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The visit of the Jordanian monarch, King Abdullah, to Brussels and Strasbourg (a video of King Abdullah's speech in the European Parliament is available here) represents another opportunity for Europe to press the case for reform in the Hashemite Kingdom. As we argued in a recent report, the pace of political change in Jordan has slowed considerably, despite promises made by the King last year to open up the system.
New steps taken over the past week by the country’s parliament advancing an election law limiting the number of seats available to political parties in parliament, and banning parties founded on a religious basis, represent a considerable blow against any reform agenda. Moreover, they are clearly direct attacks on the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the country’s most popular party and would likely win any fair election. As it has for more than a decade now, the reform agenda is ringing increasingly hollow.
The European Union (EU) recently launched a new EU-Jordanian taskforce, whereby it promised enhanced trade and financial assistance to Jordan to assist it on the path of reform. As we argue in our report the EU should therefore use the taskforce to take a more assertive stand, calling the king out on his unwillingness to reform. While reform must be home-grown and conditionality remains a weak tool, the EU can at least play a more constructive role by publicly challenging the King to stay true to his promises.
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