Blogging on Issues of International and European Security

Follow-up on Spinelli Debate on Arab Spring: Is Europe present, but slow?

Source: AFP

by Elena Marda

The Spinelli Debate in the EP last Thursday was the success that every communication assistant dreams of. Plenty of attendants, valuable speakers, great discussion. On my way out of the event, the question imprinted on my mind was that while the Arab Spring has not failed, maybe the EU’s responses have? Or at least they are heading towards this direction.

Let me explain myself. It’s known that the EU is currently planning a Border Assistance Mission to Libya. However, this would only regulate an issue that is more and more perceived as a security preoccupation for the majority of the member states. Parallel to methods of migration management, efforts for a ‘preventive’ approach would prove more effective in the long term. If the EU wants to implement a pragmatic human security dimension in its migration policies, then the key role to play is in the creation of jobs for youth in the Arab Spring countries. Both Mahmud Gebril and Neguib Chebbid warned that the number of young North Africans heading for Europe is only going to increase if they can’t get jobs in their countries. Gebril gave an alarming figure of 250 million Africans heading north to Europe by 2050 looking for livelihoods. The development security nexus can finally assume an operational dimension in the region with action plans that will boost the employment opportunities in post-Arab Spring countries.

Nevertheless, questions over the feasibility of such strategies remain. While CSDP steps up to the plate, is the EU launching this mission in the context of a wider and engagement that will help address the longer-term and more underlying issues? Are the Member States, the EEAS and the Commission bringing all the different elements of the EU toolbox together? With its Comprehensive Approach vision being always on the table, but still difficult to implement, given the current institutional set-up, the EU is falling short on the responses towards irregular migration streams. The appointment of a EUSR for Southern Mediterranean is a positive step, however, there is much more that can be done for the region.

Given the speakers, the meeting obviously had a strong Southern Mediterranean emphasis. But in terms of Arab Spring and EU engagement, Yemen should not be overlooked. Cited by Gebril as a possible model for Syria, the National Dialogue process has only just started and the road to peaceful transition requires EU’s continued support.  Yemen remains a key part of Arab Spring and the EU should not let the country lose its trajectory. If the Arab Spring has not failed, then the EU is, most probably, conspicuously slow.

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