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Research Report

US and EU:: Lack of Strategic Vision, Frustrated Efforts Toward the Arab Transitions

Danya Greenfield
Amy Hawthorne
Rosa Balfour
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2013
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 52
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-9)

    The stated policy goal of helping Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen achieve successful democratic transitions has receded in importance for the United States since June 2012, when the Atlantic Council published its initial report on US and EU support for the Arab awakening countries. Obama administration officials continue to assert that Arab democratization is a “strategic necessity”¹ to which the United States remains firmly dedicated. But in practice, US efforts to support democratic and economic progress in these four countries waned in the past year. The administration did not announce any major new economic or democracy assistance initiatives, labored to...

  2. (pp. 10-24)

    Since 2011, US officials consistently have described two overarching priorities for US support for the transitioning countries. The first focuses on economic recovery, development, and job creation (specifically, through inclusive, private-sector growth and trade), and the second is democratic reform. In 2012, the United States introduced a third priority, security sector reform. In an October 2012 speech, Clinton described US support for these priorities as “the hallmark of America’s involvement in the region,” while acknowledging that “talk” about aid had to be followed by “actual investments.”17 Despite Clinton’s promise of aid delivery, however, the record of US assistance investments in...

  3. (pp. 25-27)

    In the months following the 2011 Arab uprisings, the EU developed a new policy approach toward the region based on greater emphasis on democratic change and offering improved incentives to support the transition of these countries. The rationale of the revised May 2011 European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was to anchor them more closely to their Northern Mediterranean partners by improving the quality of economic and financial assistance and expanding the range of fields for cross-Mediterranean engagement.

    “Two years on from the revision of the ENP, implementation is the main task and challenge for the EU and its partners. Since 2011,...

  4. (pp. 28-36)

    Despite its own economic crisis, the EU made commitments and pledges for additional support to countries undergoing political and economic reform, whether through uprisings (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya) or through reforms engineered from the monarchies (Morocco and Jordan). The SPRING Programme, launched in 2011, was created specifically to provide support to encourage political reform, and by the end of 2012, €100 million was pledged for Tunisia, €90 million to Egypt, €80 million to Morocco, and €70 million to Jordan (see table). The Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-20, the EU’s overall budget, cuts overall EU spending compared to the previous seven-year period....

  5. (pp. 37-41)

    In an effort to mobilize the resources of the international community toward supporting reform efforts in response to the Arab Spring, the United States, European allies, Turkey, and select Gulf states formed the Deauville Partnership at the May 2011 G8 Summit to support Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco-plus Yemen, which was added in 2013. Founded on the pillars of democratic transition and sustainable economic growth, the initial French announcement of the partnership set high expectations for the amount of resources to be mobilized and the number of initiatives to be pushed forward. Two years later, the idea behind the Deauville...

  6. (pp. 42-44)

    The United States and EU share a stated goal of helping the transitioning countries build accountable, democratic systems that deliver economic benefits to citizens. Yet both actors are struggling to respond to the increasingly difficult conditions in these countries and have failed to put forth a clear long-term vision and strategy to achieve it—either individually or in a coordinated fashion. While US-EU interests in the region are broadly aligned, as prominent European MENA expert Richard Youngs notes, “the US and EU are operating in parallel, rather than together.” There is widespread agreement that the United States and the EU...

  7. (pp. 45-46)

    Given the constraints posed by the security environments and tumultuous domestic politics in these countries, the transatlantic community should identify more strategically where opportunities to make progress—even incrementally—do exist and invest heavily in those arenas. The expectations for what can be achieved need to be modified, but should not be abandoned entirely. The United States and Europe still have a critical long-term interest in helping to advance sustainable democratic transitions in the Arab world, and the failure to do so will not be limited within the borders of those countries currently grappling with political turmoil and change.

    Rather than...