Since January 2016, Carnegie Europe has asked authors from Europe’s Southern neighborhood to give candid assessments of the EU’s foreign policy toward their countries. In all but two cases—Palestine and Libya, in which the union’s approach was deemed “unconstructive”—the EU was viewed as “confused”, notes analyst Judy Dempsey:
The way the EU distributes aid and treats civil society in these countries also came in for much criticism. Several of the authors pointed out that stability seems more important to the EU than the unpredictability of political reform and democracy that followed the 2011 Arab Spring.
Egypt is a prime and depressing example of this policy. Leaders “turn a blind eye to increasing repression and human rights violations in Egypt, assuming that the government in Cairo will be able to maintain stability by following a firm security policy,” argued Nancy Okail. ….When the EU does support independent civil society movements, as it does in Tunisia, Walid Haddouk sensed that the EU thinks it knows best.
The conclusions to be drawn from the authors are twofold, Dempsey notes:
- First, the EU was ill-equipped and too slow to react to the Arab Spring. Where democracy is trying to take root, the EU is cautious, to say the least. Yet transitions to democracy are highly complex, as the EU sees in its Eastern neighborhood.
- Second, terrorism and migration are influencing the EU’s perceptions of the region to such a degree that the union is prepared to defend stability and turn a blind eye to repression at the expense of the many who are struggling for human rights.