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Research Report

Arab Reform:: what role for the EU?

Irene Menendez Gonzalez
Copyright Date: May. 19, 2005
Published by: Egmont Institute
Pages: 42
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 5-7)

    The discussion on and commitment to reform in the Arab world is not new.² Arab experience of liberalism dates to the constitutionalist period under Ottoman rule (1870s-1910s), followed by a period of parliamentarism under colonial dominance (1920s-1950s), and culminating in the wave of political liberalization – ripples of the so-called ‘third wave’ – which spread, albeit unequally, throughout the region in the 1980s. Thus, several Arab countries, including Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan, embarked on a number of political and economic reforms during the period in what was seen as evidence of a transition to democracy, today largely stalled.

    Equally long-standing...

  2. (pp. 8-14)

    The emerging consensus on the need for reform, both in the region and among Western policy circles, has not been met by similar agreement on what political ‘reform’ means. The literature on the meaning of democracy and democratization is broad and subject to debate, not least because the very term ‘democracy’ is dynamic and a reflection of historical context.11 Taken to mean ‘democratization’, ‘reform’ is largely defined as the process of transformation of the political system from non-democracy towards accountable and representative government. A distinction is made between phases of transition, or the initial phase in which democracy is not...

  3. (pp. 15-30)

    Against this backdrop, how to make Western policies more effective? Before assessing European efforts of reform, it is necessary to outline both the rationale behind policies of reform and the institutional capacities of which the EU availed itself to promote reform.

    Western policies of reform in the 1990s have traditionally combined ethical and pragmatic concerns. The end of the cold war ushered in a period of new normative thinking marked by the questioning of the moral underpinnings of the West’s democratization agenda. In contrast to the emerging normative consensus that sought to legitimise international intervention in the name of human...

  4. (pp. 31-37)

    The notion of ‘comprehensive security’ underlying EU policies, from the EMP to Wider Europe and the European Security Strategy, provides an appropriate framework to tackle the political problems of the region. Not only does it reflect the EU’s civilian tradition of foreign policy making and its capabilities in external relations – notwithstanding the evolution of the ESDP and the value of potential cooperation with NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue. It is also better suited to deal with the complex nature of the security challenges that emanate from the region, where economic underdevelopment, poverty, demographic growth, illiteracy and marginalization of women combine with...

  5. (pp. 38-38)
    Irene Menendez Gonzalez

    Reform in the Arab world is as a long-term process which must come from within. This is not to say that democracy promotion efforts are not necessary – on the contrary, external actors can and must help from the outside. But policies for reform require cooperative, sustainable and comprehensive strategies; while comprehensive, EU policy continues to suffer from a number of shortcomings. Amongst these are the lack of an overall strategy to engage with moderate Islamist sectors of Arab societies, and a disproportionate emphasis on bottom-up approaches to reform. At a regional level, the time is not ripe for ‘grand’...