It is arguable that one of the reasons for the Union's somewhat ambivalent responses to the violation of certain values, as was seen in the case studies examined in Chapter 4, is due to the lack of tangible benefits to it in promoting those values at the expense of other interests. It is an inescapable fact that the violation of norms and the failure to respect certain values in far off countries, no matter how abhorrent they may be, do not usually directly threaten a state's fundamental interests. The Union's commitment to the Western Balkans, for example, has been precisely because the detriment to the interests of the Union and its Member States, if further instability breaks out on its borders, is obvious. The former External Relations Commissioner, Chris Patten has noted with regard to the Union's relationship with North Africa, for example, that ‘[n]othing matters more to Europe than the way we handle our relationship with this sharp edge of the Islamic world. Get it wrong, politically and economically, and our borders will be subjected to unmanageable migratory pressures; the tensions in Arab countries will spill over into our own societies; and our tolerance will be tested to breaking point.’
A major distinguishing feature, therefore, between the previous case studies and those under examination in this chapter, is physical proximity. The Union's direct interest in stability and peace in the Middle East, the Mediterranean region and its ‘Neighbourhood’ has been made clear on a number of occasions.