In the wake of the popular uprising in the Arab world, the European Commission has announced its adoption of four new resolutions in support of democratic programmes in the region: growth, job creation, microcredit and higher education. The total cost is estimated to be €460m.
In a press statement, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, said: "The European Union was the first to interact seriously with the Arab spring." The suggestion is that the latest resolutions were in response to procedures contained in the recent EU document, "Responding to new changes in the region". Lady Ashton went on to say that this is "a result of the new European policy and aims". She stressed that it is a priority of the EU to support "profound" and sustainable democracy, as well as economic recovery, in North Africa and the Middle East.
Štefan Fűle, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, said that these resolutions demonstrate Europe's strong commitment to its neighbouring-partners by creating jobs, improving living conditions, partnerships between universities and consolidating participation of civil society. "This support indicates Europe's commitment to achieving the desired transition to democracy in the region," he added.
Mr Fűle also highlighted the fact that the European Commission has adopted the "Spring" programme, in order "to support a comprehensive partnership, reform and growth". The Commission will present a framework of "support to the southern neighbouring countries to achieve democratization, institution-building and economic growth following the Arab spring". This support will be designed according to the needs of each country; "the total value of this initiative is €350m over two years."
In addition, Fűle said that a second programme will support the poorer areas of Tunisia: "€20m has been allocated to promote employment and job creation in the country and improve the living conditions of the urban population in poorer areas, as well as improving access to microcredit for-projects."
According to the European official the education programme will "work to achieve better understanding and mutual enrichment between the European Union and neighbouring countries through the creation of opportunities for students and academics alike to move around the EU and the exchange of knowledge and skills", the budget for which is €66m.
The capacity building of civil society, meanwhile, has been allocated €22m, "designed to enhance reform and increase public accountability in their countries". The programme will also support regional and provincial projects led by non-governmental actors, and it is expected that similar budgets will be available for the years 2012 and 2013.
Source: Brussels – Quds Press Service