Following the adoption of a democratic constitution in January this year, Tunisia’s legislative elections held on October 26th – the country’s first democratic election to a permanent parliament – added another milestone to the country’s broadly promising trajectory. Sunday’s election is likely to lead to the formation of the first non-provisional democratic coalition government. Tunisia has a long way ahead towards fully ensuring political consolidation, economic and social justice, and sustainable security for its citizens. But in spite of considerable remaining challenges, Tunisia today shoulders the Arab world’s hopes for genuine democratisation.
The British approach to the Middle East is driven by security and commercial interests, including energy and export markets. After a long period of relative decline in the influence of the UK in the region, London has revamped its ties with Gulf countries in particular, where it has the strongest political, security and business relations of any European country. Following support to Arab popular uprisings, the UK has reverted to a more cautious approach to the region with a view to preserving good relations with important strategic actors there.
Europe’s broader Southern vicinity has had an express geopolitical makeover. In one decade, a predictable order of political stasis in the Middle East and North Africa has given way to an array of overlapping, often contradictory dynamics. Lacking the sort of single organising principle that policy-makers treasure for straightforward policy planning, the new Middle Eastern ‘dis-order’ will require Europeans to radically re-think the kind of relationships they can have with governments in the region.
After more than forty years keeping the peace on the Golan Heights, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Syria is close to collapse. UNDOF’s task – the maintenance of a ‘disengagement zone’ (a de-militarised area) agreed by Syria and Israel as part of the ceasefire ending the 1973 Yom Kippur war – has been severely complicated by the civil war that has gripped Syria for more than three years. Now, following a series of attacks at the end of August by the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, UNDOF has been forced to give up control of large parts of the disengagement zone and 45 Fijian UNDOF peacekeepers are being held hostage by the jihadi group. And further attacks on the UN force are likely.
The Arab spring offered Qatar and Saudi Arabia an opportunity to raise their international profiles and shape events throughout the Middle East and North Africa. They both sought to assert their interests through proactive, but often diverging, foreign policies directed to expand their influence, balance rivals and shield their respective regimes from political turmoil. Three years on, however, there is little to show for their efforts and in different ways both feel more vulnerable, since political uncertainty is growing and security is deteriorating across the region. As a result, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are likely to revert to more cautious foreign policies.
Like their Islamist counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia, Morocco’s Party of Justice and Development (PJD) rode the 2011 wave of popular protests to become the largest party in parliament. Moreover, unlike Islamists elsewhere, they have managed to buck the regional trend by remaining in government. The PJD is in the midst of a drawn-out transition to democracy with no other option but to negotiate, compromise and constantly reassure the Moroccan monarchy that its most vital interests are not being threatened. So far, the party seems to have maintained its cohesion and edge over the political opposition, but the hardest work of the democratic transition has not yet started.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
FRIDE ceased its think tank activities on 31st December 2015 for economic reasons. The Board of Trustees had to take this difficult decision since, despite many efforts to diversify its funding sources, FRIDE cannot sustain its think tank operations with a view to 2016 and beyond.
Established in 1999, FRIDE has made a major contribution to shape debate on Europe’s external activities in an increasingly challenging international environment. It has covered issues ranging from democracy and human rights to sustainable development, new approaches to multilateral cooperation and security affairs. FRIDE’s long-standing focus on the extended neighbourhood of the European Union proves today all the more relevant given widespread turbulence in the region. FRIDE’s emphasis on the importance of the values framing Europe’s external activities is central to current political debates in Europe and beyond. This shows the need for continued engagement in the pursuit of a common European foreign policy that is both effective and informed by the core values of European integration.
The Board wishes to thank Diego Hidalgo, FRIDE’s founder, for his tireless commitment and very generous support for many years. The Board also wishes to thank FRIDE’s dedicated staff, the members of the Board and the Advisory Committee for their contribution in making FRIDE one of the top foreign policy think tanks in Europe. We are very grateful to all those who have supported FRIDE’s work and projects over the years and we thank the many partners from all parts of the world who have worked with FRIDE on joint initiatives. We hope that FRIDE’s extensive input to the debate on Europe in the world will continue to inform thinking and action at a very critical time for Europe’s future.
The President of the Board
FRIDE cesó sus actividades como think tank el 31 de diciembre de 2015 por razones económicas. El Patronato tuvo que adoptar esta difícil decisión dado que, a pesar de los intensos esfuerzos realizados para diversificar sus fuentes de financiación, FRIDE no puede sostener sus operaciones como think tank a partir de 2016.
Establecido en 1999, FRIDE ha realizado una gran contribución al debate sobre las actividades exteriores de Europa en un ambiente internacional cada vez más complejo. Ha trabajado en temas que van desde la democracia y los derechos humanos al desarrollo sostenible, los nuevos enfoques en la cooperación multilateral y las cuestiones de seguridad. La atención prestada por FRIDE a la vecindad extendida de la Unión Europea durante mucho tiempo prueba ser hoy aún más relevante debido a la turbulencia que azota a la región. El énfasis de FRIDE en la importancia de los valores que enmarcan las actividades exteriores europeas es central en los debates en Europa y más allá. Esto muestra la necesidad de un compromiso continuo con la búsqueda de una política exterior europea común que sea eficaz y esté basada en los principios fundamentales de la integración europea.
El Patronato desea agradecer a Diego Hidalgo, fundador de FRIDE, por su incansable compromiso y muy generoso apoyo a lo largo de tantos años. También quiere expresar su gratitud a la dedicada plantilla, a los propios miembros del Patronato y del Comité Asesor por sus contribuciones para hacer de FRIDE uno de los principales think tanks de Europa en cuestiones de política exterior. Estamos muy agradecidos con todos aquellos que han apoyado el trabajo y los proyectos de FRIDE a través de los años y también damos las gracias a los numerosos socios de todas partes del mundo que han colaborado con FRIDE en iniciativas conjuntas. Esperamos que las extensas aportaciones de FRIDE al debate sobre Europa en el mundo continuará informando el pensamiento y la acción en un momento muy crítico para el futuro de Europa.
El Presidente del Patronato