Arab Awakening

EU and the Middle East
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  The EU & the Arab Awakeningol Introduction When a26 year-oldTunisian street vendor, MohammedBouazizi, set himself on fire on 17 December 2010 inprotest at his treatment by local officials, he cannothave imaginedtheenormity of the consequences. PresidentZine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruledTunisiasince 1987, was forced from officeon 14 January 20ll; major protestserupted in 12 countries with minor incidents in others. The most dramaticwere in Egypt, wherePresident HosniMubarak was forced fromoffice after 30years,and in Libya where a large-scale rebellion against the rule of Colonel Gaddafi evolved into a civil war with interventionby the intemational community and ended with Gaddafi'soverthrow and death. Serious protestscontinue in Syria and Yemen and there is on-goingturbulence in a number of other countries, including Bahrain and Iran.It is clear that the Arab revolutions have notyetrun their course. The events of 2011have been called the Arab Spring or the Arab awakening by many commentators and likened to the collapse of Communism in Europe after 1989. The scale of these eventscaught politicians and diplomats unawares and the response of theintemational community has often been criticised as inadequate.This paper looks at the events ofthe ArabAwakening and assesses the EU's response. Backgroundin the ArabWorld Each countryis different but certain themes and problems can be seen as threads that bindthe separate national protests. These includerapidpopulation growth, economic stagnation withhigh levels of unemployment, an absence of democracy and the rule of law, corruption and disparities of wealth and power, repressive govemments and political instability. Over all this hangs theplace of Islam in Arab politics. The population of the 22 Arab countries has almost trebledsince 1970 - from 128 million to 359 million, compared to a 12 per centincrease in Europe over the same period and 52percent in the USA - making it the fastest growingregion in the world.l In some countries, such as Egypt, Tunisia,Syria and Saudi Arabia, the increase has been particularly large. One aspect of thisdemographic change hasbeen the increase in the numberofyoungpeople; 60 per cent of the Arabcountries' population is under 25.2 An Intemational Laborn Organisation surveyin2006found that unemploymentin the Middle East and North Africa was thehighest in any region ofthe world at 12.2 per cent. Participationinthe workforce was the lowestin the world,largely because only one in threewomenis in employment.This highlevel of unemploymentprompted Carnegie economicexpertSufyan Alissa to argue in2007 that the repeated failureof Arab government to find radicalsolutions tothisproblemcould lead to public pressure to t 'Bulging youth populationsin the Mideast,' Joseph Charmie (Yale), The Jakarta Post,04.0l.l1. 'Cited inArab Human DevelopmentReport 2009, tlNDP, p.36.  topple these governments .3 That view was shared by other commentators who also noted the failureofArab governments to address pooreducational systems. This unemploymentproblem reflectsnot onlypopulation growth but also economicstagnation in many countries. The vast wealth of the Persian Gulf states contrasts markedly with the plightof Yemen - thepoorest of the Arab states - where 40percent of the population live on underf.1.25 a day. Even in Saudi Arabia, 40 per cent ofyoung p.opt. have no job and of those that do, nearly half earn less than f500 a month.Democracy and the ruleof law exist onlypartiallyin most Arab countries. Ofthe countries where major protests took place, Egypt,Tunisia, Algeria and Yemen all had electedpresidents, but protestors challenged thelegitimacy of the government because of the absence of free and fair elections, open media andbecause of corruption amongstthe ruling elite. The absence of democracy and the rule of law in most Arab countriesmeantthere was no safety valvethrough whichpublic concernabout the state ofthe economy could be vented. Violent repression of protests only made the situation worse. Politicalinstability is a notable feature of the region. In addition to thelong-standingIsrael/Palestinian dispute (see below), there are considerable problemsarisingfrom thedominance of ethnic or religious minoritiesin several countries.In Bahrain, Lebanonand Syria (and in Iraq until recently),religious or tribalminorities rule. In other states,such as Yemen, there has been political violence associated with regional or territorial disputes.Terrorism has beenafactor too - and one which has complicated the Arab world's relationship with the West.One of the consequences of political instability, including that the region is home to half the world's refugees, hasbeen a rise in illegalmigration as peoplehave understandably tried to find betterprospects in Europe and elsewhere.This has causedconsiderable tension between North African countries and EU countries. Given this background, it is hardly surprising that tensions in some Arab countriesspilled on to the streets. The fmancialcrisis of recentyears, and the globaleconomic down-tum that followed, putadditional pressure on unpopular governments with high food prices contributing to the mood of anger in severalcountries. Thecommunications revolutionplayed apart in the Arab Spring too - the wide availability of satellite television enabled Arabs to follow developments in other countries, particularly Tunisia, and respond. The youngerArabs used social networking sites on the internet as way of communicating with one another and the wider world when themainstream media in their countrieswas often under state control. The Wider Context The wider picture is dominatedby the Israel/Palestinedispute and thelack of progress in the peace process.This dispute has had a poisoning effect on relationships between the Arab world and much of the West and within the Arab world itself, as Arab countriestake different approaches to the issue, although the Palestinianapplicationto the [lN for 3  membership as a nation statehas provided anissue around whichall Arab statescan rally. The continuing influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon and thethreat this poses toneighbouring