Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Two are EU's main mistakes in Northern Africa, according to Carnegie

Adelina Marini, February 8, 2011

The EU had to focus on the development of private sector and to stop closing its markets for agriculture products from Northern Africa. These are the two main mistakes of the Union, as put by Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar in Brussels of the influential think-tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Although the Union is pouring an awful lot of money, it constantly relies on the states themselves to distribute it accordingly, instead of directing the money more precisely. According to the author the rebellion in Tunisia, as well as the developments in Egypt, attract the attention to issues like social inclusion and economic development of the region, suppressed for decades by autocratic governance.

Mr Ulgen makes a full review of the official relations of the EU with the region - from the Barcelona Process (1995) via the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP, 2004) to its division into the Union of the Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership. "Today, the EU aspires to anchor the political and economic evolution of North Africa. To that end, it has allocated approximately $3.4 billion to implementing the Action Plans of the nine North African economies over the next three years. [...] More importantly, the EU’s sustained engagement has not significantly improved growth in North Africa, nor has it moved the region closer to EU income levels".

It has to be noted, though, that Mr Ulgen's data do not correspond fully to reality. A large part of the aid the European Union allocates to these countries is directed precisely to stimulating entrepreneurship. The Union is financing micro credit projects even without any documents in the poorest regions of Northern Africa, and also the establishment of factories and plants. It is a fact, though, that the funding of many other projects in the area of education, infrastructure and energy passes through the authorities, blamed now in corruption.

What Mr Ulgen is right about, however, is his statement that the EU refuses to open its markets for agriculture production. But here too there are some nuances, like the thesis of European farmers that they would give up a large part of the subsides they get if their colleagues from countries outside the European Union start responding to the same quality criteria. It is on this issue that a solution must be found in the framework of the negotiations in the Doha Round, for which there is consensus in the G20.

The reasons for what's happening in Northern Africa and the Middle East are yet to be analysed, but one thing is for sure - the situation of the people there is the result of a series of mistakes.