Arab and European civil society representatives to meet in Brussels next month

The “Week of advocacy on policies and issues of cooperation and partnership between the European Union and Arab countries”, arranged by the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) in cooperation with Eurostep and CNCD-11.11.11, will engage civil society organizations from both regions. The meetings between 17 to 21 Sept in Brussels are to see exchanges also between Arab representatives and European policy makers on issues of common concern.

It will serve as an opportunity to deepen the discussions on the outlined issues, clarify the demands and propositions from civil society groups, and elaborate on ways of cooperation and possible collective campaigning on priority policy areas. It will also be an opportunity to articulate these demands to policy makers at the European Union level, including in the European Parliament and European Commission, remarked the ANND in a press release.

The Arab region has been witnessing a period of change and quest for new societal relations between the citizen and the state, based on respect of fundamental freedoms, rights, dignity, and rule of law. Along the multiplicity of factors including political repressions, corruption, and lack of accountability and legitimacy of Arab regimes, the peoples’ uprisings and revolutions in multiple Arab countries have reflected a failure of social and economic policies, according to the Network.

Indeed, citizens are calling for a new development paradigm, which re-enforces the right to development and economic and social rights and justice. Accordingly, the democratic process and practice in the region necessitates revising the approach to the economic and social policies and policy making, aligned with reforms of political systems and enhancing the role of civil society, observed the ANND.

Moreover, achieving sustained democratic processes and economic and developmental progress necessitate achieving stability in the region through prioritizing peace and a just and sustainable solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with full respect to the relevant UN Resolutions and the people’s right to self determination and the right of return.

Space, time, resources, and developmental leadership to nurture a national dialogue that identifies political, economic, and social reforms are core to this challenge.

These changes in the Arab countries necessitate a re-thinking of priorities and policy approaches in the cooperation and partnerships with the European Union, on various fronts whether political, economic, social, and cultural. One of the main challenges to be addressed is seeking coherence among the various levels of cooperation between the EU and Arab countries, specifically among the development cooperation and the economic partnership, including the trade and investment relations.

Furthermore, the region witnesses have swept across the whole Arab region, including the Maghreb, Mashreq, and Gulf countries, thus requiring a holistic approach in the revision of the relation between the EU and the various Arab countries. Indeed, such steps are essential for establishing the common future of prosperity and stability that the EU and the Arab countries can share.

The European Union hase made public its perspectives and proposals in terms of responding to the changes in the region, through multiple communications and steps including:

■ A new response to a changing Neighborhood

■ Organizing the EU-Tunisia Task Force

■ Actively taking part in the Deauville Partnership

■ Declaring the ‘More for More’ approach and the Program of funding entitled ‘SPRING’ (Support for Partnership, Reform and Inclusive Growth)

■ Launching the proposals for the Civil Society Facility and the Endowment for Democracy

■ Expanding the role of the European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Within this context, multiple issues emerge that need an active response and ability to propose alternatives from civil society perspective, including:

■ The instruments of the European Neighborhood policy and Union for the Mediterranean (UfM); including processes for revising the Action Plans and benchmarking for programs and instruments of financial support

■ The approach to trade and investment policies and relations and its interface with development objectives

■ The mandate and mechanisms of operation of the Civil Society Facility and  the Democracy Endowment

■ The roles of EU Commission for Development and Cooperation, the European Investment Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

■ The role of the EU Member States, European Parliament, and European Civil Society

Tackling these issues, groups of civil society organizations from the Arab region have raised concerns and demands in multiple policy letters addressed to the EU officials and national level officials, including through:

■ A letter by civil society groups from Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and other Arab countries entitled: ‘Deep Free Trade Agreements’ by the EU Could Represent a Backlash Against Democratic Transition Processes in the Arab Region (February 2012)

■ A letter by civil society organizations in the Arab Region entitled: “What does ‘More’ Stand for and how to Ensure Economic Policy Conditionality is not Exercised?” (October 2011)

■ Declaration entitled “Towards Policies that Serve Peace, Democracy, and Economic and Social Justice Between the EU and Arab Countries; Demand for an immediate change in the social and economic priorities between Europe and Arab Countries” (June 2011)

■ Joint Reaction to the Communication “A new response to a changing Neighborhood” (May 2011)

More information
ANND, Eurostep and CNCD 11.11.11 organize week of advocacy on EU-Arab relations: