European support for the Jordanian monarchy’s plans for reform was challenged by growing protests and the slow pace of meaningful change.
Jordan, a longstanding European ally, has over the last year been singled out as a role model for pre-emptive, government-led reform efforts. Europeans, led by High Representative Catherine Ashton and the EEAS, have offered King Abdullah firm political support and praise for his reform efforts. Given the tight security relationships between Jordan and European states, a desire to protect the Jordanian peace treaty with Israel, and fears about the potential for regional implosion due to the Syrian crisis, Europe has cautioned against any attempts to destabilise the country.
On the back of an EU–Jordanian task force in February, the EU offered increased economic backing, allocating €220 million in neighbourhood support for 2011–2013. Member states, led by the UK, France, and Germany, committed approximately €1.2 billion over the coming three years in the form of bilateral loans and grants. The preparatory process for the launch of DCFTA negotiations also began. However, in the face of growing concerns about the slow pace of the king’s reform efforts, coupled with widening economic tensions, Europe failed to changed tack in 2012 or acknowledge the shortfalls of the king’s much-praised efforts.
The size and nationwide scope of protests in November in response to fuel price increases highlighted deepening economic and political problems. While the tone of the opposition remains moderate and the threat of upheaval is limited, the king’s unwillingness to establish a more inclusive political order able to manage the economic challenges could result in wider instability. Yet, both the EEAS and member states failed to channel their political and economic leverage towards pushing the king towards implementing more meaningful change aimed at securing stability. Europeans now risk a repeat of their failed strategy towards North Africa prior to the 2011 uprisings. While European heads of missions in Amman called for greater implementation of the “more for more” strategy in late 2012, this was rejected in favour of increased levels of financial support from Brussels.