Policy Brief

The Global Gateway in the Southern Neighbourhood: the Dilemma of Investing in Authoritarian MENA Countries

March 2024


The policy brief discusses the Global Gateway investment program launched by the EU to foster infrastructure projects connecting Europe with other parts of the world, particularly the Southern Neighbourhood. With an initial focus on generating €300 billion for investments by 2027, the program aims to leverage the EU’s economic size and normative attractiveness to become a global power. However, it faces a dilemma when cooperating with authoritarian regimes in the MENA region, where autocrats have tightened control despite past hopes for democratic change.

This piece describes how the Global Gateway isn’t designed as a democracy promotion tool, the EU hopes its investments will indirectly promote democratic standards. Yet, partnering with authoritarian governments poses long-term geostrategic risks. The brief highlights the challenge of balancing investment opportunities with the EU’s democratic values, especially in regions where autocracy prevails. The brief emphasizes the potential for the EU to differentiate itself from other investors, such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative, by offering a mix of grants, soft loans, and investment guarantees. Additionally, it suggests promoting public deliberation processes in investment decisions to build bottom-up legitimacy and avoid funding projects facing public opposition.

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