Chatham House: Independent thinking on international affairs

International Affairs

No friend of democratization: Europe's role in the genesis of the 'Arab Spring'

Rosemary Hollis, January 2012

The argument advanced in this article is that EU policies helped to trigger the so-called Arab Spring, not by intention but by default. This contention is advanced through an examination of four strands of EU policy towards those countries designated as Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Programme (EMP) and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), namely: trade and economic development, political reform, the 'peace process', and regional security (including migration control).

What emerges is that the EU has not just departed from its own normative principles and aspirations for Arab reform in some instances, but that the EU has consistently prioritized European security interests over 'shared prosperity' and democracy promotion in the Mediterranean. The net result is a set of structured, institutionalized and securitized relationships which will be difficult to reconfigure and will not help Arab reformers attain their goals.

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