European Council on Foreign Relations

The Arab Constitutional Transition

On a February 7, 2014 visit to Tunisia, French President François Hollande congratulated the National Constituent Assembly on their new Constitution—a “major text” that does justice to the Tunisian revolution and serves as a model for other countries in the region. This Constitution undoubtedly marks a significant step for the country that launched the region’s wave of popular uprisings, and is a major step forward in a transition that has been punctuated by political crises and episodic violence. After over two years of ideological deadlock among assembly members resolved with civil society’s mediation, the text’s completion is a tangible indicator of democratic consolidation. Could Tunisia's process of constitutional reform provide an example to neighboring MENA countries?

The Constitution offers a number of praiseworthy provisions, notably pertaining to gender equality in social

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Australia balancing between East and West

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott is building a balanced, sustainable Asia policy for his country. A prime minister who receives an undeservedly small degree of attention in Europe, Abbott is finally emerging from the shadow of his predecessor, Kevin Rudd, a China expert and fluent Mandarin speaker. The new prime minister is trying to put an end to the recent deterioration in economic relations between Australia and Asia. Right now, he is working to achieve this goal on a tour of Northeast Asia. The trip represents Abbott’s best opportunity so far to make good on his post-election pledge to sign a “trifecta of trade”, putting in place trade agreements with Japan, South Korea, and China. The first two elements in his plan have gone well: a successful agreement was reached in Japan on Monday 7 April and another was made in South Korea on Tuesday 8 April. A deal on a Free Trade

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Greece: back in the game?

After months of painful negotiations with the Troika over a new financial rescue package, finally some good news is coming out of Athens. As of Wednesday 9 April, Greece is back on the international financial markets, for the first time since the euro crisis hit hard in early 2010. The sale of 10-year government bonds is expected to raise up to €2.4 billion, with expected yield at roughly 5 percent. This is excellent news for the embattled Greek economy, which has long been relying on a lifeline thrown by the IMF and the rescue fund set up by the eurozone. The sale comes about two years after Greece defaulted on its loans and imposed a “haircut” on creditors. Now, it seems that investors are willing to take a chance on the South European nation, after they rallied en masse for Spain-issued paper worth €10 billion in January (reaching yields as unbelievably low as 3.65 percent). If

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Beware appearances: behind the Sisi hype

As Egypt gears up for two months of election fever, the European Union is asking itself what an Abdel Fattah el-Sisi presidency will mean for Egypt and for its bilateral relations. The hype surrounding Sisi’s candidacy in Egyptian national media has portrayed him for months as a national hero and a ticket out of hard times. This has been matched recently in some international media by a worrying trend of “Sisi apologists” who claim that only the former general, given the institutional, military, and popular support he enjoys, can implement the hard-hitting reforms that Egypt needs to achieve economic stability. Yet Sisi has yet to come up with concrete proposals or anything resembling an election manifesto. Once the cheesy, adoring pop videos die down and the T-shirts have all been sold, how long will a population that has become accustomed to pushing presidents out of office

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Tunisia polices cyberspace

Tunisia’s new constitution, cited as a beacon of hope for a region in turmoil, should not detract attention from the country’s remaining challenges in guaranteeing basic democratic rights. Tunisia’s leaders and lawmakers are now entering a critical phase in the country’s departure from dictatorship, during which they will be responsible for making the most of their new legal framework. Internet surveillance, tightly controlled under the Ben Ali regime, is a useful indicator for gauging the extent to which authoritarian practices endure. And while certain policies in this domain hint at continuity, rather than rupture, with the former regime, Tunisians are more empowered than ever to influence decision-making. But will this new participatory potential penetrate Tunisia’s unreformed, politicized institutions?

Since the January 2011 uprising, a series of prosecutions, during which

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