The Arab Spring came as a shock to most onlookers. It forced states and supranational institutions to rapidly reconsider their relationships to authoritarian regimes and existing regional cooperation frameworks. The events also threatened to collapse many assumptions about the effectiveness of democracy promotion activities that had effectively stabilized authoritarian regimes. The immediate response from the EU was to adopt a renewed emphasis on supporting regional civil society in the face of a momentous expression of political will. One of the first actions (in September 2011) was to declare a commitment to the Anna Lindh Foundation. This despite the fact that the ALF had encountered heavy skepticism for its lack of independence, limited funding and governmental patronage. In this environment, what role can culture and civil society actually play in the development of EuroMediterranean relations? This research takes a broadly transnational approach to discover the strategic basis behind promoting regional cultural networks, the political limitations on networking, and the subjective experience of participants. It employs qualitative techniques of document analysis, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation as well as tools from social network analysis. The research finds that the condition of cultural relations in the region continues to be a product of the EU’s internal politics and increasingly the influence and advocacy of cultural foundations and their networks. Within a new strategic approach to culture the ALF is a key partner providing a regional frame in complement to bilateral policies. However, the ALF’s effectiveness is still tied to regional uncertainty. Its biases and limitations are borne out in a study of the interactions between its constituent networks which reveals a predominance of European networks and a considerably lower level of interaction between non-European networks. It also suffers from poor visibility and even suspicion. The final section considers the Civil Forum as an encounter between participants. It demonstrates the need for the ALF and EU to adapt their language and approach to account for new perspectives and better provide practical solutions to regional civil societies.
|Award date||2 Sept 2016|
|Publication status||Unpublished - 2016|