Europe and the Mediterranean countries are bound by history, geography and culture. At the crossroads of the European, African and Asian continents, the Mediterranean region presents political and economic challenges that have recently relaunched the debate on Euro-Mediterranean integration and cooperation.

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The Eastern Mediterranean has existed geographically throughout the ages. However, developments in the 21st century have necessitated viewing it conceptually as a distinct “new” region with specific characteristics. Comprised by Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Turkey, the region is assuming increased significance in world affairs. More specifically, the region of Eastern Mediterranean is currently of vital importance for the EU, due to a number of prospects and challenges. The Eastern part of the Mediterranean is indeed witnessing some of the most intriguing, worrisome and dangerous events in today’s world. Consider the civil war raging in Syria, the rise of ISIS, the unraveling of Libya, the strength of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, the outbreak of Islamic sectarian conflicts, the uncertainty about Egypt’s future (and that of the Arab Spring more generally), the ambition (and some would argue unpredictability) of Turkey, substantial new energy findings and, more recently, a refugee crisis.

The Eastern Mediterranean has existed geographically throughout the ages. However, developments in the 21st century have necessitated viewing it conceptually as a distinct “new” region with specific characteristics. Comprised by Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Turkey, the region is assuming increased significance in world affairs. More specifically, the region of Eastern Mediterranean is currently of vital importance for the EU, due to a number of prospects and challenges. The Eastern part of the Mediterranean is indeed witnessing some of the most intriguing, worrisome and dangerous events in today’s world. Consider the civil war raging in Syria, the rise of ISIS, the unraveling of Libya, the strength of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, the outbreak of Islamic sectarian conflicts, the uncertainty about Egypt’s future (and that of the Arab Spring more generally), the ambition (and some would argue unpredictability) of Turkey, substantial new energy findings and, more recently, a refugee crisis.

Thinking of the Eastern Mediterranean as a separate “new” region (and not as merely an extension of the Middle East or of South Eastern Europe) has several advantages. First, regions are becoming a more useful analytical concept for the international relations of the 21st century. The world is simply too diverse for “one size fits all” policies like that of containment in the past. Secondly, there is the issue of energy.The possibility of friction and conflict over energy resources among regional actors cannot be discounted.There is one other reason that requires the region to be viewed separately: It constitutes possibly the most important border within East and West. In today’s Eastern Mediterranean, the forces of modernity democracy, secularism, peace and toleration,let us say the best of the “West,” meet (and inevitably clash) with the forces and ideologies of authoritarianism, theocracy, terrorism, intolerance, fundamentalism and perpetual conflict—the worst of the “East.”Ultimately, understanding the Eastern Mediterranean as a “new” region with the aforementioned characteristics can lead to more prescient analyses of shared regional challenges and, perhaps more importantly, actions and initiatives aiming at cooperation and stability.