Selective conditionality

“It is now clear that all countries in the region, and all authoritarian regimes elsewhere, have to pay much more attention to the democratic aspirations and well-being of their populations.” (Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, February 28, 2011). The ‘Arab Spring’ made the West – the EU in particular – realize that public opinion can play a critical role in political and electoral development even in the Middle East by reaffirming the importance of democratic representation. Newly formulated EU (aid) policies stress the need to respect public opinion and to support the demand for political participation, dignity and freedom (COM 2011a; COM 2011b; COM 2011c), reintroducing the ‘sticks and carrot’ method of conditionality in form of the ‘more for more’ principle for supporting effective transitions to democracy (Balfour 2012; Tocci 2013).

In harmony with European public opinion (see previous posts), the EU aims 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’. 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). However, not only foreign aid is channeled selectively to countries in the region, but conditions are also applied selectively. To take only three examples, conditions attached to foreign aid are (i) perceived, but officially non-applied in Palestine (ECA 2013b), (ii) openly applied in Egypt (ECA 2013a; EEAS/EC 2013 and EEAS/EC 2014 Conclusions), and (iii) simply ‘invisible’ in Jordan, where the term ‘condition’ has been replaced by ‘benchmark’ in official communications.

Balfour, R. (2012) EU Conditionality after the Arab Spring. IEMed papers #16. European Institute of the Mediterranean, Barcelona

COM (2011a) A Partnership for Democracy and Shared Responsibility with the Southern Mediterranean. Joint Communication to the European Council, the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. March 8, 2011, Brussels: European Commission

COM (2011b) A new response to a changing Neighbourhood. Joint Communication to the Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. May 25, 2011, Brussels: European Commission

COM (2011c) Support for partnership, reforms and inclusive growth (SPRING) 2011-2012 in favour of the southern Neighbourhood region to be financed under Article 19 08 01 01 of the general budget of the European Union. Commission Implementing Decision of Sept 26, 2011, Brussels: European Commission

ECA (2013a) European cooperation with Egypt in the field of governance. Special Report 4/2013, European Court of Auditors,

ECA (2013b) European Union Direct Financial Support to the Palestinian Authority. Special Report 14/2013, European Court of Auditors,

EEAS/EC (2013) Council conclusions on Egypt. The Council of the European Union, Foreign Affairs Council meeting, Brussels, 21 August 2013,

EEAS/EC (2014) Council conclusions on Egypt. The Council of the European Union, Foreign Affairs Council meeting, Brussels, 10 February 2014

Füle, S. (2011) Speech on the recent events in North Africa. European Commission – SPEECH/11/130, press release, 28/02/2011, (12-02-2014)

Tocci, N. (2013) EU and the Arab Spring. Seminar with Nathalie Tocci from the Istituto Affari Internazionali on the EU’s response to the Arab spring, NUPI, 11 April, 2013,



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