From bureaucratic ritual to constructive engagement: what Europe should do to help Egypt
The Arab spring has exposed Europe’s old ‘neighbourhood policy’ towards North Africa as very largely a self-serving sham. European leaders have realised that the fledgling Arab democracies deserve help – specifically money, market access and easier travel. But the proposals so far on the table don’t measure up. Egypt, the Arab world’s centre of gravity with a population of 80 million, is key to the region’s future, and it is in Europe’s interests to help.
After giving €600 million over the last decade to Egypt in exchange for illusory box-ticking reform, the EU now needs to offer a real partnership – but subject to real progress down the democratic path.
In Egypt’s Hybrid Revolution: a bolder EU approach, Anthony Dworkin, Daniel Korski and Nick Witney argue that the EU should offer:
- A task force to look into the crucial issue of market access. Revolutions are expensive, and Egypt’s battered economy badly needs better opportunities to sell to Europe.
- The possibility of cancelling Egypt’s crippling debt, in exchange for a programme of benchmarked reform.
- A European Endowment for Democracy that supports institution-building and democracy without picking (and tainting) Western-backed winners.
- A longer term vision of constructive relations between the north and south shores of the Mediterranean, based on enlightened European self-interest rather than simple altruism.
“For far too long, Europe has been content to ‘leave Egypt to the US’. Cairo’s new government is rapidly becoming an independent regional actor: Europe needs to abandon its traditional defensive crouch, and engage positively with the new North African democracies.” Nick Witney