The EU and its Southern Mediterranean Partners
Since the start of the “Arab Spring” around two years ago, the EU’s response to its Mediterranean partners is to support political and economic transition, developing people-to-people contacts and enhancing regional cooperation. The situation in the different countries however is diverse and each partner needs special care. The EU respects the democratic choice of the people and engages in an intense dialogue with the new governments. The EU’s engagement is grounded on its incentive-based “more for more” principle and on its “mutual accountability” as set out in the two joint Communications of 2011 issued respectively on 8 March (on the EU’s “Southern Neighborhood”) and on 25 May (on a new revised European Neighborhood Policy). In that context, the EU will continue to constructively engage with new political actors that emerged from or came to the fore via the Arab Spring. In order to help build and sustain vibrant democratic cultures in Arab countries, the EU will also continue supporting civil society and the work of relevant non-governmental organizations.
Many EU leaders have visited the transitioning Arab countries in the last months to show EU’s engagement in the region. Besides European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, for instance the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton made several visits to its Mediterranean partners. CEEBA in all three cases, facilitated meetings with the Egyptian Business Decision makers.
Supporting Democratic Transition
To support democratic transition in the countries of the Arab Spring, is one of the core objectives for the EU. The EU made that clear by offering Egypt technical support for elections. The European Commission created the Civil Society Facility to support civil society in promoting reform and increased support to the Anna Lindh Foundation. The Commission is furthermore providing financial support to the newly created “European Endowment for Democracy” to support emerging political/social movements and grass roots organizations.
Financial Support for economic transition
The EU tries to stimulate sustainable economic growth by supporting its southern partners to implement relevant economic and institutional reforms. On the top of €3.5 billion, that were already programmed for the period 2011-13, the EU is additionally providing around €700 million in new grants for the Southern Neighborhood, in particular through the SPRING programme (Support for Partnership, Reform and Inclusive Growth) which provides additional funding to southern partners.
Various Economic Support Programs
The Task Forces have initiated optimal structure for further investment among the EU institutions, Member States, the EIB, EBRD and other IFIs. The private sector plays a key role with more than 100 European business leaders attending the EU-Egypt Task Force last October in Cairo. The recent presentation in Tunis of the Economic Advisory Committee by Vice-President Tajani is another important example of the high value of Task Force- and their follow-up meetings.
The EU Council approved negotiating directives for Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs) with Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia in December 2011. Negotiations with Morocco will start in early 2013. Tunisia might be even ready to launch essential negotiations later this year. The EIB is ready to provide additional loans for around €1.7 billion (€1 billion from the 'Mediterranean mandate' and up to € 700 million for addressing climate change) and the enlarged EBRD mandate – as first proposed by the EU - allowed the mobilization of €1 billion additional for activities in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan.
Agriculture and Rural Development
The Commission initiated an agriculture and rural development initiative (ENPARD) to support agricultural productivity. Additionally the EU is financing diverse programmes to boost SMEs and reduce unemployment. On transport, regulatory reform, building of networks and maritime security still need increased attention and may be at focus of a planned Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial gathering in 2013.
The EU has increased its support for market reforms and regional integration and is backing the establishment of the Mediterranean Solar Plan together with the UfM in the energy sector. The Commission is consulting its Member States and partners in order to launch a future foundation of a Mediterranean Energy Community, that could start with electricity and renewables. For the environment, the EU has continued its support for cleaning up the Mediterranean through the Horizon 2020 initiative. The EU has supports the draft Strategy for Water in the Mediterranean, pending political agreement by partners.