|dc.description.abstract||The European Union (EU) has increasingly used its external policy mechanisms to export the principles that it was founded upon: democracy, rule of law, social justice and, in particular, respect for human rights. This approach has long been evident in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which includes the Union for the Mediterranean states to the south. However, a number of these southern states have been thrown into disarray by the popular revolutions which swept through the Arab world in 2011; although these uprisings seem to share many of the principles which the EU has sought to promote, the implications for the EU’s role in the region are still far from clear.
In order to assess the extent to which the EU has demonstrated an ethically normative foreign policy in response to the Arab Uprisings, this research sets out to establish which of the international norms that the EU promotes in the North Africa and Middle East (MENA) region can be considered ethical, and whether or not they can be differentiated from the EU’s “interests”. The discussion of ethics, norms and interests in EU external action is situated within the Normative Power Europe literature, which also provides the theoretical framework for the analysis that takes place in later chapters. It is shown that the EU correlates its promotion of some norms with international human rights discourse, and rhetorically advances itself as an ethically normative actor by highlighting the centrality of such norms to its international identity.
The EU’s policy towards the MENA region is assessed before, during and after the Arab Uprisings, both at a regional and a bilateral level, the latter with regard to the particular cases of Tunisia and Morocco. The research draws on an analysis of official EU documents, secondary academic sources and interviews conducted in Brussels, Tunis and Rabat, in order to evaluate the EU’s evolving priorities in its southern neighbourhood. It is argued that despite a steady rhetorical commitment to ethical norm promotion in the region, the EU has consistently prioritised issues such as security and migration, with the exception of its immediate response to the uprisings in 2011. To explain this temporary and aberrant substantive shift, a hypothesis is presented drawing on Frank Schimmelfennig’s theory of rhetorical action, showing the consequences resulting from the intersection of the EU’s own rhetoric with the international attention garnered by the so-called “Arab Spring”. An analysis of policy responses to the Arab Uprisings not only sheds light on the nature, scope and limitations of ethics and norms in EU foreign policy, but also clarifies the nature of the EU as an international actor.||