Acknowledgements and Methodology

ECFR’s Middle East and North Africa team would like to extend our sincere thanks to all our external authors and network of member state researchers for their time and insight. We would like to extend our personal thanks to Camille Lons and Yasmine Zarhloule for helping to conceptualise and research this project. We are indebted to Marco Ugolini at, ECFR’s web lead Juan Ruitiña, and the coding team at Queo for delivering the web platform. Special thanks also go to Dieter Dollacker for designing the graphics found in the section on “What does Europe think?” Finally, as always, none of this would have been possible without the support of ECFR’s research director Jeremy Shapiro and editors Chris Raggett and Adam Harrison.


What does Europe think?

The data presented are based on assessments conducted by ECFR researchers in each EU member state, through face-to-face and telephone interviews with government officials and analysts, as well as desk research. The data provide insight into how European countries view their relationships with MENA states, their respective regional priorities, the influence that they and the wider EU bloc brings to bear on the region, and the opportunities to create a more coherent European position.


Data show average yearly trade with individual MENA countries between 2014 and 2017, including both goods and services. In order to provide a comprehensive picture of bilateral trade with the MENA region, we have used data from multiple sources: data relating to the European Union come from the European Commission; data relating to EU member states, China, the United States, Russia, and total world trade come from a common data set used by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and, where data have been lacking, from the UN Comtrade database. In some cases, figures vary slightly according to the methodology used by each data source. However, these variances are negligible and do not affect the findings of this project Data sets relating to non-EU trade with Libya and Syria are not available for the required period; nor are world trade figures for Syria available for the required period.


Data show average aid figures provided to individual MENA countries between 2014 and 2017. Data for the EU (European Commission) and its member states are sourced from the European Commission’s EU Aid Explorer, which relies primarily on OECD figures. Data for Russia are sourced from the OECD; and for the US from USAID. Comprehensive data on Chinese aid to the MENA region are not available.

Arms sales

Data show total arms sales to individual MENA countries between 2014 and 2017. Data come from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. This only includes actual arms sales; i.e. if an order has been placed or deliveries have begun. These figures therefore do not include memoranda of intent.

Security and defence missions

This category is intended to provide only an indicative snapshot of major foreign security and defence missions in the Middle East. The location of foreign deployments is only approximative, based on publicly available information, and is not intended to be an exhaustive account of all foreign deployments in the Middle East.


Data show the average number of migrants from the MENA region between 2014 and 2017. Data are sourced from the OECD. As the OECD explains, member countries seldom have tools specifically designed to measure the inflows and outflows of the foreign population, and national estimates are generally based either on population registers or residence permit data. This creates some difficulties in establishing national comparisons.


Data show the average remittance sent by Middle Eastern migrants in Europe back to their home countries between 2014 and 2017. Data come from the World Bank based on those entering as permanent workers plus those entering under family reunification. Persons entering as self-employed are also included. The World Bank’s bilateral remittances matrices are generated using ‘migrant stocks’, ‘host country incomes’, and ‘origin country incomes’.


This category is intended to show which MENA countries enjoy the closest political and economic ties with the EU. For comparison purposes, we have also shown agreements between China and MENA countries, and post-Brexit free trade agreements signed by the UK. Different types of agreement are shown in different shades to indicate their ‘strength’: more intense shades of colour indicate stronger agreements; paler shades indicate weaker agreements.


This category shows high-level visits by the EU, the E5 (France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom), China, Russia, and the US, to the MENA region, between 2017 and 2019. For states, we have limited the data set to visits made by heads of government and heads of state. Due to the unique set-up of the EU institutions, we have listed visits made by the president of the European Commission, president of the European Council, and the high representative. For the sake of usability, reciprocal visits by MENA officials are not shown. 


We have sought to distil the complex web of EU sanctions into five broad categories for the sake of usability. These are: arms embargos; asset freezes and entry restrictions (against individuals and organisations); trade and financial restrictions (against states); denial of access to flights and ships; and mandatory business due diligence. Our data are based on the European Commission’s

A project by the ECFR MENA Programme

Research assistance: Yasmine Zarhloule

Design and development:,, Juan Ruitiña

Editing: Chris Raggett, Adam Harrison

December 2019. ECFR/310. ISBN 978-1-913347-10-9