The target states of the southern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) include a distinct grouping of countries, the Maghreb states, which can be approached either as a full-fledged regional unit or as a sub-regional setting comprised in the broader regional system of the Middle East and North Africa. The fact that the western part of the Arab world, or north-western Africa, is constructed and recognised as a distinct geopolitical unit owes much to its intimate historical connection with – and external penetration by – European powers. Besides a similarly mixed Arab-Amazigh ethnic and linguistic background, and a common Islamic religious identity, what has drawn the borders of the region as an imagined community is a shared colonial experience under the rule of, first, predominantly France (in the case of the three ‘central Maghreb’ countries – Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as Mauritania) and, second, Italy (Libya) and Spain (parts of Morocco and Western Sahara). For the purposes of geopolitical outlining and labelling, this commonality has prevailed over significant divergences between the concerned countries in terms of their contemporary histories (for example, belonging to the Ottoman Empire, form and length of colonial rule, access to independence), their economic, social and demographic structures, and their postcolonial political systems.