The latest terrorist incident in Saudi Arabia has pushed the price of oil higher again. Given the EU's dependence on energy imports, how good is its game-plan for coping with this growing challenge?

Can it do more than watch helplessly as demand - and nervousness - drive prices upwards, providing fuel only for inflation, while choking off growth?

Even if recent European Commission calls for increased production are heeded by the OPEC meeting in Beirut this week, there is not much unused capacity to offer significant relief. And if heightened insecurity causes an exodus of the foreign workers that keep the Saudi oil industry running, a downturn in output is more likely, despite any OPEC goodwill.

The real test for the EU is more strategic.

And in light of the regional stability dimension to the challenge, the EU's common foreign and security policy should be a central element.

So far, however, EU influence in the region has been small - still smaller because of its policy split on Iraq, where the prospect of exploiting the second largest oil reserves in the world continues to recede. The EU has been almost as ineffectual in the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation that underlies so much of the Middle East tensions. On the fight against terrorism, the EU member states have been agonisingly slow to put into practice many of the...

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