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The Arab Spring and Europe’s Turn

NEW HAVEN – Until now, and with few exceptions, the West has nurtured two distinct communities of foreign-policy specialists: the development community and the democratic community. More often than not, they have had little or no connection with one another: development specialists dealt comfortably with dictatorships and democracies alike, believing that prosperity can best be created by concentrating exclusively on economic issues and institutions.

The consequences of this approach have a special resonance in the Arab world today. But, as the recent United Nations Security Council debates on the Arab Spring have shown, it is not the major emerging countries that will influence events in the region. Brazil has barely uttered a word in reaction to the region’s tumult, while Russia and China have little taste for sanctions against Libya in light of their own autocratic governments.

All of this adds up to a unique opportunity for the European Union to support its neighbors’ transition from revolutionary upheaval to democratic government. At the same time, we need to promote the progress of other regimes in the region toward inclusive democracy. Indeed, the EU is their natural partner in this endeavor.

Since the launch of the Barcelona Process in 1995, EU Mediterranean policy has been criticized for not linking financial aid to democratic reform, and for giving priority to European concerns like immigration, security, and cooperation on counter-terrorism. At the same time, EU policy has sidelined clear southern priorities, like opening up Europe’s agriculture and textile markets. The result is that the vision of the official Euro-Mediterranean Policy (EMP) has lagged far behind its original goals.