The European Union's relations with the Southern-Mediterranean in the aftermath of the Arab spring

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Cooperation with the Southern-Mediterranean has for long been a high priority in the European Union's external relations. Instruments aimed at supporting economic and social transition of partner countries, trade liberalisation and market access for both parties, and strengthening the internal security of the Union were in focus of multilateral approaches such as the Barcelona Process (1995) and its re-launch within a regional forum, the Union for the Mediterranean (2008), complemented by instruments of the European Neighbourhood Policy extended to countries of the region since 2004. In addition, association agreements signed with individual countries have focused on economic relations so as to foster development, political and social reform, and ultimately, to create sustainable and overall regional integration. Europe is of the highest importance for the economic development of the Mediterranean area. For the EU, the Mediterranean countries have always been economically important since they are large suppliers of natural resources, such as gas and petroleum, to the European market. The Mediterranean countries have also become an essential outlet for European exports. Therefore, the EU aimed at the development of a stable economic situation in the Mediterranean region since this would create attractive export possibilities for the EU. The Mediterranean area has been important for Europe for reasons of security and strategy as well. As a response to the events of the Arab Spring, the EU reframed its policy toward the Southern-Mediterranean region, as indeed its entire neighbourhood, and redesigned its tools of cooperation so as to deliver support for transition to democracy and work closely with the partner governments. These instruments include the `more aid for more democracy¿ conditionality in the reviewed European Neighbourhood Policy; the Dialogue for migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean countries and the conversion of free trade agreements into deep and comprehensive free trade agreements. The question therefore arises as to how effective such instruments are and can be and what the future of the EU's relations with the Southern-Mediterranean region is. To approach these new developments, the conference co-organised by the Universidad Pablo de Olavide and CLEER on 10-11 May 2012 addressed the multi-layered construction of EU and Southern-Mediterranean relations, unpacking the new and renewed normative frameworks and policy instruments available within the European Neighbourhood Policy, bilateral agreements and regional approaches. Tackling specific issues from the EU's Mediterranean strategy, such as the promotion of fundamental rights, rule of law, security and the future of deep and comprehensive trade agreements, policy-makers and academics from the EU and the Southern Mediterranean region evaluated the cooperation, highlighted the major challenges ahead and put forward recommendations for a stable, mutually beneficial approach.
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