Has the Arab Spring failed? Despite early promises of a more democratic North Africa and Middle East, many of the Arab revolutions have taken the same bloody path as the eponymous “European Spring” of 1848. Libya is teetering on the edge of a protracted civil war, Egypt is back under military rule, Syria’s brutal conflict has now spilled over into Iraq and is destabilising the entire region.
The contrast between the experience of the Arab Spring countries and the successful transition from dictatorship made by the majority of the post-Soviet states in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall is stark. Whereas the European Union was there to offer support (and the incentive of eventual EU membership) to the post-Soviet countries, have Europeans done enough to prevent the failure of the Arab Spring?
We had a comment from Vicente who says he fears the promise of democracy heralded by the Arab Spring has been hijacked by extremist groups pushing their own agenda.
We spoke to Bernardino León, EU Special Representative for the Southern Mediterranean Region, and asked him how he would respond to Vicente’s concerns (Note: this interview was recorded earlier in the summer, before Mosul fell to ISIS fighters):
Maybe the European Union should just stay out of the region? We had a comment from Bruno arguing that the EU should first solve its own problems before it starts trying to help people in North Africa and the Middle East. He also says he’s concerned that immigration from these regions will damage employment rates in the EU, so he wants Europe to pull up the drawbridge and close itself off from its neighbours.
How would Bernardino León respond?
Finally, we had a comment from Ozcan asking if the EU’s geopolitical interests in the region are always in line with “Western principles” of democracy and human rights. Historically, this has not always been the case, and many of the dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East were supported by European states. How would León react?
Should the EU have offered more support to countries in North Africa and the Middle East after the Arab Spring? Has the Arab Spring failed? And why was the democratic transition of post-Soviet Eastern European states so much more successful? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy makers and experts for their reactions.