Challenges for and Assessment of British and EU Policies in the Mediterranean Neighbourhood (Relating to 'Arab Spring' and Syria Crisis in particular)
Submitting InstitutionCity University, London
Unit of AssessmentPolitics and International Studies
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Political Science
Summary of the impact
(1) European Commission officials and humanitarian aid agency
representatives based their discussion of European Union (EU) and
humanitarian policy options in Syria and their ultimate recommendations to
United Nations officials in Geneva on the findings of a policy options
paper prepared by Professor Rosemary Hollis of City University London. In
addition, senior UK military planners incorporated Hollis's findings in
contingency planning in April 2012 and April 2013 following her invited
participation in brainstorming sessions.
(2) Hollis's research findings expanded UK-Turkish dialogue and
contributed to the success of a key forum (Tatlidil, Istanbul,
October 2012) aimed at deepening bilateral relations between the two
(3) The 2013 Foreign Policy Report of the Foreign & Commonwealth
Office (FCO) on the `Balance of Competences' between the UK and the EU was
substantiated with evidence from her research.
(4) Her research informed and shaped media coverage and civil society
debate about Arab uprisings during the period 2009-2012.
The Principal Investigator for the underpinning research is Professor
Rosemary Hollis, Professor of Middle East Policy Studies, Department of
International Politics at City University London. Since her appointment at
City in March 2008 Hollis has pursued three interconnected lines of
research on (a) contemporary UK policy in the Middle East; (b) EU policies
in the Mediterranean and the wider Middle East including Iran; and (c)
international engagement in the quest for resolution of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In all cases Hollis's research has combined
analysis of UK, EU and US policies with work on the drivers of political
change and conflict in the Middle East. Hollis's research has also
benefited from informal collaboration with other staff in the Department
(Aran, Collantes-Celadore, Silvestri); other colleagues at City in the
Department of Journalism, The City Law School, Cass Business School, the
Department of Psychology and the University Counselling Service; and
colleagues at the Universities of Durham, Bradford, St Andrews, Cambridge,
Exeter, Queen's University Belfast and King's College London.
Key findings of this research which specifically underpin the
impact achieved include:
1. Contemporary developments in the Middle East can be best understood as
the latest phase in an evolution which dates back to the creation of the
Arab state system and drawing of borders (largely by Britain and France)
in the immediate aftermath of the First World War and collapse of the
Ottoman Empire. That system meant that dictatorial regimes (challenged
recently in the `Arab Spring') emerged at the expense of democracy and
human security in the region.
2. Since the mid-twentieth century Western policy-makers have generally
given precedence to establishing working relationships with dictatorial
Arab regimes rather than challenging them about their human rights record
or failure to promote democracy. After 9/11 in particular, security and
intelligence cooperation with such regimes took precedence over democracy
promotion, even though the US, Britain and the EU launched initiatives and
programmes with the latter goal during the 1990s and 2000s.
3. Policy-makers can be trapped in a `mindset' that may be informed by
accurate information initially but atrophies over time and is rarely
revisited or reconsidered. Thus British (and US) policy-makers dealing
with President Mubarak of Egypt in the years immediately prior to his
ousting in 2011 became convinced that he was a fixture and `useful' and
were blinded to his vulnerability.
4. Britain's New Labour governments allowed policy presentation to take
precedence over content. By associating Britain with the promotion of
`values' such as democracy and human rights, the Government sought to
maximise British influence overseas under the rubric of `making Britain a
force for good in the world'. Yet miscalculation and inadequate capacity
to deliver on UK objectives in specific contexts, notably in Iraq, damaged
Britain's reputation, led to accusations of hubris and failed to disguise
the Government's associations with some Arab dictators.
5. The focus of UK foreign policy shifted from a regions-based approach
to one which sought to maximise British influence in key power centres
(including Washington, the EU, the International Monetary Fund, the G8 and
NATO). After 9/11 the emphasis changed from making Britain a `force for
good in the world' to combatting `evil', by which was meant, essentially,
Islamist-inspired terrorism. In response to the Arab uprisings, there was
a further recalibration of policy, this time to `partner' with Arab civil
society groups seeking democracy. It proved to be too little, too late to
reverse Britain's declining unilateral influence and impact.
