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The European Union and the Arab Spring, Continued…

The European Neighbourhood Policy, which is organised on a bilateral basis, is still the EU’s main vehicle to reply to the Arab Spring. From the offset this policy has been looked at by Arabic partners with suspicion because of the fear of competition with east European countries, however now it has finally revealed itself as a success. This project is indeed characterized by a bigger differentiation in relations with European Union’s neighbours, depending on their systems reform extension.

As already claimed conditionality it is emphasized more than in the past that support for democratization will be the most important guideline. Election translation services have done their part to encourage this progression internationally. Political conditionality’s effectiveness will depend on how many benefits the EU can really lavish towards the European Neighbourhood Policy’s new plans.

A new development and increased economic support for democracy is promised to those countries that really want to start reforms, but EU representatives are split about issues such as people’s mobility. The European Neighbourhood Policy has the advantage of having a bilateral structure so it can allow the relations with Arabic partners to develop at different speeds. However some restrictions still exist. First of all it doesn’t encompass all the southern neighbours of the EU; Libya stays out and Algeria doesn’t get enthusiastic about it. Secondly, for the European Union to rely only on the “European Neighbourhood Policy” would mean to completely abandon the Euro-Mediterranean’s multilateralism.

Although some redefinitions of the European Neighbourhood Policy exist, it still isn’t clear if the European support for the democratization towards a unilateral activity (eventually bilateral) will have the necessary boost required by the situation. There are also other novelties of less importance, such as the Civil Society Neighbourhood Facility (an ENP’s fund for the civil society), which could finally give the right encouragement to increase relations between civil societies. Nevertheless almost all of the suggested measures coexist in the strengthening existing measures. It seems that nearly all the EU’s members have seized the Arab Spring as an opportunity to collect scattered measures and put them together. This gives them a more rational and effective structure to assure a faster approval on the part of member countries. We are beginning to foresee a new approach in the form of the radical change which usually is often referenced in official speeches. The European Union’s approach to the Arab Spring is characterized by a fruitless continuity with scant novelties. European reactions to Arab uprisings have been characterized by a belated activism and by the lack of a common agreement between the twenty-seven member states so far.

In conclusion, Europe felt the necessity to give the right answer to problems and changes in progress in the Mediterranean. However this answer doesn’t keep up with developments of scenarios which are appearing on the horizon. On one hand, the proposal on which the EU is working needs strong adjustments, (additional resources, a new cooperation strategy, a bigger openness towards immigration and a new view of its political relations with partners). On the other hand, current events, both in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East, risk transforming the aim of differentiation in a regional disintegration if they don’t have a stronger common foreign policy for the EU.