The EU and the Middle East reform

In its editorial the Daily Star –an English Lebanese newspaper-- stresses on the importance of the European Union in promoting reform in the Middle East.

The funny matter that it perceived advantages of the Barcelona Process as regards the political reform in many Arab countries!!!

I did not see what they see and I totally disagree that the Barcelona Process made anything of political reform in the Arab region. To be honest I call on my readers to provide me with those presumed accomplishments I did not find.

Here is an example of some Arabic fantasy thought:

The European Union: A quiet but powerful force for reform

Thursday, October 06, 2005


While much has been said about Washington's loud and ambitious projects to reshape the Arab world - including the Iraq war and the Broader Middle East Initiative - it is worth noting that the region is quietly being transformed by another powerful global force: the European Union. Through the process of engagement and patient dialogue, the EU has had a measurable impact on the region and will hopefully continue to be a positive force for political reform in the Middle East.

Yesterday, the European Commission announced plans to help revitalize the Palestinian economy in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Although the union is already the biggest donor to the Palestinians, the EC recommended that EU states earmark an additional $240 million to $360 million to help build a viable Palestinian state. What's more important is that the money is not a free handout: The EU has identified a number of criteria that need to be fulfilled to justify further EU involvement. These include strengthening government accountability, restructuring the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, reforming the judiciary and developing a strategy to consolidate the rule of law.

We have already seen the benefit of European involvement in the region through its direct interaction with Turkey. Through the framework of negotiations ahead of EU entry talks, the Europeans have prodded the Turks into implementing a number of wide-ranging reforms. Since the start of those negotiations, Turkey has abolished the death penalty, scrapped state security courts, reformed the penal code and allowed Kurdish to be spoken in schools. We can expect even greater progress on the reform front now that Turkey has started EU accession talks.

Apart from the framework of membership negotiations, the EU has also used its partnerships with various regional countries to advance the pace of political reform. The European Neighborhood Policy, which builds on the economic reform initiatives launched in the Barcelona Process, offers privileged relations with the aim of encouraging neighboring states' commitment to the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights. Incentives such as aid and economic integration have been used to encourage progress on political reforms in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Syria.

Europe's subtle but significant efforts to promote reform in the region demonstrate that the EU is a powerful reformist force in the Middle East. While the European approach to promoting reform has been understated and less aggressive than that of the United States, it has proven to be equally - if not more - effective. America's efforts to promote reform are often greeted with skepticism or even hostility, while the EU, which has long been engaged in the region, has a greater degree of credibility.

The Europeans recognize the importance of being promoting political reform in the Middle East and Europe's gestures toward the region now need to be reciprocated. Those states which are involved in EU efforts to encourage political reform would do well to heed the advice and recommendations of a friendly neighbor.

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