EU response to the Arab Spring
Since the first demonstrations in Tunisia in December 2010, a wave of popular discontent has shaken the Arab world, with people calling for dignity, democracy, and social justice. Despite the unexpected magnitude of these uprisings, the EU has been quick to recognise the challenges of the political and economic transition faced by the region as a whole. It has also recognised the need to adopt a new approach to relations with its Southern neighbours.
The EU has engaged politically with a wide range of government, opposition, parliamentary and civil society interlocutors in the region through visits from the President of the Commission, the President of Parliament, the HR/VP and several Commissioners.
The EU's strategic response to the Arab Spring came as early as 8 March 2011, with the joint communication of the High Representative/Vice President (HR/VP) Catherine Ashton and the Commission proposing "A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean" . This communication stresses the need for the EU to support wholeheartedly the demand for political participation, dignity, freedom and employment opportunities, and sets out an approach based on the respect of universal values and shared interests. It also proposes the "more for more" principle, under which increased support in terms of financial assistance, enhanced mobility, and access to the EU Single Market is to be made available, on the basis of mutual accountability, to those partner countries most advanced in the consolidation of reforms. This approach was further elaborated in another joint communication on 25 May 2011 which initiated the launch of "a new response to a changing Neighbourhood" .
What are the priorities of the Neighbourhood policy in 2012 for the Southern Mediterranean? Marcus Cornaro, Director Neighbourhood at EuropeAid, gives an overview of ongoing and futures activities.