of foreign policy choice or a local manifestation of a broader global phenomenon. Second, the project addresses the political and social implications of these processes for the ‘borderlands’, along with the question of power dynamics that underwrite borderland governance, presuming a growing leverage of third country governments resulting from their co-optation as gatekeepers. The project will thus re-examine the theory and reality of one of the most basic concepts ininternational relations, namely borders.

Funded by the European Research Council (ERC) within the 7th Framework Programme, this five-year project commenced on 1 October 2011 and is directed by Prof Raffaella A. Del Sarto.


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Page last updated on 31 August 2017