The wave of popular uprisings that has swept through the Arab world in 2011 and led to the fall from power of three authoritarian rulers in North Africa gave rise to hopes for the dawn of a new democratic era in the region. But the transition in the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood seems to go on a protracted path. The re-negotiation of the social contract in the affected countries came often along with a weakening of statehood and increasing polarisation, for instance concerning the status of religion within state and society. The eruption of both domestic and trans-national conflicts and cleavages poses serious security risks not only for the region itself, but also for adjacent Europe.
The expert discussion will take stock of the socio-economic and political situation in the Southern Neighbourhood. The focus will be on Morocco and Tunisia. Both countries have made significant progress in pursuing democratic reforms, although some fundamental challenges for consolidating this progress remain. Moreover, the discussion will touch upon the situation in other transition countries of this region and highlight the differences regarding their development paths.
The aim is to understand the dynamics and factors that impact on the prospect of democratic reform and on its essential preconditions related to security, stability and socio-economic development. In addition, we want to discuss how external actors such as the EU could contribute to that end. The upcoming inauguration of a new leadership of the European Union provides an occasion to further redefine the EU’s relations with – as the Commission put it in this year’s ENP report – a “Neighbourhood at the Crossroads”. In doing so, we want to draw lessons about how to advance towards a common approach regarding democratic reform of the EU, its member states and the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood.