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
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This paper, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.