Libmonster ID: UK-1492


Graduate student

Faculty of World Politics, Lomonosov Moscow State University

Keywords: Arab Spring, European Union, Mediterranean, free trade agreements

The Arab Spring, which affected most of the countries of North Africa and the Middle East in 2011-2013, proved to be a serious challenge for the EU's foreign policy. Its leaders said that the decades-old system of supporting authoritarian leaders of Arab countries in exchange for stability in these States has proved ineffective. Therefore, the focus of the EU's Mediterranean strategy had to shift from security to promoting the democratization of the region. At the same time, it was emphasized that funding and support from Brussels will be linked to specific reforms in the partner countries.

Guided by this principle, the European Commission has taken several important decisions, and in 2011, as part of trade and economic cooperation, Brussels invited four Arab countries-Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan-to conclude an agreement.-

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Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements. Considering these agreements in the context of a" revised " Mediterranean policy will help assess the EU's strategy in this area.


The active integration of the Mediterranean direction into the sphere of foreign policy interests of the European Union began in the mid-1990s and was due to two interrelated reasons: strengthening security in the neighboring region and protecting economic interests. First of all, to ensure uninterrupted supply of energy resources, as well as to maintain access to markets for European goods.

The process of cooperation between the EU member States and the Mediterranean countries was successfully launched in 1995 during the Barcelona Conference, which launched the so-called Barcelona Process, which aimed to create a Euro-Mediterranean partnership. Although the stated objective of the process was to democratize the Mediterranean region, in practice the emphasis was placed on two other areas, namely, economic cooperation and security. 2

In 2004, the European Union launched a new project - the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The goal of the ENP was to create a ring of "friendly states" in the southern and eastern directions, which was aimed at strengthening stability and security, as well as improving the well-being of the population in neighboring countries3.

In the mid-2000s, the ENP had two different approaches to cooperation programs with eastern and southern partners, and the question was whether to unify or diversify them. As a result, the EU decided to diversify its approach, taking into account the cultural and civilizational differences between neighboring countries: in 2008, the Eastern Partnership was launched, and after long disputes and compromises4 in the southern direction, the Union for the Mediterranean (SDS)was created at the initiative of France5. Its task was to develop inter-regional and intra-regional partnerships, as well as to create a framework for EU cooperation with the Southern Mediterranean.6

Europeanization (extending the European model of governance to neighboring countries) was seen by the EU as a way to democratize neighboring countries on its own model. 7 Despite the fact that the three complementary instruments of the EU's Mediterranean policy - the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, ENP and SDS - were designed to stimulate the democratic development of Arab countries, the dilemma "democratization - stability" was resolved in favor of the latter. At the same time, it was assumed that the improvement of socio-economic life in these states would gradually lead to the modernization of their political systems.


Meanwhile, in late 2010 and early 2011, the situation in the traditionally unstable region became dramatic. The Arab Awakening, which has engulfed most countries in the Middle East and North Africa, has destabilized the region, undermined the already fragile security system, worsened the economic situation in the Arab States, led to mass illegal migration and served as an impetus for the Islamization and radicalization of the region. The consequences of the "Arab awakening" had a negative impact on the socio-economic situation in Europe, which did not have mechanisms to effectively deal with the problems that arose. One of the main ones was the migration crisis, which is the reason for the current polarization of European society, against which members of terrorist and extremist organizations are more easily penetrated to the European continent.

Initially, however, the European Union reacted cautiously to developments in the Arab world. On the one hand, the reaction of Brussels could be explained by confusion, since the "Arab awakening" was unexpected for the world community. On the other hand, the EU took a pragmatic stance, tried not to make mistakes in a rapidly changing region, and resolved issues as they came up.8 However, the EU could not avoid criticism from the public, as such a wait-and-see attitude and caution went against the values and democratic ideals of Europeans.9

In this context, the EU decided to review its Mediterranean policy, focusing on addressing the economic and socio-political problems that were among the main causes of the"Arab awakening". The European Commission has approved three official documents - "Partnership with the Southern Mediterranean for Democracy and Shared Prosperity"10, "A New Response to a Changing Neighborhood"11 and "On the implementation of the European Union's Strategy for Sustainable Development".-

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the New European Neighborhood Policy Message " 12, which laid the foundation for transforming the European Union's Mediterranean policy, effectively responding to the events of the Arab awakening, and supporting the region's countries on the path to democracy.

