Trade for change: Parliament debates strategy in the wake of the Arab Spring

They might have removed their dictators, but countries affected by last year's Arab Spring now face the arduous process of transforming into free market democracies. Today, the European Parliament debates a report by Italian Liberal-Democrat Niccolò Rinaldi's, setting out a strategy for how the EU could help consolidate democracy and promote stability in Southern Mediterranean countries. MEPs will vote on the report tomorrow.
In an interview for the European Parliament's website, Rinaldi described the situation as a test for the EU to see if it could use the new trade provisions in the Lisbon Treaty to create employment, investment and empowerment of SMEs to make a difference in these countries. "We have all the instruments at our disposal; it is up to us if we are able to use them."
Describing trade as a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the very difficult democratic process, he said: "We need to use the trade tool as a way to democratise the economic process in support of SMEs. We need to address this potential and create the best possible conditions so that many people can create their own projects and trade with the EU from their own countries."  
The Italian MEP admitted that while there had always been human rights clauses in the EU's dealings with its partners, they had never been fully implemented.
"We will certainly continue to have human rights clauses in our trade agreements, but again the challenge is to design them in a way to make it possible for ordinary people to have the opportunity to enter the EU market; so really to liberalise the economic process in order to have many more actors in the picture and not just a few companies belonging to a restricted number of families."
Rinaldi said trade relations had so far focused on agriculture, with European farmers often paying the price: "We need to diversify our trade relationship by developing SMEs to allow much more product variety. This would lessen the burden on European farmers." (EU Neighbourhood Info)
Read more
Niccolò Rinaldi interview
Report on Trade for Change: The EU Trade and Investment Strategy for the Southern Mediterranean following the Arab Spring revolutions
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre webpage – economy
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre webpage – Euromed trade press pack
DG Trade – Euromed trade relations

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