Archive for category neighbourhood crises
This is a continuation of the previous post on Morocco’s political system.
The 20 February movement
Speaking at an Italian restaurant in Rabat some early-twenties activists from the ’20 February movement’ are saying that ‘We do not feel represented by the existing political parties. We want a monarchy like in Holland. For now we are asking for reforms, not regime change.’ The movement is not a typical youth movement modelled on the type of Otpor in Serbia, Pora in Ukraine or Kefaya in Egypt. Actually the early-20s activists of the Moroccan movement have not even heard of Kefaya. Their movement brings together or is supported by a ragtag of young urban middle class ‘spoiled kids’, the outlawed Islamist movement Al-Adl Wal Ihsane (Justice and Spirituality) and leftists disappointed with the left-wing parties. On 20 February they brought together a few hundred thousands people on the streets of several Moroccan cities to voice their demands for greater democracy. Now they organise such big marches once a month. In the meantime they organise smaller sit-ins, flash-mobs and days of giving flowers to the police, donating blood, or supporting Libya.
The protests are not likely to lead to a revolution, yet the mosaic of the movement is potentially hugely disruptive of the Moroccan political system as we know it. For decades the crown positioned itself between the secularists and the Islamists. But these forces are now united in contesting the existing political regime. This is also one of the lessons from Tunisia and Egypt, where much has been done about the Muslim Brotherhood protesting against Mubarak shoulder to shoulder with Facebookers and Coptic Christians. The Moroccans learned the lessons. The secularists and the Islamists are (for) now united in wanting a drastic curbing of the powers of the king and the creation of a parliamentary monarchy. Read the rest of this entry »
[the first part of some of my notes from a recent research trip to Morocco]
The ‘Arab spring’ has not left Kingdom of Morocco untouched. Protesters across the country demand more limits on royal power and less corruption and clientelism around the palace. Few challenge the monarchy itself, but a wide range of forces demand a system where the king ‘reigns, but does not govern’. King Mohammed VI launched a process of constitutional reforms in an attempt to shore up the monarchy’s legitimacy and be seen as responding to the demands of the ‘Arab spring’. Morocco might not face a revolution, but the road ahead for Morocco might still be quite bumpy.
The political system
Morocco’s political system is a strange-ish hybrid. One the one hand it has a dominant monarchy with strong executive powers. The monarchy dominates political and economic life. The king reigns and governs. Yet, Morocco also has a multi-party system, holds regular elections which are judged as relatively free and fair, and has alternating governments. The parties that win most votes at the election are invited to head the government. But while elections lead to changes of government, the winning parties do not really govern. They might be in government, but they don’t govern; and whereas the political pendulum is swinging once in a while, political power did not. Read the rest of this entry »
The revolutionary upheaval in the Southern neighbourhood and the failures of reforms in most of the Eastern neighbourhood are begging for a revised EU approach to the neighbourhood policy (ENP). In March the EU presented some ideas on ‘a partnership for democracy and shared prosperity’ with the Southern Mediterranean. Some time in May the EU will present also a full review of the ENP. A central concept of the updated ENP is the idea of ‘more for more’ – the EU should give more political and financial support to those neighbourhood countries that implement more reforms and are more democratic.
‘More for more’ stands for a more meritocratic ENP. It should lay the basis for proper differentiation between neighbours, not based on geographic criteria, but based on their performance. The concept is also supposed to change the way the EU is spending its money. Currently the EU pre-allocates most of its assistance to specific neighbourhood states (almost irrespective of their reform performance) in 7-years budgetary cycles. ‘More for more’ is supposed to make it easier to shift its more EU assistance from one neighbourhood state to another depending on their reform performance. Overall, the concept the concept of ‘more for more’ is laudable and fair, but also quite slippery. Read the rest of this entry »
This blog which is called ‘Neighbourhood’, rather than ‘Eastern neighbourhood’, makes a small step towards living up to its name… As a more substantial follow up to my post on post-revolutionary Tunisia, here is an ECFR policy brief on: After the revolution: Europe and the transition in Tunisia. Almost the same title, but more analysis and policy ideas. And two photos ftom Tunis. One is a ministry building with ‘Thank you Facebook’ written on it (sorry, I spent quite some time trying to capture it without people passing buy, but the area was too busy). Another is an emancipation campaign poster.
As the ‘post-Cold War era’ turned into the ‘multipolar world’ era, the notion of Western democracy promotion underwent similarly dramatic changes. The West became too weak to pursue democracy-promotion head-on and was seen as being forced to fall back on old-school realist approaches to democracy. But just when this realist approach to democracy-promotion seemed to almost finally become dominant, the popular wave of protests in EU’s southern neighbourhod changed everything again. Now the question is what will come next.
