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Arab Spring

Arab Spring

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Published by Asad Ali Khan

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Published by: Asad Ali Khan on Dec 12, 2011
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01/12/2012

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The
EU
&
the
ooArab
Awakening"
Introduction
When a26
year-oldTunisian
street
vendor,
MohammedBouazizi,
set
himself
onfire on
17
December
2010
in
protest
at
his treatment
bylocal
officials,
he
cannothave
imaginedtheenormity
of
the
consequences.
PresidentZine
ElAbidine
Ben
Ali,
who
had
ruledTunisia since
1987,
was
forced
from officeon
14
January2011;
major
protestserupted
in
12
countries
with minor
incidents
in others.
The
mostdramaticwere
in
Egypt,
wherePresident
Hosni Mubarak
was
forced
fromoffice
after
30
years,and
in Libya
where
a
large-scale
rebellion
againstthe
rule
of
ColonelGaddafievolved
into
a
civil
war
with
intervention by theinternationalcommunity
andended
with
Gaddafi's
overthrow
and
death.
Serious
protests continue
in
Syria
and
Yemen
and
there
is
on-going turbulence
in
a
number
of
othercountries,
including
Bahrain
and
Iran.It
is
clearthat the
Arab
revolutions
have
notyetrun
their
course.
The
events
of
2011have
been
called
the
"Arab
Spring"
orthe
"Arab
awakening"
by
many commentators
and
likenedto the
collapse
of
Communism
in
Europe
after
1989.
The
scale
of
theseeventscaught
politicians
and
diplomats
unawares
and
the
response
of
the intemational
community
has
often
been
criticised
as
inadequate.This
paper
looks
at
the
events
of
the
ArabAwakening
and
assesses
the
EU's
response.
Backgroundin
the
Arab World
Each
countryis
different
but certain
themes
and
problems
can
be
seen
as
threadsthat
bindthe
separate
national
protests.
These
includerapidpopulation
growth,
economic
stagnation
with high
levels
of
unemployment,
an absence
of
democracy
and
the rule
of
law,
corruption
and
disparities
of
wealth
and
power,
repressivegovernments
and
political
instability.
Over
all
this
hangs
theplace
of
Islam
in Arab
politics.Thepopulation
of
the
22
Arab
countries
has
almost
trebledsince
1970
-
from
128
million
to
359
million,
compared
toa
12
per
cent increase
in
Europe
over
the
same
periodand
52
percent
in
the
USA-
making
it
the
fastest
growingregion
in
the
world.l
In
some
countries,
such
as
Egypt,
Tunisia, Syria
andSaudi
Arabia,the
increase
has
been
particularly
large.
One
aspect
of
this demographic
change
has been
theincrease
in
the
number
ofyorttg
people;
OO
p..
cent
of
the
Arab countries'population is
under
25.2
An
Intemational
Labour
Organisation
surveyin2006found
that
unemploymentin
the
Middle
East
and
NorthAfrica
was the
highest
in
any
region of
the
worldat
12.2
per
cent.
Participation in the
workforce
wasthe
lowestin
the
world,
largely
because
only
one
in
three womenis
in employment.
This high level
of
unemploymentprompted
Carnegie
economic expert SufyanAlissa
to
argue
in2007
that
"the
repeated
failureof Arab
government
to find
radical solutionstothisproblem could
lead
to
public
pressure
to
t
'Bulging
youth
populations in
the
Mideast,'
Joseph
Charmie
(Yale),
The
Jakarta
Post,04.0I.ll.'Cited
inArab
HumanDevelopmentReport2009,
IINDP,p.36.
 
