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The European Reaction as Seen by the Arabs

The Moroccan expert Abd al-Raḥīm al-Maṣlūḥī, proposes another essay to discuss in which he commences to ask if Europe, which is defined as a “lessons giver”, is still careless about the issue of political reform in the countries on the southern bank of the Mediterranean. Al-Maṣlūḥī delves into a series of questions about the European Union’s intentions; he wonders if they are able to achieve the projections of the post-authoritarian agenda in the Arabic world and if Europe will succeed to gain a role in the management of that agenda.

Furthermore the author asks in a rhetorical way if the Paris Conference on the 1st of September fully recognised the triumph of member states’ national sovereignty. The content of the conference was made possible to all those who wished to understand it thanks to the services of translation agencies. He also questions if the choices made in Brussels, which were favourable to a military intervention in Libya, aren’t once again the proofs of its incapacity to come out of the dilemma, seen as the inevitable and insurmountable horizon of the European defensive position. According to the author, the decisions made by the main EU members about the Arab Spring aren’t empty of paradoxes. On one side these ideas aroused a renewed confidence in Europe’s capacity to personify a multilateral model for the management of his neighbours’ crisis; on the other side they brought to light his incapacity to create own security mechanisms. In other words European diplomatic successes, above all about Libya, cost a reaffirmation of his dependence from NATO about their common safety.

According to the author, NATO military actions in Libya, the mobilization of the ONU Security Council against the Syrian regime, the success of Paris Conference on the 1st September 2011, the diplomatic support and the unfreezing of Libyan funds in favour of the National Transition Council have probably contributed to improve Europe’s position. In some way, it wants to redress its false steps that, at the beginning of the Arab Spring, brought it to underestimate the Arabs and social movements’ capacities. Concerning this, al-Maṣlūḥī exposes the clumsy reaction of the French diplomacy to the outbreak of the Tunisian uprising and the hesitations showed by Brussels’ authorities to popular revolts, particularly the one of the European Union High Officer for foreign affairs; he underlines that for the EU these uprisings have been a “strategic surprise”.

The Moroccan expert explains in fact that in a geopolitical world characterized for a long time by the absence of big breakdowns in political regimes and in which civil societies’ organizations have a marginal influence on events, few observers would have forecasted transformations coming from the low and led by social movements, whose unique resource is the strength of his mobilization around only one aim: auto-democratization. The prefix “auto” is revealing: the active minorities have stopped to believe in the regime and to Brussels authorities’ democratic rhetoric, so they decided to take charge of their own democratic destinies.

Afterwards the author enumerates the factors that can trigger a revolution or a transformation in a regime: foreign intervention, economical trend and popular uprising. According to al-Maṣlūḥī it is clear that foreign intervention can’t be taken into consideration to explain the wave of popular uprisings that disrupted several Arab countries from January 2011. As everybody knows, classical methods of democratization as soft powers (conditionality, incentives, and economic sanctions) were never used in this area. According to the author, the widespread idea that the exportation of democratic values is the only way to fight Arab authoritarian regimes, is less convincing than the one of the auto-democratization; although according to some sceptics who are experts in the plotting theory, the American administration, Israel and their secret services (who are the real inciters of the Arab spring) are reconfiguring the MENA region.

According to al-Maṣlūḥī the “Arab Spring” has been a strategic surprise for Europe also in another sense. Some hundred kilometres far from its borders, European countries are witnesses of a series of complete transformations that involve a region important for Europeans about neighbourhood problems and transferable risks; in addition transformations are guided by actors with whom Europe usually doesn’t relate to: social protest movements. According to the author in a contest like this Europe can react in two different ways: it can maintain its tolerance policy towards local regimes to avoid losing consent of people who share the same vision about Islamism and about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, or can promote the democratization in the Arab world endearing in advance the new political élite, with the hope to carry weight in their political agenda when they will take power. Everything suggests that EU’s state members have chosen the second one, but not unhesitatingly.