The Middle East and North Africa Region has probably recovered more strongly than other regions of the world from the financial crisis, thanks to the dynamics of oil prices. However, the outbreak of the Arab Spring, motivated also by economic grievances, suggests that the impact of the world economic crisis in the region is probably deeper than imagined. Despite growth and increasing investments, unemploy-ment in the region is persistent, due on the one side to the growing population on the other side to rising inequality and ineffective management of the economy (rentier state).
In a changing Middle East, the Gulf monarchies have emerged as increasingly proactive players. Over the last decade, they have diversified their interests and relations, while deepening their cultural and economic penetration, particularly in the other Arab countries. The steady increase of the hydrocarbon prices has been a significant source of wealth for these countries, allowing them to maintain sustained economic growth rates. Paired with high public expenditure, the Gulf countries are able to make important investment in key sectors both domestically and abroad. However, the spark of the Arab Spring has revealed the deep fragility of the Middle East conservative systems. The Gulf monarchies also faced internal protests and crises, as was seen in Bahrain. To counter such threats, the monarchies adopted a very conservative – and even reactionary – approach towards the unrest within the GCC, also allocating substantial financial incentives to buy off any potential discontent. Furthermore, the Gulf Sheikhdoms faced a set of challenges stemming from the regional turmoil. Nonetheless, the recent wave of changes experienced by the region brought a series of opportunities. Thanks to the significant economic resources at their disposal, the Gulf monarchies have increased their geopolitical weight and influence especially toward the Arab countries in transition. At the regional level their relations with Turkey have gained new momentum and have found new areas of convergence, while on the international stage, the Gulf rulers are developing deep ties with East and south Asia expected to grow substantially in the coming decades.
The Arab Spring changed deeply the political structure of several countries of the Arab world such as Tunisia and Egypt. However, its effects go far beyond the domestic politics of these countries, and are affecting the power balances of the region. The Muslim Brotherhood-linked parties have emerged as a new important player, proposing a new bottom-up approach to power based on an Islamist ideology.
The event, promoted by ISPI, Promos-Milan Chamber of commerce and Intesa San Paolo Banking, in cooperation with Euromesco, intented to discuss the political evolution of the Arab world and to analyse the challenges ahead following the radical transformations the Region is going through after the so-called Arab Spring.
Download the programme of the Conference, that had take place in Milan (Palazzo dei Giureconsulti - Piazza Mercanti, 2).
Italian government, as other European countries, was surprised by the first upheavals of Arab Spring. Italy and Libya have enjoyed a privileged relationship for the last forty years. After the decision of military intervention, preoccupied by the risk of geopolitical marginalization, Italy gradually started to adopt a bandwagoning policy. Libya’s present difficult transition maybe provides a new opportunity for Europe to be a key players in the country. Italy would profit from greater involvement in the stabilization of the country.
The AU’s response to popular upris-ings in North Africa during 2011 – and to the NATO-led intervention in Libya in particular – differs from the organisation’s record of rejecting unconstitutional changes of government in the past ten years.