Europe Starts to Get Serious About its Neighbors

By Alina Inayeh
Thursday, 26 May 2011
GERMAN MARSHAL FUND

BUCHAREST — Nearly four months after a young Tunisian fruit seller burned himself alive out of despair over the corruption of his country and sparked a popular revolt against autocracy that swept the region, thunderstruck leaders on both sides of the Atlantic are finding their voice again. Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a major speech that compared the uprisings with America’s civil rights movement. This week, it was Europe’s turn to answer the call from Northern Africa and the Middle East. By European standards of deliberation, the European Union’s response was atypically timely.

On Wednesday, Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, and Stefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy,  released a joint policy paper called, in characteristically dry EU-speak, “A New Response to a Changing Neighborhood.” Technically, this document is the result of a routine review of the EU’s existing neighborhood policy, and was scheduled long before the Arab upheavals. But as events unfolded, it became clear that Europe’s response could no longer be routine. So the advance word was that this would be a bold reaction to the dramatic changes in what remains a very dynamic neighborhood.

But the paper published on Tuesday falls somewhat short of a genuinely bold vision. It does not go so far as to sketch out a desired democratic end state for the nations of the region. That kind of clarity might have made relations with some countries easier. Still, by European standards, it’s a courageous document. Most importantly, it rectifies the chief flaw of the earlier policy by introducing genuine conditionality; it seeks to encourage democratic reforms by offering the carrot of economic support–and threatening to withdraw it in case of backsliding. This in itself is a remarkable affirmation of European principles and values. Civic and opposition party leaders had asked for it in vain for years, and watched in frustration as the EU gave funds to regimes that paid no more than lip service to reform, if that.

Read More

  • Share/Bookmark
This entry was posted in Articles, Featured. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • About AP

    Atlantic Partnership exists to educate the public in national and international political and economic issues, including those values and ideals of good governance and constructive relations between countries, particularly but not exclusively those in the transatlantic community embracing Europe and North America. It is a non-partisan organisation and does not seek to inculcate or promote a particular point of view.
  • Stay Up to Date

    Follow Atlantic Partnership on Twitter @AtlanticPARTN or Facebook to read selected articles on issues of transatlantic importance, read partner articles, and view AP events.

  • Disclaimer

    Atlantic Partnership is not a membership organisation, does not charge any fees for participation in its events or remunerate its speakers. Its resources are correspondingly modest. But within them it aims to bring together diverse audiences whom it believes will benefit from the opportunity to listen and debate with its invited speakers and apply the lessons learned to their own particular challenges in the broad areas of public policy and international relations. Atlantic Partnership (whose registered name is the Atlantic Education Project) is a registered charity in England and Wales. It cooperates closely with its sister organisation, Friends of Atlantic Partnership Inc, an American not-for-profit (501/C/3) organisation, exchanging information and passing on experiences, while retaining its independence and separate governance.