According to these documents, the European Commission approved three new principles of the European strategy for the Mediterranean. First, it proclaimed building a "deep democracy" and ensuring sustainable economic growth and development, which could be achieved through expanding inter-regional trade. The second and third principles were " more for more "and 3M (moneymobilitymarkets), i.e. money, mobility, markets, according to which those countries that implement more reforms can count on more generous assistance from the European Union in these three areas.13

In December 2011, the European Council adopted a directive on expanding interregional trade through deep and comprehensive free trade agreements. As part of the new approach, the European Commission has launched negotiations on agreements with four Arab countries-Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan14. These States were members of the WTO and parties to the Agadir Agreement*; moreover, they were perceived in the EU as advanced States that were aimed at implementing deep economic and political reforms.


The European Union attaches an important role to developing trade relations in ensuring economic growth, improving living standards and per capita income, 15 which leads to a reduction in migration - one of the most sensitive issues for the EU in its relations with its southern neighbors.

The first EU trade agreements with the Southern Mediterranean countries were concluded back in the 1970s16 With the launch of the Barcelona Process in 1995, which provided for the creation of a free trade area, as well as the deepening and further liberalization of trade relations, the EU began to conclude association agreements with Arab countries.17 These agreements provide a broad framework for political, economic, social and cultural cooperation between Brussels and individual partners. They usually include agreements on free trade in industrial goods and services and serve as a basis for the gradual liberalization of trade between the parties.18

Since 2004. The EU concluded action plans with its neighbours that set out political and economic reforms and priorities in the short and medium term. The European Union may also grant the ENP addressee State the status of an "advanced" or "privileged" partner in order to encourage political, economic and social reforms. These statuses establish a broader format of relations, i.e. increase the amount of EU assistance and the number of areas for cooperation. It also provides privileged access to the European market for industrial and agricultural products of the Mediterranean countries19.

In 2008, Morocco became the first country in the Southern Mediterranean to receive the status of an "advanced" partner of the European Union; Jordan received it later, in 2010. On the eve of the Arab Awakening, the EU's relations with Tunisia and Egypt were developing within the framework of the Association Agreements and ENP action Plans. Tunisia received the status of a "privileged" partner only in November 2012.20 In general, after the revolution that took place there, Brussels paid a lot of attention to this country. After all, Tunisia, in comparison with other states of the Middle East and North Africa, has successfully passed the transition period. Therefore, in accordance with the principle of "more-for-more", this country began to allocate large (relative to others) loans and grants to support development. The European Union expects that the "Tunisian model" of democratization can become a model for neighboring states.

The level of development of trade and economic relations between Europe and the "four" is very high. And for Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, the European Union is a key trading partner. By 2015, the EU accounted for more than 60% of Tunisian exports.21 Trade with Morocco reached 30 billion euros, accounting for more than half of the country's total foreign trade, 22 while the EU also accounted for 30% of Egypt's trade.23 Finally, Brussels has fairly well-developed trade relations with Jordan, for which it is the second largest trading partner of the EU.

Having strong trade and economic relations and realizing the importance of their development for ensuring sustainable economic growth in the region-

* The Free Trade Area Agreement (FTA) between Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia, signed in 2004. The Agadir Agreement was considered by the European Union as the first step towards the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean FTA.

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As part of the new approach, the European Union has decided to conclude a number of free trade agreements with the countries of this region.