topple
these
governments".3 That
view
was
shared
by other
commentators
who
also
notedthe
failure of Arab
governments
to
address
pooreducational
systems.
This unemploymentproblem reflectsnot onlypopulation
growth
but
also economicstagnation
in
many
countries.
The
vastwealth
of
the Persian
Gulf
states
contrasts
markedly
with
the
plightof
Yemen-
thepoorest
of
the
Arab
states
-
where 40percent
of
the
population
live
on
under f.1.25
a
day.
Even
in
Saudi
Arabia,40
per
cent
ofyoung
proit.
have
no
job
and
of
those
that
do,nearly
half
eam
less
than
f500
a
month.Democracy
and
the
rule
oflaw
exist
only
pafiially
in mostArab
countries.
Of
the
countries
where
major
protests
took
place,
Egypt,Tunisia,
Algeria
and
Yemen
all
hadelectedpresidents,
but
protestorschallenged
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
countriesmeanttherewas no safety
valvethrough
whichpublic
concernabout
the
state
of
theeconomy
could
be
vented.Violent
repression
of
protests
only
made
thesituation
worse.
Politicalinstability
is
a
notable
feature
of
the
region.
In
additionto the long-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
been
a
factor
too
-
and one
which
has
complicated
the
Arab
world's
relationship
with
the
West.One
of
the consequences
of
political
instability,
including
that the
regionis
home
to
half
the
world's
refugees,
hasbeen
a
rise
inillegal migration
as
peoplehaveunderstandably
tried
to
find
betterprospects
in
Europe
and
elsewhere.This
has caused
considerable
tension
between
NorthAfrican
countries
and
EU
countries.
Given this background,
it
is
hardly
surprising
that tensions
in
some
Arab
countriesspilled
on
to the streets. The
financial
crisis
of
recentyears,
and
theglobaleconomic
down-tum
that
followed,
putadditional
pressure
on unpopular
governments
with
high food
prices
contributing to
the
mood
of
anger
in
several countries.
The communications
revolutionplayed
apart in theArab Spring too
-
the
wide
availability
of
satellite television
enabledArabs
to
follow
developmentsinothercountries,
particularly
Tunisia,
and
respond.
The
youngerArabs
used
social
networking
sites on the
internet
as
way
of
communicating
with
one
another
and
thewider
world
when
the mainstream
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
poisoningeffect
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
Palestinian applicationto
the
IINfor'
htp://www.camegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa:view&id:19056
 
membership
as a
nation
state has
provided
an issue around
which all Arab
states
can
rally.
The
continuing
influence
of
Hezbollah in Lebanon
and
thethreat
this
poses
toneighbouring Israel,
as
well
as
the
de-stabilisingimpact
in
Lebanon
itself,only
makes
thesituation more complicated
and moredangerous.
Hezbollahderives much
of
its funding
and
arms supplies
from
Iran,
which
also
providesmoney
and weapons
to
Hamas
in the
Gaza
strip.
Iranianinfluence
is feared
bymany
Arab
states
and
Iran's continuing
search
for
a
nuclear
weapons
capability,in
defiance
of
the international
community,
makes
it
a
wider
cause
for concern.
The
EU
is
involved
in
both
the
diplomaticinitiatives to
deal
withIran's
nuclear
programme
and
in
the
Middle
EastQuartet,
that
is
the EU, US,
Russia
and
the
lJN.
Global
dependence
on
the
oil
and
gas
reserves
of
many
Arab
countries
has
madeenergy
a
potentfactor intherelationship
between
these
countries
and
therest
of
the
world.
Many
commentators
have
seen
the reluctance
of
Western
countries to confront
the
rulers
of
Arab
countries over
their
poor
human
rights
and
democratic
records
as
being
because
of
the
influence
of
energy
over decision-makers.
But
Western
action
on
Libya
undermines
theclaim
that
the Westalways
acts
in
the
Middle
East
toprotect
its
energy
sources.
The US
and
{IK
invasion
of
Iraq in
2003had
many negative
consequences
in
the
region,not
least
in
exacerbating
anti-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,theyfeelthat
the
US
policyof
unconditional support
for
Israel
has caused
a
stalemate
in
the dispute over Palestine.
But
the
Arab Spring
was
not drivenbyanti-US
or
anti-
Western sentiments
nor
indeed the
Islamist
agenda
orthe
Palestinian
issue.
The
EU's
Relationship
with
the RegionFrom
the
early
1960s
the EC
developed
a
series
of
bilateral
cooperation
agreements
with
its Mediterraneanneighbours,
essentially
offering
trade
benefits
andaid.
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
countryto
be
part
of EU
aid
programmesbut
also
requireaction
on the
part
of
the
third
country,
such
as
measures
to
establish the
rule
of
law
in
business
or
to
improve
human
rights.
Syria
negotiated
an
associationagreement
with
the
EU
but
it
has
not
been
formally
agreed because
the
Council
required
Syria
to
co-operate
with
theSpecial
Tribunal for
Lebanon,
set
up
to
prosecutethose suspected
of
theassassination
of
former
Lebanese
Prime
MinisterRafik
Hariri
in 2005,
before
it
could
be
adopted.Negotiations
with
Llbyabegan in
2008 but they
had
not
been completed
at
the
time of
the
Libyan
uprising.
In EUpolicy
terms
the region formspartof the
European
Neighbourhood
Policy
(ENP).
Thispolicy
is
intended
to
enable countrieson
the
edge
of
theEU
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
theENP).

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