Business Briefs

The EU and the Arab Spring

Some 18 months following the start of the Arab Spring, there is still widespread turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The revolutions and conflicts have taken the lives of over 35,000 people, cost well in excess of $50 billion, and displaced countless thousands of individuals who form part of the 16% rise in those trying to claim asylum in the EU in 2011. The continued instability in the region is a barrier to economic growth, which in turn is a barrier to stability in politics and society. The collapse of well-armed security apparatuses across MENA has resulted in a glut of small arms flowing onto the black market, making the situation in each of these countries even more dangerous. For the EU, a political, social and economic implosion of this sort has a deep impact on the underlying trends concerning migration, counterterrorism policy, economic growth, and societal stability. The Arab Spring and its consequences are therefore vital interests of the EU.

This briefing explores why the Arab Spring is so important to the EU and how it has responded to it. The briefing also examines why the Arab Spring came as surprise to European politicians and their officials.  The main argument in this paper is that the EU has responded reasonably well to the crisis (although it had failed to predict it entirely), and while the on-going tensions in the region present some very serious threats for the EU, there is a great opportunity for the EU to shape a positive future for the MENA and for itself in international affairs.




  • Why the Arab Spring matters to the EU
  • Why the Arab Spring came as a surprise
  • What the EU did and what it can do
  • Conclusion


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