Back in the 2000s, there was a new surge of bilateralism - the conclusion of bilateral free trade agreements. They combined various elements of the FTA, common market and economic union. This contributed to broad liberalization and outstripped the WTO multilateral negotiation process25. The European Union has not stayed away from this global trend. Since the mid-2000s, due to the lack of progress during the WTO Doha Round on agriculture, Europeans have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to deepen regional and bilateral trade relations independently.

The global financial and economic crisis of 2008-2009 reinforced the view that international trade, rather than domestic consumption, will be the engine of economic growth. Therefore, in most European countries, it was decided to follow the path of reducing trade barriers and strengthening trade and economic ties with other countries, making them deeper and more comprehensive.26

However, this practice was initially used in relations with the EU's eastern partners. In 2009, the EU concluded such agreements with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. But for the eastern neighbors, the important thing was not so much the economic as the political significance of these agreements. These countries interpreted them as the first step towards the long process of joining the EU.

Therefore, Brussels needed to learn from the experience of working with Eastern countries and take into account the differences between them and their Mediterranean partners. First, the political implications of these agreements are insignificant for the southern neighbors, who have no intention of joining the European Union, unlike the eastern states. It is the economic component that should play an important role here. 27 Second, deep and comprehensive free trade agreements require partner countries to harmonize trade policies and related areas with EU norms and standards. Given the fact that the Arab states are not going to join the European Union, they are cautious and selective in such matters.28

In fact, deep and comprehensive free trade agreements are broader in scope than traditional free trade agreements. They involve full liberalization of trade in goods, services, the investment process, and simplification of standards and trade procedures. Negotiations between the European Union on the conclusion of such agreements are proceeding with varying degrees of intensity. The dialogue with Morocco was launched in 2013. The fifth round of negotiations was held in May 2015, but no final agreement has yet been reached.29

Throughout 2014, preparations were made for negotiations with Tunisia. On 13 October, the EU Trade Commissioner, Ms S. Maelstrom, traveled to the country to meet with representatives of a number of Tunisian civil society organizations, whose efforts played a key role in the country's recovery from the political crisis in the summer of 2013 and contributed to the country's democratization process after the Arab Awakening., including establishing closer trade relations with the European Union 30.

Preparations are underway for the negotiation process with Jordan 31. The main problem here is the difficulty of harmonizing the country's trade legislation with pan-European legislation.

The first meeting of EU and Egyptian representatives was held in the summer of 2013, but due to the aggravation of the political climate in this country, the process of deepening trade and investment relations was slowed down. In 2015, meetings on this issue with representatives of Egypt were not even planned 32.

The negotiation process on the agreements is proceeding slowly. On the one hand, this is due to contradictions within the EU. The liberalization of trade relations with the Maghreb States raises concerns among southern European countries (especially Spain and Italy) that export Maghreb agricultural products33. On the other hand, Arab countries show limited interest in concluding deep and comprehensive free trade agreements that cover a very wide range of economic sectors. The EU's southern neighbors have always considered the development of trade and economic cooperation a necessary element of relations with the neighboring continent, but they have been and remain extremely cautious about harmonizing their legislation with the European Union.


German Expert on European Neighborhood Policy

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V. Kuyt believes that traditional methods of trade liberalization can be effective, but they do not necessarily have to be "deep" and "comprehensive" 35. This is especially important now, when the Arab countries are solving the economic and political problems brought to the surface by the "Arab awakening".

According to the head of the Middle East program of the FRIDE analytical center, K. Kash, Brussels overestimates the weight and significance of its financial contributions and, in a broad sense, the possibility of financial instruments to trigger deep political reforms in the Mediterranean countries. In addition, the EU underestimates the "weight" of the strategic political thinking and national interests of its southern neighbors and does not take this into account in shaping its strategy. 36 The Arab Awakening showed that the value orientations on different shores of the Mediterranean differ significantly. Therefore, the smaller the scale of trade relations will affect the political system of the state, the greater the probability of their development and success.

