EU response to the Arab Spring: ministers pledge continued support for democracy and prosperity

EU foreign ministers yesterday pledged continued support for efforts towards democracy and prosperity in the European Union’s southern Mediterranean partners, acknowledging the significant challenges that remained in the wake of the Arab Spring.
The Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels reiterated “its commitment to a new partnership with the EU’s Southern neighbours, based on mutual accountability and adherence to universal values of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, gender equality, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, good governance and democratic security reform in the wake of the historic events earlier this year.”
Stressing the EU’s commitment to offering more support to those partners making greater commitments and progress towards democratic reform, the Council Conclusions said: “In particular, the EU is offering its partners closer political association, assistance in economic and social reforms, progressive economic integration with the EU internal market, improved mobility of people and financial support,” but said the process could go both ways, warning, “The EU will withdraw support where regimes have chosen to oppress their people rather than follow the path of reform, and has done so already.”
Ministers welcomed recent elections in Tunisia and Morocco, as well as the appointment of a transitional government in Libya, before turning to broader issues across the region:
Civil society: The EU has strengthened and substantially stepped up its partnership with and support to civil society in its neighbourhood, particularly in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, including through the launch of the Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility. The Council noted with satisfaction the work of the Anna Lindh Foundation and the progress achieved on mechanisms for cooperation between the EU and the Council of Europe to promote democracy in the Southern Neighbourhood.
Women: The Council stressed the key role of women in the developments in the Southern Neighbourhood and underlined that women's rights, gender equality and women's participation in the political process were essential components of a democratic society and important for inclusive economic development.
Financial support: As part of the EU decision to step up its financial engagement towards its Neighbourhood, the EU SPRING package of €350 million was adopted in September. It provides additional funding for Southern neighbours undergoing transition to strengthen their emerging democratic institutions, to promote deep and sustainable democracy and to improve inclusive growth and job creation. The Council also welcomed the fact that the EIB lending mandate for the Southern Neighbourhood has been increased by €1 billion and that the EBRD has made good progress towards extending the scope of its operations to some Southern partners.
Trade: The Council welcomed the Commission’s proposal for negotiating directives for Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, which aim at the progressive integration of the economies of these partners into the EU single market and at enhancing economic governance and substantially improving market access opportunities.
Jobs: The Council underlined the importance of strengthening cooperation to improve employment through better education, to promote industrial cooperation, strengthen infrastructure connections and improve the business climate, which will help small and medium-sized companies, leading to job creation.
Migration and Mobility: The Council welcomed the launch of Dialogues on Migration, Mobility and Security with Tunisia and Morocco, which should lead to the conclusion of mobility partnerships, fostering people-to-people contacts. The Council also reaffirmed its commitment to make full use of the potential of the EU Visa Code facilitating legitimate travel. The Council also welcomed a major expansion of youth scholarships and exchanges. (ENPI Info Centre)
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Council conclusions on the EU response to the developments in the Southern neighbourhood
ENPI Info Centre – EU response to the Arab Spring: new package of support for North Africa and Middle East (27-09-10)
ENPI Info Centre – €22 million for new Civil Society Facility as EU steps up Neighbourhood response
ENPI Info Centre – EU response to the Arab Spring: €350 million to face socio-economic challenge and democratic transition
ENP Communication "A new response to a changing Neighbourhood"

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