Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Trade and investment strategy following the Arab Spring revolutions

Delivered in Plenary - 9th May 2012

Mr President

The Arab Spring was undoubtedly the most important political transformation in the Middle East and North African countries in decades. Despotic and corrupt – but secular – governments were cast aside, and promises of freedom abounded. However, the transitional governments that have emerged so far have mostly failed to live up to their laudable commitments to plurality, with Tunisia perhaps being the sole exception.

The EU is a powerful trading bloc with a significant and proven ability to influence the conduct of governments through soft power. The EU should therefore use its exclusive competence in trade matters, and the fact that it is a significant aid donor with the ability to influence multilateral banking institutions such as the EIB and EBRD, to ensure that democracy and human rights are fully respected in our southern neighbourhood.

There is now considerable concern, with the election of some fundamentalist parties such as the Salafist al-Nour party in Egypt, which are insistent on introducing hard-line Sharia law into the Constitution. This jeopardises women’s rights, homosexual rights, minority rights and, in particular, the rights of Coptic Christians, who will not only be discriminated against, but actively persecuted if this goes through. In such a case, if Egypt also wishes to unpick the Camp David Agreement, the peace treaty with Israel would also be in danger.

The EU must reserve the right to suspend all aid and trade concessions in protest and as a possible sanction. ‘More for more’ alone is not enough.