6. EU policy initiatives in the Mediterranean are framed to `export
European values' to neighbouring countries, thereby prompting resistance
on the receiving end. Meanwhile, EU measures to combat terrorism and
control migration rely on the cooperation of the very dictatorships they
purport to want to change.
7. On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the EU approach has ameliorated
the impact of continued occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza
but in so doing it has perpetuated, rather than ended, both. Declaratory
statements about what the parties to the conflict should do have
taken the place of strategies to effect change.
The research that produced the above findings involved individual
investigation of documentary and media sources covering a 20 year period;
interviews with decision-makers and practitioners; and participation in
numerous workshops with fellow academics, politicians, business and the
military in Brussels, Paris, Berlin, London, Washington, Istanbul, various
Arab states, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
References to the research
Hollis R. (2013). Mubarak: the Embodiment of `Moderate Arab Leadership.
In L. Freedman & J. Michaels (Eds.), Scripting Middle East
Leaders: The Impact of Leadership Perceptions on US and UK Foreign
Policy (pp.171-193). London: Bloomsbury Academic Press. This was the
output of research (June 2011 to January 2012), undertaken by invitation
from other academics at King's College London and in US, as part of a
study sponsored by the Research Councils UK Global Uncertainties
Hollis R. (2013). Europe in the Middle East. In L. Fawcett (Ed.), International
Relations of the Middle East (3rd ed., pp.344-362). Oxford: Oxford
Hollis R. (2010). Britain and the Middle East in the 9/11 Era.
London: Wiley-Blackwell and Chatham House.
The work cited underwent rigorous academic review processes prior to
publication. The publishers are all highly regarded in the academic
Details of the impact
(1) EC officials and humanitarian aid agency representatives based
their discussion of EU and humanitarian policy options in Syria and
their ultimate recommendations to UN officials in Geneva on the findings
of a policy options paper prepared by Hollis. In addition, senior UK
military planners incorporated Hollis's findings in contingency planning
(April 2012; April 2013) following her invited participation in
brainstorming sessions. The fact that the EU Institute for Security
Studies (EUISS) and the UK military asked Hollis to contribute to their
deliberations derived in part from their acquaitance with her work through
her prior participation in the deliberations of these bodies and
decision-makers. Specifically, between 2008 and 2012 she contributed to
several policy workshops and publications of the EUISS in Paris; presented
research findings to military service personnel on a series of Ministry of
Defence short courses on the Middle East run by The Department for Peace
Studies at Bradford University; and served on a six-person international
support team helping a group of European elder statesmen/women, led by
Lord Patten and former French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, to develop
policy initiatives for the EU regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It was on the basis of this track record and access that Hollis was
invited by the Director of the EUISS in late 2011 to formulate a policy
options paper for humanitarian intervention in Syria, commissioned for the
EC. Her paper outlined three scenarios for the Syria crisis and their
implications. The EUISS then used those scenarios to frame a discussion
with EC officials and humanitarian agency staff in Paris on 20th
February 2012. The findings of that discussion were then used as the basis
for a follow-up discussion with UN officials in Geneva, which in turn fed
into the UN initiative headed by Kofi Annan to seek a diplomatic solution
to the Syria crisis. The impact of Hollis's work was in informing the
discussion about scenarios and thence contingencies and possibilities. In
a similar vein, when the UK military was engaged in developing contingency
plans for military and/or humanitarian intervention in Syria (2012-2013)
Hollis was one of five UK academics with Middle East expertise to
participate in two brainstorming sessions of senior British military
personnel in April 2012 and April 2013 specifically to provide input on
the likely regional repercussions of such intervention.
