BERLIN – The people of Tunisia and Egypt have shown that democracy in Arab countries need not come at the barrel of a Western gun. But, while the drive for democratic change has been local and authentic, there is no guarantee of a successful political transition: democratically elected governments will have to address the same social and economic problems that contributed to the old regimes’ fall – not least the need to create jobs and opportunities for the young.
This will be impossible without external support. Given the myriad links between the European Union countries and the Mediterranean’s southern rim, Europe must not miss this opportunity.
So far, the EU has offered to support democratization in Tunisia and Egypt by helping to organize free and fair elections, establish political parties, and reform the police, courts, and local administrations. But such political-administrative support is not enough. Nor is a Marshall Plan-type program of grand investments sufficient.
This is not to discount the need for such projects; the renewable-energy sector, in particular, holds enormous opportunities for cooperation. Europe needs clean energy, and will not be able to produce enough on its own territory. The countries of North Africa also need energy – particularly more electricity and new networks to support urban and industrial development.