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The “Arab Spring” and the EU’s “Democracy Promotion” in Egypt: A Missed Appointment?

The aim of this article is to review the European partnership with Egypt under the European Neighbourhood Policy, in order to assess the effectiveness of the EU policy in the promotion of democratization and human rights, hinged on the use of positive and negative conditionality.

The empirical focus of the piece will be on the period following the Arab Uprising, coinciding with the creation of the European External Action Service, and therefore the most important testing ground for the newly created EU department.

From this analysis it will emerge that, in spite of the attempt to review the European policy vis-à-vis the Southern Mediterranean so as to meet the new aspirations of democracy and human rights unfolding on the ground, the European Union has failed to effectively pursue the principles that it solemnly proclaimed. This failure is due to a mix of factors, partly related to the way the EEAS was conceived, and partly to wrong political choices.

In my analysis, I will rely mostly on official documents and figures to give a synthetic account of the framework of the EU-Egypt relations. In the evaluation of its outcomes, I will resort to scholarly opinions, to the Assessment Reports of the European Court of Auditors, and to interviews I personally conducted with EEAS and Commission officials. As the information and opinions disclosed therein do not always correspond to the official "line", in most cases I have been requested not to reveal the interviewee’s name.

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