An independent assessment of the planned Euro-Mediterranean FTA conducted by the European Commission in the first decade of the 2000s showed that if it was established, production in Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan could fall sharply, especially in sectors such as food and beverages, textiles and clothing, leather and footwear. In turn, this will reduce the number of jobs in the Agadir countries by an average of 5%, which will lead to an increase in poverty; public spending on health, education, and social programs will decrease, and the impact of price fluctuations on the global food market will increase, which will hurt the poor.37

Belgian experts M. Cermak and A. Cannon believe that the conclusion of deep and comprehensive free trade agreements will lead mainly to negative consequences for the Arab countries. They believe that such tactics of the European Union will allow it to strengthen itself in the region, and the conclusion of agreements will deprive the governments of North African states of sovereignty in conducting social, economic and environmental policies, and will direct regional processes in the direction that is most beneficial for Europeans. 38

On the contrary, according to American researchers, U. According to Dadouche and M. Dunne, Arab countries need the support of the West to solve regional problems, including the problems of democratizing public life and maintaining stability in the long term. And analysts believe that the best tool for this is the development of trade relations between the European Union, as well as the United States , on the one hand, and Arab countries, on the other, the conclusion of trade agreements between them and an increase in Western investment in the economies of Arab states.39

The conclusion of trade agreements between the EU and the Maghreb states, along with other measures, will lead, in his opinion, to expanding the latter's access to international markets, creating new jobs, increasing competition in the domestic market of each country and stimulating labor productivity growth. It will also help increase foreign direct investment, step up domestic reforms, and improve the business climate. Thus, the researchers conclude that well-structured trade agreements will help create conditions that will promote positive reforms in transition economies.40

* * *

Summing up, it is worth noting that the "Arab Spring" prompted the EU to use deep and comprehensive free trade agreements as one of the main tools in three main areas. First, the European Union's own security depends on stability in its immediate environment, so Brussels seeks to "Europeanize" the neighboring region and promote its democratization. Secondly, socio-economic problems were one of the main reasons for the "Arab awakening", and the export-oriented development model proposed by the European Union through the conclusion of trade agreements, according to Brussels, contributes to "democratic transit" through the creation of jobs and ensuring sustainable economic growth. 41 Third, the EU seeks to develop trade and economic relations that can stimulate economic growth in Arab countries, in conditions when it is limited in funds and there is no way to allocate significant assistance to Arab States. Fourth, Brussels is trying to maintain its position in a strategically important region, especially after the failures of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership in a broad sense and the European External Action Service led by Catherine Ashton during the "Arab Spring".

Thus, if the EU still manages to conclude all the planned deep and comprehensive free trade agreements, this may contribute to the development of the European Union.

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a positive contribution to the process of creating a democratic and stable Arab world. However, given the unpopularity of the democratization process itself in this region, the European Union had to somewhat pragmatically retreat from its own values and cooperate with the regimes that were in power. But those Mediterranean neighbors who have announced democratic reforms enjoy the favor and generosity of Europeans.

1 The European Union Response to the Arab Spring. Features Speaker Catherine Ashton // The Brookings Institution. Washington, D.C. 12.7.2011; Stefan Fule. Speech on the Recent Events in North Africa (Speech/11/130), 28.2.2011 -

2 See for more details: Trofimova O. E. Evolution of the European Union's Mediterranean Policy: the Path from Cooperation to Integration. Moscow, IMEMO RAS, 2011. (Trofimova O.E. 2011. Evolyutsiya sredizemnomorskoi politiki Evrosoyuza... M.) (in Russian)

3 Ibid.

4 Initially, the idea of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was to unite within the framework of the SDF only those states that have access to the Mediterranean Sea. Berlin considered the French initiative to be a response to the EU's expansion to the East, which significantly increased the weight of Germany in the European Union. This could lead to a division of spheres of influence between Berlin and Paris, given the latter's desire to gain a foothold in North Africa, which has traditionally been a zone of its interests. Moreover, the initiative raised concerns in Spain and Italy, which saw it as an attempt by France to reduce their influence in the Maghreb. Therefore, Germany insisted that all EU states participate in the Union's activities.

