Report on Democracy Assistance from the European Union to the Middle East and North Africa

Written by | Monday, July 25th, 2016

Rosa Balfour, Francesca Fabbri and Richard Youngs (European Policy Centre)

The Arab Spring, which began in 2011, prompted the EU to provide significant support to the countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Its aim was the development of democracy, rule of law and good governance. Apart from the individual national governments, the EU also focused on aid for the groups operating at the local level. Thanks to these steps, the EU is institutionally, financially and conceptually better prepared to promote the process of democratization in the neighboring countries. A good example of this trend is the enhanced possibility to establish cooperation between EU representatives operating in the region with local organizations. However, it is far from certain that this approach will lead to the expected results.

In the context of the support for democratic transformation and the development of civil society, several problems have emerged. One of them was related to the funds that were used to channel the assistance to the region. The reason for their establishment was the need to reward states for pursuing national development in line with the EU recommendations. In reality, however, besides Tunisia, Morocco was also benefitting from these funds despite achieving significantly lower levels of progress. In contrast, although Egypt never received this support, this was never formally explained in the context of the negative developments in the country. The second example is a significant discrepancy between the original promises of the Union and the real volume of funds provided. The main causes have been especially problems during the actual implementation of the desired changes in these countries as well as the dramatic political upheavals that resulted in violence.

No activity associated with the support of policy reforms and the prevention of internal conflicts has ever demanded as many resources as the European Union’s effort to deal with the migration crisis. A total of 15.4 billion EUR has been earmarked for the 16 countries in the Union’s neighborhood between 2014 and 2020, out of which 18 percent should serve to democratization and the development of civil society. Only in 2015-2016, the Union is poised to spend 9.2 billion EUR to deal with the problems arising from the migration crisis. However, it is not really an attempt to tackle the causes of migration crisis but an effort to prevent the movement of people from Syria and other unstable regions to Europe. It specifically includes, but is not limited to, the assistance to the refugees still remaining in the Middle East, the support for Turkey, the improvement of the EU external border controls and their protection and the ability to deal with crisis situations or the funding for the Frontex agency.

(The study can be downloaded here:

Article Categories:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.