The case of Syria shows that Europe maintains a limited ability to shape its Southern neighbourhood. For the time being it remains a fairly insignificant political actor in the unfolding Syrian crisis.
Middle East and North Africa
Kofi Annan has created a diplomatic framework for dealing with the Syrian crisis. However, the security situation has changed and Annan must move with deliberate caution to make the 'Syrian-led political process' a success.
No one wants to deal with dictators. But one year after the Syrian uprising began, the harsh truth is that Bashar al-Assad maintains the upper hand and the opposition – with its international backers – may have little choice but to cut a deal with him if they want to ease the Syrian people’s suffering.
For so long a reliably boring country in the middle of a tumultuous region, there are signs that Jordan may soon become lively as demands for political reform and the wider impact of the Arab Awakening begin to reach Amman.
It is too early to write off Egypt's revolution. Unlike in the past, politics is now a live issue across the country, and that popular force is a difficult one to control or stop, and even the steps that have been taken now seemed impossible just over a year ago.
The European decision to tighten sanctions against Iran is correct. Careful, balanced and measured pressure on Tehran is necessary as we face a particularly dangerous year for relations with the Iranian regime.
Are the days of the Syrian president numbered? Despite popular opposition and growing international isolation, Assad's eventual demise is by no means assured.
With Europe and much of the West facing a seemingly painful decline, attention continues to shift to the BRICS and the world's other rising powers. But are these countries overplaying their hands as the cracks begin to show in their economic virility?
On Sunday, the Arab League agreed to continue its controversial observer mission in Syria. In this piece, originally published by Foreign Policy two days before the League meeting, Richard Gowan makes the case for keeping the mission going.
After a frenetic 2011, what are the big trends that are going to shape Europe and the wider world in 2012? Here are ten that ECFR experts think are likely – and one widely predicted trend that we don't think will happen…