The Realist Consensus
For the few couple of years the realist consensus on democracy promotion seemed to be on a seemigly unstoppable (repeated) rise. It marked the end of two decades of noisy, often arrogant, but equally often concerned tough talk and action to promote human rights and democracy. The idea was that time has come to focus on achieving certain, rather quantifiable interests, such as ensuring security, fighting terrorism, expanding trade or managing migration, rather than adopting vague goals like promoting human rights and improving governance. Read the rest of this entry »
Having spent most of the week in Tunisia, here are some thoughts and observations.
… is very positive. It is not the end of a president (like Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004), but the end of an era. Since independence in 1956, Tunisia had only two presidents – Bourghiba and Ben Ali who ruled for 30 and 23 years respectively. In this sense Tunisia feels a bit like Central and Eastern Europe in late 80s-early 90s.
There is a lot of optimism, but even more short term confusion. There is no clear understanding, nor agreement on what to do the following weeks and months. There are no institutions, no leaders and no united platform of dissidents, NGOs or oppositionists (like Solidarnosc in Poland or Saakshvili in Georgia) to stir the country through the next months. The interim president is unelected with little legitimacy, there is no parliament, the interim government is very weak politically, and under constant assault from protesters who want jobs, salary raises etc. So far the government had to accede to most of the demands of the protesters, since it has little power to say no. With such tempo the country can easily go bankrupt (add the outflow of tourists, uncertainties of the investors etc).
The starting point of post-revolutionary transitions in Serbia, Georgia or Ukraine were much better, and even there many of the results are mixed. Read the rest of this entry »
In 2003 -2005 revolutions in the neighbourhood were all the rage. Georgia, Ukraine and Lebanon have all inspired high-hopes among their own populations, as well as the EU and US. Then, many of those hopes collapsed, the revolutions lost their glitz, and the EU and US settled for a revolution-sceptic mood. Having gone through enthusiasm and then fatigue for revolutions, the EU now has to have views on revolutions again. It would rather not. But in less than two months the EU neighbourhood has been agitated by revolutionary situations in Belarus, Albania, Tunisia and now Egypt.
Coming up with coherent EU responses to today’s ‘revolutions’ is more difficult. The problem for the EU is not so much the lack of visibility, but the lack of a clear-cut position with which to be visible. Back in 2003-2005, EU’s sympathies were clear (though not always as explicitly articulated at revolutionaries wanted it), but now the EU is struck by the scale of events and is mainly stuck on the fence. As Daniel Korski asks: “Should the EU back the protests, support what has been a friendly regime or sit uncomfortably on the fence?”
The fence-sitting moment (for many it is a ‘fence-sitting eternity’) is something which comes up at every single revolutionary situation the EU is supposed to have a view on. It is always uncomfortable, but sometimes it is easier to choose sides than other. Responding to Belarus’ suppression of post-election protests last December was relatively ‘easy’. It might not be effective, but there was no room for fence-sitting, and the EU was practically pre-determined to reimpose sanctions on Lukashenko and his cronies. Of course this was tried before and hasn’t worked. But what else can the EU do? After years of sanctions since the late 90s, the EU tried to engage with Lukashenko for the last few years, but engagement was pushed aside by the repression of post-electoral protests. To a certain extent, the new set of sanctions are not introduced to change Lukashenko, but for EU’s peace of mind and modicum of self-respect. So the EU policy on Belarus came full circle – sanctions, then engagement and now sanctions again. Nothing worked in the end. (Though engagement seemed to bring some moderate progress, which proved unsustainable however.)
But Albania, Tunisia and Egypt are much more complicated when it comes to having coherent reactions and choosing on which side of the fence to put the EU. The reasons are many-fold. To begin with, the EU is relatively disappointed with the value and sustainability of coloured revolutions. Read the rest of this entry »
It is almost trivial to see the EU divided: on Kosovo, the Perejil island crisis, or the Iraq war. But EU disunity has been most systematic and paralysing when it came to EU policies on Russia and the Eastern neighbourhood, as this power audit showed. Every time a crisis erupted in the eastern neighbourhood the EU was often incapacitated because of two factors.
First, many EU member states hesitated to act assertively in the Eastern neighbourhood for fear of irritating Russia. For many EU states good relations with Russia are more important than developments in Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova. This often forced the EU to act at the lowest common denominator. Whenever it could, the EU shunned meaningful action.
Second, EU member states diverged hugely in the interpretation of events and, consequently, in possible responses. As one EU official once told me about a president from the eastern neighbourhood “you can’t save Y from his once stupidity”. This entirely misses the point: the EU had to get engage in the Balkans not because it liked Hashim Thachi or Slobodan Milosevic, but because Balkan realities were threatening European interests and values. The same goes for the eastern neighbourhood. The EU might not like Aliev, Lukashenko, Sargsyan, Youshchenko, Saakashvili and Voronin, but that is precisely the reason why it has to get more engaged. And that is precisely the reason why the Eastern partnership is being launched. If Moldova was like Estonia and Ukraine was like Poland, there would be no need for an Eastern partnership. Read the rest of this entry »