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 European Commission, the High Representative/Vice President, the President of the European Parliament 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" .
Since then a number of new initiatives have been taken in support of the changing circumstances in the region. These include the SPRING programme (Support for Partnership Reform and Inclusive Growth), a new EUR €350 million umbrella programme adopted on 26 September 2011; the Civil Society Facility adopted on 20 September 2011; a programme to support political and democratic reform in the Southern Mediterranean, implemented by the Council of Europe adopted on 22 December 2011 and reinforcement of the Erasmus Mundus programme also decided on 16 December 2011. More details of these and subsequent events can be found under key documents, related links, related programmes and press releases.
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