The GCC in the Mediterranean in Light of the Arab Spring


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Global Journalist: Tunisia, last light of the Arab Spring

Europe needs to develop its southern neighborhood policy to reflect the momentousness of recent developments and to build on opportunities where they emerge and to manage risks where they menace. Importantly, the prodemocracy values of the recent Arab uprisings have increased the space of common political values between Europe and its southern neighbors.

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In previous decades the Arab world had gone through ideological waves of anticolonialism, Arab nationalism, socialism, and political Islam, all of which posited a strong conflictual relationship with Europe and the West. The prodemocracy demonstrations of the Arab Spring have emphasized a universality of values that embraces both East and West. It is this commonality of values that underpinned the growth of the European Union in Western Europe, and then allowed its expansion into Central and Eastern Europe.

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This commonality of values should also enable a fresh approach toward European-Arab relations that is built on deeper trust and cooperation. Most importantly, it is critical that Europe help Arab countries that have overthrown their rulers to consolidate their transitions. Many revolutions that start with liberal agendas regress into authoritarianism as they face daunting political, security, or economic challenges. Europe has deep experience in political transitions—whether from fascism to democratic republics or from absolute to constitutional monarchies.

Europe should share this experience with its southern neighbors and offer meaningful assistance in helping design and manage the constitutional, legal, and institutional aspects of political transition. At the security level, revolutions are moments of national vulnerability, and Europe should be well aware that this period might be one in which security assistance—and occasionally intervention—is a necessary ingredient. In countries in transition, like Egypt and Tunisia, Europe needs to work with the governments and the security forces to ensure that armed groups do not succeed in hijacking or ruining the transition.

Europe should also draw on its historical experience to provide guidance and assistance in terms of how armed forces can play a stabilizing role while ceding increasing power to elected civilian authorities. This area of civil-military relations and security sector reform is going to be an issue of key importance in the years ahead. In countries in crisis, like Libya, Syria, and Yemen, Europe has to assess its responses on a case by case basis, weighing the costs of intervention against the consequences of inaction.

Le Sud en mouvement

In Libya, the NATO no-fly zone was a necessity to prevent a humanitarian disaster, and has helped unseat one of the most corrupt and dysfunctional regimes in recent history. Looking ahead, Europe needs to be standing by to provide rapid state-building assistance to post-Qaddafi Libya. Toward Syria, Europe was correct in imposing sanctions against the increasingly brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad, and should work with Turkey and other friends in the region to stand by the protestors and push the regime to accept real and immediate political reform.

In Yemen, the risk of state failure is immense, and Europe should continue to back the Gulf Cooperation Council GCC initiative to find a soft landing to the deep crisis there. Much of the Arab unrest was linked to desperate socioeconomic conditions.


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These conditions also fuel the south-north migration, which is a main cause of concern for Europe. The Arab countries that have thrown off dictatorship need their own Marshall plan. This will help secure the transitions, protect against regression into new forms of authoritarianism, reduce migration to Europe, and strengthen south-north interests and relations. The GCC is a great source of capital.


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  5. It has responded to the Arab Spring by providing some assistance to countries in need. Politically, however, it has been alarmed by the pro-democracy wave and has offered GCC membership to Morocco and Jordan, hoping to create a club of monarchies that would resist this wave. Europe needs to work with Saudi Arabia and the GCC to help make the case that monarchy and responsive government are not mutually exclusive, and to press the GCC to use more of its oil wealth to spur growth in the large non-oil countries of the region.

    The experience of several European states in building constitutional monarchies would be instructive.

    The GCC in the Mediterranean in Light of the Arab Spring The GCC in the Mediterranean in Light of the Arab Spring
    The GCC in the Mediterranean in Light of the Arab Spring The GCC in the Mediterranean in Light of the Arab Spring
    The GCC in the Mediterranean in Light of the Arab Spring The GCC in the Mediterranean in Light of the Arab Spring
    The GCC in the Mediterranean in Light of the Arab Spring The GCC in the Mediterranean in Light of the Arab Spring
    The GCC in the Mediterranean in Light of the Arab Spring The GCC in the Mediterranean in Light of the Arab Spring

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