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A Transatlantic Perspective on the European Union and the United States in North Africa

This paper examines the transatlantic allies’ perceptions, interests, and policy responses with respect to the democratic transitions in North Africa in the context of the changes taking place in the wider Middle East and North Africa area. The aim is to analyze their ability and willingness to help turn the transition countries into democracies and establish constructive international relations with them. The paper starts with a general section illustrating findings and conclusions. It then presents a series of issues that provide an analytical background to the first general section. U.S. and European policy responses to the Arab Spring are surveyed, before being analyzed as to how their perceptions, objectives, and interests are shaping their responses. Several security challenges in the post-Arab Spring region are explored. A final section sets out some policy recommendations. The main conclusion of the paper is that, while the Islamist majority parties initially displayed a clear propensity toward pluralism and centrism, after a year and a half they seem to have dropped this consociational path and are tending to govern alone, partly because secularists are increasingly rejecting any Islamist governance (and even pursuing reactionary paths, as in Egypt), and partly because the centrists are trying to appease the more conservative Islamist wings, which, prompted by the secularists’ polarization, have strengthened. In this framework, the recommendation to the transatlantic allies is to avoid the temptation to disengage. Instead, they should gear up their engagement and make it more visible and credible by reconsidering the policies pursued so far and adjusting them to the evolving realities.

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