Free trade + democratization = development? : The European Union´s Maghreb policy

Schotter, Peter

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URL http://edoc.vifapol.de/opus/volltexte/2008/280/
Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: HSFK-Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
Schriftenreihe: PRIF reports
Bandnummer: 52
Sprache: Deutsch
Erstellungsjahr: 1999
Publikationsdatum: 30.01.2008
SWD-Schlagwörter: Europäische Union , Maghreb
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.93 (Nord-Süd-Verhältnis)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

1. This study examines European Mediterranean policy as exemplified in EU relations with the Maghreb countries. The specific object of analysis is the „Euro- Mediterranean partnership“, which began with the „Euro-Mediterranean“ conference in Barcelona on 27–8 November 1995. 2. Since 1957, the history of the European Community’s Mediterranean policy has been marked by a discrepancy between lofty aspirations and sobering practical achievements. The economic difficulties in the Maghreb have become more acute: in the 1970s and 1980s, the various association agreements did nothing to reduce the developmental gap between Europe and the North African countries. 3. With the end of the East–West conflict, the advent of German unity, and the planned eastward expansion of the EU, the southern member-states saw themselves being forced onto the sidelines in terms of the representation of their interests, and they set about championing a Mediterranean initiative – analogous to the eastward line being pursued by the EU. This coincided with the Maghreb countries’ aim of improving the competitiveness of their national economies through economic co-operation with, and financial support from, the EU. 4. The Barcelona conference approved an ambitious programme. The aim of the first pillar is political and security co-operation in the Mediterranean region. Demands here include observance of human rights, democratic norms, pluralism, and territorial integrity. The signatory states also undertake to settle their conflicts peacefully and to take measures to combat terrorism and organized crime. The second pillar deals with the gradual creation, by the year 2010, of a Euro-Mediterranean free-trade area. The aim of the third pillar is co-operation in the social and cultural domain. Action is to be taken to promote dialogue and respect for different cultures and religions, to combat racism and hostility to foreigners, and to improve cultural exchange and educational and training facilities. The European Union has made 4.685 billion ECUs available from its budget-funds for this purpose. This sum is supplemented by credits totalling 3.395 billion ECUs from the European Investment Bank and bilateral contributions from individual member-states. 5. The basic philosophy of the Barcelona process is that development in the Mediterranean region will best be assured by the introduction of market economics and democracy, and that financial help and advice from the EU can mitigate the conflicts associated with this. The EU policy consists of a combination of classic free-trade policy (chiefly of benefit to the EU itself) and a process of dialogue intended to create a communicational framework for regulating political, economic, and social conflicts in the Mediterranean area. 2 6. As far as the security dimension is concerned, in the first three years of the Barcelona process, co-operation has moved no further than an (arduous) exchange over confidence- building; concrete agreements are still a distant prospect. In the second – economic – pillar, activities have proceeded largely without a hitch. The main problems in regard to implementation lie in the third area of co-operation, on the question of democratization and contacts between the various civil societies. Here, the structure of the ruling regimes in the Maghreb is affected; here, they seek to block or control the process of dialogue. 7. The creation of the free-trade area is one of those large-scale structural adjustment programmes of the type commonly imposed on the developing countries since the 1980s by international financial organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The economy is to be denationalized and deregulated, and the political-cum-administrative system is to be slimmed down and reoriented to promote the productive sectors of the national economy. The chances of the European Union and the southern Mediterranean countries achieving the stated objectives by means of the proposed free-trade area must, however, be viewed with the utmost circumspection. It is very unlikely that producers in the southern Mediterranean countries will be able, through rationalization and modernization, to get anywhere near the European levels of efficiency in a short space of time. The free-trade area will also mean the disappearance of tariff revenues that have previously played a major part in financing the national budget. These revenues served chiefly to fuel not only the prevailing clientelist power-structures but also, to a limited extent, social relief-measures (such as basic food subsidies). 8. The Euro-Maghreb free-trade area will therefore only have a beneficial effect on development if functioning export-industries emerge. In view of the internally weak capital-market and the relatively high technological requirements, it would have to be via foreign direct investments – particularly European ones – that capital and technology flowed into the Mediterranean countries. As compared with the status quo, the free-trade area would considerably improve the chances of such investments. But the latter depend on the availability of qualified manpower and adequate services, on the presence of suitable conditions of supply and waste-disposal, and on whether the legal and institutional framework-conditions are favourable and taxes and levies are low. In comparison with other regions of the world, however, the Maghreb does not display any particularly advantageous locational features when it comes to direct investment from abroad. 9. One last option would be for the Maghreb countries to be able to exploit the increased access to the European markets in order to sell agricultural products and finished goods such as textiles and clothing. But this is precisely the domain in which EU import barriers still apply – albeit to a lesser degree than at the time of Barcelona. The southern EU member states, who are the most vociferous in their support for a European policy on the Mediterranean, are precisely the ones who are particularly keen to insulate themselves against Maghreb competition. 