Israel, as well as the de-stabilisingimpact in Lebanon itself, only makesthe situation more complicated and more dangerous. Hezbollah derives much of its funding and armssupplies from Iran, which also providesmoney andweapons to Hamas in the Gaza strip. Iranian influence is feared bymany Arab states and Iran'scontinuing search for a nuclear weapons capability, in defiance of the international community, makes it a wider cause for concetn. The EU is involved in both the diplomaticinitiativesto deal withIran's nuclear programme and in the Middle East Quartet,that is theEU, US, Russia and the IlN. Global dependence on the oil and gas reserves of many Arab countries has madeenergy a potentfactorintherelationship between these countries and the rest of the world. Many commentators have seen thereluctance of Western countriesto confront the rulers of Arab countries over theirpoor human rights and democratic records as being because of the influence of energy overdecision-makers. But Western action on Libya undermines the claim that the Westalways acts in the Middle East toprotect its energy sources. The US and UK invasion of Iraq in 2003 had many negative consequences in the region,not least in exacerbatinganti-US and anti-Western sentiment. The overhang from invasion of Iraq has become a constrainingfactor in US foreign policy, as theObama administration has sought to avoidconfrontation with Muslim countries.In addition,they feelthat the US policyof unconditionalsupport for Israel has caused a stalemate in the dispute over Palestine. .ButtheArab Spring was not driven byanti-US or anti- Western sentiments nor indeed theIslamist agenda orthe Palestinian issue. The EU's Relationship with the RegionFrom the early 1960s theEC developed a series of bilateral cooperation agreements with itsMediterranean neighbours, essentially offering trade benefits and aid. At present, Algeria, Egypt,Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco,Palestinian Authority and Tunisia have association agreements with the EU. The treaties that allow for trade liberalisation, enable the third country to be part of EU aid programmesbut also requireaction on the part of the third country, such as measures to establishthe rule of law in business or to improve human rights. Syria negotiated an association agreement with the EU but it has not been formally agreedbecause the Council required Syria to co-operate with the Special Tribunalfor Lebanon, set up to prosecutethose suspected of theassassination of former Lebanese Prime MinisterRafik Hariri in2005, before it could be adopted. Negotiations with Llbyabeganin 2008 but they had not been completed at the time ofthe Libyan uprising. In EUpolicy terms the regionformspartofthe European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).This policy is intended to enablecountries on the edge of the EU to enjoy a closeassociation with the EUwithout necessarily joining it in the future (only European countries can join the EU; there is a separate Senior European Experts paperon the ENP).  The Barcelona Process wasthe framework for a moreambitiousprogramme for re- negotiated association agreementsbetweenthe EU and its Mediterranean partners, with improved tradeand economic cooperation, more political content (bedevilledhowever by the Arab-Israel dispute),dealing also withmigration(including the EU'sright to retutnillegal economicmigrants) and including a humanrights, aspirations to good goverulanceand the rule of law. The agreementshavesometimes been difficult to negotiate because of the resistance of some partners to thehuman rights and linked suspension clauses. The EU's relationship with thecountries of the Southern and Eastem Mediterranean isalsodealt with in the forum of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM); a body established in 2008 to replacetheBarcelonaProcess.a A range of co-operative ventures have been launched, including economicdevelopmentprojects, measures totackle pollution in the Mediterranean sea andan energy project aimed at harnessingsolarpower But the UfM has not achievedthe political importance thatwas hoped for. It has not become a significant factor in debates aboutthe futureof the Southern Mediterraneancountries,nor a player in political discussions. This may have reflected a lack of commitment to the project within the EU - not all Member States were as enthusiastic as PresidentSarkozyabout thesetting up of the UfM. The fact that not all the UfM member countrieswere democracies added to doubts inside the EU about the value of the body. Thedisparatenature of the Southern Mediterranean members themselves with a lack of agreementamongthemon the bigger political questions, as well as reluctance to involve outsiders,contributedto theperceptionthat the UfM was a solution proposedbythe EUtoproblems identified by the EU rather than a partnership established with the Southern Mediterraneancountries. After 2008 two summits of the UfVI wereproposed and thenpostponed; a situationthat added credibility to the view that it lackedleadership and impetus. Both the Barcelona Process and the UfM havesuffered from disagreements over the Arab-Israel dispute leading to Arab countriesdecliningto attendmeetings with Israeli representativespresent. An aim of the UfM is theinclusionof thecountries ofthe Southern Mediterranean with the EU, EFTA countries and Turkeyin a Euro-Mediterranean free trade area.Thisin turn would linkto the Greater Arab FreeTrade Area, which came into being in 1997, andoperates under the auspices of the Arab League.EU countriesdo substantialtrade with countries of the Southern Mediterranean-€224 billion in2009 - but thereis relatively little intra-regional trade amongstthe Arabcountries - just €15 billion in2009. Thepotentialeconomic benefits of establishingalarge free trade atea covering most of Europe and the Mediterraneancouldtherefore be significantfor Arab countries currently experiencing severe economic difficulties and which need to create jobs at a fasterrate than in the past. o All BU Member Statesare included with Albania,Algeria, Bosnia & Herzegovina,Croatia, Egypt, Israel,Jordan,Lebanon, Mauritania, Monaco,Montenegro, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey 4
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