The EU: ‘new’ approaches adopted (officially) since the ‘Arab Spring’

Recent changes of EU aid policies are embodied in joint communications of the European Commission and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (and addressed to the European Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions). They bear the titles ‘a partnership for democracy and shared responsibility with the southern Mediterranean’ (March 2011) and ‘a new response to a changing Neighbourhood’ (May 2011). Further speeches, memos, (implementing) decisions and communications build on these documents. All of them aim at supporting political transition (towards democracy), economic transition (to real market economy) as well as developing contacts between various segments of the (civil) societies in addition to enhancing regional cooperation. The so called ‘partnership for democracy and shared prosperity’ is said to be mutually beneficial (in terms of trade and economic relations). The new approach is based on a the following principles: joint and shared commitment (to common values, such as democracy, human rights, social justice, good governance, rule of law), mutual accountability (or clarity on respective commitments), differentiation (being more adaptive to specific country needs and circumstances) and last but not least the partnership is utterly ‘incentive based’. This latter is about providing ‘greater support to partners engaged in building deep democracy’. Unlike the previous policies and programmes, the increased EU support to ME countries is conditional, namely, ‘depends on progress in building and consolidating democracy and respect for the law of rule’. It is explicitly worded in the documents that ‘the more and the faster a country progresses in its internal reforms, the more support it will get from the EU’ (COM 2011b: 3).

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