3 10. The creation of a large-scale free-trade area in the Mediterranean region requires – in addition to changes in the economic order – complementary action to reorganize state finances, render the administrative structures of the state functional, and build up modern social-security systems. Until the end of the 1980s, the economies of the Maghreb – embedded within a highly ramified clientelist system – remained under strict state control. Reform of the economy therefore also implies changes to the systems of rule in the Maghreb. In this connection, the EU is banking on „civil society“. And in fact, since the end of the 1980s, the process of structural adjustment has led to society differentiating into professional associations, women’s groups, human-rights organizations, and other non-governmental organizations. However, it remains to be seen whether this is sufficient as a basis for a process of democratization. 11. The EU cannot push through economic and political transformation in the face of the apparatuses of power – even if it wanted to. The EU is therefore confronted with a dilemma: on the one hand, it needs the compliance of the élites in order to get the economic and political reform-process going; on the other, the implementation of the Barcelona process will encroach on the power-based economic and political interests of those élites. The effect of a comprehensive policy of opening-up would be to strengthen the position of other (private) economic actors and political forces vis-àvis the old élites. In this connection, one cannot exclude the possibility that – as a result of social dislocations prompted by the Barcelona process – Islamist forces would acquire even stronger influence. 12. The strategy of modernization aimed at in the Barcelona process is intended to alter the balance of power between state and society. The EU aims to prevent any attempt which forces opposed to reform might make to block such a development. But it also wants to ensure that the free spaces that are to be created for social actors are not occupied by movements of an anti-Western/anti-European bent that are hostile to the principles and norms set out in the Barcelona document. However, the possibility that the social dislocations that will be brought about by the Barcelona process in the transitional phase will enhance rather than weaken Islamist forces cannot, so it seems, be excluded – in fact, it is quite likely. As far as the future of Euro-Maghreb cooperation is concerned, therefore, the question of how European states and societies deal with the possibility of increased Islamist influence in the region (up to an including the sharing or assumption of power) is a crucial one. 13. Neither Islam as a religion nor Islamism as an ideology is fundamentally hostile to the capitalist market economy. The new „Islamic order“ called for by the Islamist opposition- movements therefore does not have to be either a regression to the medieval Muslim world or a rejection of Western capitalism and economic co-operation. 14. Islam combines within itself elements that are „hostile to democracy and pluralism“ and elements „conducive to democracy“. Amongst the „hostile“ factors used by radical Islamist groupings as an argument for creating a „theocracy“ is the requirement for unity between politics and religion and the rejection of secularist tendencies. The goal is the creation of an „Islamic state“ regulated by the sharia. But pronouncements about the extent to which the Islamist opposition in the Maghreb is „capable of de4 mocracy“ will necessarily be unsatisfactory if the only thing to which its notions of political and economic order are contrasted is a model of democracy of Europeancum- North-American stamp. The political-cum-religious concepts of the Islamists ought also to be set against the democratic plus and minus points of their respective governments. Since it is likely that, in the long term, Islamist groups will occupy a permanent place in the political spectrum of the Maghreb countries, and that they will become major actors in the formation of a „civil society“, the present „exclusion policy“ is counterproductive. It encourages the militant Islamist trends. 15. If one considers the three countries under scrutiny here, their chances of being able to put what the Barcelona process has to offer for their social and political development to use in line with the above expectations varies. Algeria appears to be furthest away from being able to participate in the free-trade area with a diversified export and import structure; its internal political situation is so jammed that even the communication framework in the third pillar of the Barcelona process will probably not have any effect in the foreseeable future. Of the three Maghreb countries, Tunisia is the furthest advanced in structural adjustment, but this process is currently coming up against the limits imposed on it by the political inflexibility of Ben Ali’s regime. At present, it looks as if Morocco has the best chance of combining structural adjustment in the economy with a liberalization and pluralization of the political regime. One explanation for this may be that the country’s monarchical system of government is better able to implement economic and social adjustment because it depends for its legitimisation not so much on populist-cum-republican authoritarianism – of the sort that prevails in Algeria and Tunisia – but on tradition and on the fact that the king controls the military. 16. The report closes with recommendations for a deepening of the Barcelona process. The markets of the EU should be opened up completely to suppliers from the Maghreb, particularly in the agricultural domain and textile production. If necessary, the southern EU states, which are resisting having a fully-fledged free-trade area in these sectors as well, would have to secure compensation elsewhere. The advantages to the Maghreb countries would, at all events, be much greater than the disadvantages to the EU. As regards future implementation, the EU should make specialist trainingprogrammes and local credit-schemes a particular requirement. Even more important, however, is that assistance with democratization be directed to a greater extent than at present on the promotion of „civil society“. Given the power on which it can draw, the European Union can push more strongly for non-state groups to be involved. Although the development of an intra-societal diversity of interests also includes the development of groups that do not correspond with Western notions of a civil society, Islamist movements should not be excluded from the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue.


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