The Arab Spring one year later: voices from North Africa, Middle East and Europe

20 July 2012
Andrea Frontini (Former Policy Analyst at the EPC) and Josef Janning (Head of ECFR Berlin Office and Senior Policy Fellow)

A year after the fall of dictators in North Africa, change in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East still offers exciting opportunities to the people of the region to build democratic and more responsive government, to address their fundamental needs and to actively participate in the development of a new political order. On the other hand, the past year has revealed a significant regressive potential. Nowhere in the region have mass demonstrations achieved swift and thorough change. Where previous authoritarian governments have been ousted, new governance is being built slowly, while violence either prevails or risks re-emerging in a number of countries. By no means the revolution is over.

To understand the dynamics of change across the Mediterranean, to engage with actors from various Arab countries and to deepen the understanding of the complexities of transformation in the neighbourhood, the European Policy Centre gathered Arab and European experts and actors in Brussels in March 2012. The conference was designed to focus on priority issues of reform strategies. Six parallel sessions flanked by an opening plenary and a closing review examined the state of play, plans and strategies covering the electoral and constitutional issues, the role of civil society and the media, the social and economic agenda, and the issues of internal order and security sector reform. In addition, a special session was devoted to evaluate the policy responses by the EU.

This Issue Paper, edited by Josef Janning and Andrea Frontini, collects a number of contributions by participants, many of whom are actors in the current transformation. Such views give evidence to the on-going debates and struggles in North African countries in particular, reflecting the difficulties of overcoming structural constraints such as the role of the military, policy and the security sector at large, as well as the new conflicts over secular vs. religious order. The contributions by Arab authors also illustrate well the high, if not overly high expectations on sustained and comprehensive support by Europe and the EU. From the European perspective, several papers describe the challenges in balancing normative preferences and stability interests as well as the difficulties of a differentiated approach. In all, the views presented in this Issue Paper represent a snapshot in a longer process of change – authentic impressions from new governance in the making.

The Arab Spring