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May 29, 2015

‘Privatisation and dictatorship fuelled the Arab Spring’


May 29, 2015

Among the main reasons for the Arab Spring of 2011 were the aging leadership and the negative effects of privatisation. It was a popular uprising against the status quo and the utter lack of democracy and dictatorship, a common feature in all the affected countries.
These views were expressed by Dr Uzma Shujaat, the director of the Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi, on Thursday afternoon at a seminar titled “The Aftermath of the Arab Spring: Impact of EU Policies towards the Middle East” held by the centre in collaboration with the Hans-Seidel Foundation, Islamabad.
Dilating upon the revolution and its impact on the region’s strategic significance, Dr Shujaat stated that the term Arab Spring was popularised by the Western Media in early 2010, when the successful uprising in Tunisia against former Leader Zine El Abidine emboldened similar anti-government protests in most Arab countries. Other reasons for the uprising included their negligence toward a demographic time bomb.
The term Arab Spring, was a reference to the turmoil in Eastern Europe in 1989 when communist regimes began crumbling under pressure from mass popular protests in a domino effect. In a short span of time, most countries in the former communist bloc adopted a “democratic political system” with a market economy. The renewed policy had three key elements – money, mobility and markets – called the three Ms and the main aim of the policy was to increase financial support, enhance mobility and provide these states an access to the European market.
However, Dr Shujaat said, the upheavals in the Middle East did not follow the same pattern. Even though Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen were successful in bringing about a transition, Syria and Libya were dragged into crippling civil wars.
Ambassador (retd) Shahid M Amin spoke on the EU’s response to the Arab Spring. He defined Arab Spring as a response to the decades-old fascist and totalitarian

regimes in the Arab world, and likened them to a long-drawn autumn. He said that the revolutions were against authoritarian regimes and were aimed at ushering in Human Rights but their directions varied in different countries.
According to Amin, the Arab Spring was still unfolding and one could not jump to sweeping generalisations. He highlighted how strategic interests of the states acted as a pivot around which policy-making revolved.
“Though the Western world has increasingly stressed democracy, rule of law and justice, yet Gaddafi and Hosni Mobarak were both autocrats and close allies of the Europeans,” he said. “Except for Tunisia, the Arab Spring underwent a dramatic reversal, such as in Egypt where democratically elected president had been ousted and military General Sisi was installed. It was ‘Mobarakism’ but without Mobarak.”
Dr Tanweer Khalid, the former chairperson of the department of political science spoke on the challenges and successes of EU in bringing political and economic stability in the Middle East.
She stressed upon a need for the EU to grow out of the conventional donor-recipient relationship with respect to the Arab world and instead devise a comprehensive strategy regarding its Arab neighbourhood.
Munazza Nargis Kazmi, a senior research fellow at the centre, discussed the EU’s renewed neighbourhood policy in response to the Arab Spring and its contextual ramifications. She touched upon EU’s Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), launched as a project, called ‘Wider Europe” in 2003. The EU, she said, reformulated the EU conditionality, of ‘more for more’.
In response to the rising tide of irregular migrants from neighbours to Europe, the Commission had asked the member states to relocate the migrants in the all EU states, but so far consensus had not been reached.
In March 2015, the EU launched a consultation on the future of the European Neighbourhood Policy to address the economic and migrant issues and to redress policy flaws and inconsistencies which could pose a question mark on EU’s credibility.
Tracing the historical context, Muhammad Moiz Khan, an assistant professor at the department of general, history referred to the multi-ethnic make-up of the Syrian society. He reiterated that although Bashar-al Assad was a common enemy of both the EU and the IS, Europe was in a fix about how to respond to the IS, despite sharing animosity towards Assad’s dictatorial regime. So, he said, it was a question of choosing the “lesser evil”.

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