Latkina V. A. 5 Politika Evropeiskogo Soyuza v Sredizemnoraorie v kontekste "arabskoi vesny" [Politics of the European Union in the Mediterranean in the context of the "Arab Spring"]. Vestnik MGIMO, 2014, No. 2, p. 140. (Latkina V. A. 2014.Politika Evropeiskogo Soyuza v Sredizemnoraorie v kontekste "arabskoi vesny" / / Vestnik MGIMO. N 2) (in Russian)

Trofimova O. E. 6 Edict. soch., p. 75.

Latkina V. A. 7 Decree. soch., p. 141.

8 The Middle East, the Arab Awakening, and Russia: what's next? Collection of articles / Ed. by V. V. Naumkin, V. V. Popov, V. A. Kuznetsov / M., IV RAS; Factof mirovoi politiki i ISAA MSU im. 2012, p. 418.

9 Ibid.

10 A Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean, Brussels 8.3.2011 -

11 A New Response to a Changing Neighbourhood. Brussels, 25.5.2011 -

12 Delivering a New European Neighborhood Policy. Brussels, 15.05.2015 -

13 The EU's response to the 'Arab Spring'. Brussels, 16.12.2011 -

Liargovas P. 14 EU trade policies towards neighboring // International Center for Black Sea Studies. University of Pelononnese. January 2013, p. 21-22.

15 Government of the European Union in Russia-Trade -

Trofimova O. E. 16 Edict. soch., pp. 11-13.

Keet M. 17 EU Policies Towards the Middle East // University of Cape Town. 2005, p. 1-2.

Archick K. 18Mix D.E. The United States and Europe: Responding to Change in the Middle East and North Africa // Congressional Research Service. June 12, 2013, p. 12.

19 Ibidem.

20 Ibid.

21 European Commission, Trade in goods with Tunisia - oc_122002.pdf

22 European Commission... with Morocco -

23 European Commission... with Egypt -

24 European Commission... with Jordan -

Muradov K. 25 Regional and bilateral agreements on free trade / / MEiMO. 2007. N 7, с. 42. (Muradov K. 2007. Regionalnye i dvustoronnie soglasheniya o svobodnoy torgovle // MEiMO. N 7) (in Russian)

Koeth W. 26 The 'Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements': an Appropriate Response by the EU to the Challenges in its Neighbourhood? // Eipascope. European Institute of Public Administration. 2014, p. 25.

Liargovas P. 27 EU trade policies towards neighboring, p. 22-23.

Van der Loo G. 28 Enhancing the Prospects of the EU's Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas in the Mediterranean: Lessons from the Eastern Partnership // Centre for European Policy Studies. 2015June 24, p. 1.

29 Brussels Briefing on Trade // The EU Policy Broadcaster -

30 EU to launch trade negotiation with Tunisia, 13 October 2015 -

31 Overview of FTA and other trade negotiations, December 2015 -

32 Ibid.

Dreyer L. 33 EU expands Tunisian olive oil imports ahead of trade talks. 18 September 2015

Van der Loo G. 34 Op. cit, p. 3.

Koeth W. 35 Op. cit., p. 24.

Kausch K. 36 The End of the (Southern) Neighbourhood // European Institute of the Mediterranean. April 2013, p. 10.

37 The EU trade and investment agenda: quashing the aspirations of the Arab Spring? // Transnational Institute and the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations. February 2013, p. 4.

Cermak M. 38Canonne A. EU Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreements: A Threat to the "Arab Revolutions", p. 1-5.

Dadush U. 39Dunne M. American and European Responses to the Arab Spring: What's the Big Idea? // The Washington Quarterly. 2011. Fall, p. 132.

40 Ibid., p. 137.

Cermak M. 41Canonne A. Op. cit., p. 2.


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