(2) Research findings expanded UK-Turkish dialogue and contributed to
the success of a key forum (Tatlidil, Istanbul,
October 2012) aimed at deepening bilateral relations between the two
countries. For the purpose of developing a closer bilateral
UK-Turkey relationship, senior parliamentarians, led by Jack Straw on the
UK side, set up a Forum called the Tatlidil, which first met at
Ditchley Park in October 2011. Hollis was one of the invited participants
and during that meeting she learned that the Turkish delegation would have
liked more input about UK policy in the Middle East to parallel their
input on Turkish policy. Consequently, at the second meeting of the Tatlidil
(12-14 October 2012 in Istanbul) Hollis presented a summation of her
research findings on the British response to the Arab uprisings which
served as a counterpart to a parallel Turkish policy presentation. This
prompted a lively debate about UK actions, choices and lessons learned
which was pronounced by participants the most vigorous and engaging
discussion of the whole Forum. Hollis was commended (among others) for her
input by former UK Ambassador to Turkey Sir David Logan and Labour Shadow
Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander. She helped to expand and progress the
bilateral dialogue and with it bilateral relations. The Turkish Ambassador
to the UK attested to this when he specifically asked Hollis to be sure to
save the dates of the 3rd Tatlidil (November 2013) so
that she could again be present.
(3) The 2013 Foreign Policy Report of the Foreign & Commonwealth
Office (FCO) on the `Balance of Competences' between UK and EU was
substantiated with evidence from Hollis' research. In 2012 the UK
Government began preparation of its `Balance of Competences' review to
inform debate and thence decision-making on UK membership of the EU.
Hollis was one of the individuals invited by the FCO (7th
December 2012) to submit evidence to inform the part of the review devoted
to foreign policy and to participate in a preparatory consultation at the
FCO on 16th January 2013. Hollis made several inteventions at
the consultation meeting to clarify the questions that the FCO wished her
to address in the evidence submitted. The evidence she subsequently
submitted drew directly on research undertaken on the substance and impact
of UK and EU policies in the Mediterranean neighbourhood. This evidence
was quoted four times in the Review of the Balance of Competences
between the United Kingdom and the European Union Foreign Policy
(July 2013, pages 45, 46 and 47) in its Case Study on the `Arab Spring'.
It served to substantiate the argument advanced there that the EU has
added value to the pursuit of UK policy and interests. Of the 64
`Academics, Thinktankers and Other Individuals' who submitted evidence for
this report, 13 were academics, representing ten UK universities (with two
each from the Universities of Oxford, Birmingham and City University
London). Hollis and Professor Alan Riley (The City Law School) were City's
Regarding UK policy in response to the Arab Spring (2010-2012), the FCO
and Department for International Development (DFID) have set up an
Advisory Group to provide feedback on their Arab Partnership Initiative.
In June 2012 Hollis was invited to serve on the Arab Partnership Advisory
Group. Her contributions to the biannual meetings of this group (at the
FCO) have drawn directly on her research on UK and wider EU initatives to
promote reform in the `Arab Spring' countries. This work has informed the
government assessments of the value and limitations of what their
partnership can achieve.
(4) Research informed and shaped media coverage and civil society debate
about Arab uprisings during the period 2009-2012. Hollis is frequently
invited to give expert analysis on broadcast media on the basis of her
research and expert reputation. Between 2011 and 2013 she presented her
analysis and offered commentary on BBC Radio 4 (The Today Programme,
Start the Week, Any Questions), the BBC News Channel, Sky News, the
BBC World Service, Al Jazeera, Voice of Russia Radio and TV, Radio France
International, LBC, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Wales; RTE (Ireland),
British Forces Broadcasting (BFBS), CNN, CNBC, CBC (Canada), Austrian
Radio, ABC (Australia), and National Public Radio (USA). She received 855
mentions in the media between December 2010 and December 2012. Foreign
Office Minister Alastair Burt was prompted to invite Hollis to join a
group of specialists for a brainstorming about the implications for
Britain of the Arab uprisings on 8th February 2011 as a result
of having heard her comment on The Today Programme. Hollis's
contributions to media output have contributed to a wider public
understanding of and engagement with her areas of research expertise,
including the Middle East and the Syrian conflict.
Hollis has also been requested to provide commentary for The
Huffington Post, The International Herald Tribune, The
Guardian, The Sunday Times, LA Times and Reuters.
Hollis also gave a number of public lectures and talks to general
audiences outside academia, including school groups, civil society
activist groups and participants in current affairs meetings for
Sources to corroborate the impact
The items listed below are numbered to match and provide corroboration
for the four demonstrations of impact detailed above.
(1) Copy of Hollis's written contribution to an EUISS report for the EU
on the implications of the Syria crisis `Syria and Its Neighbours'
(February 2012); a copy of the follow-up invitation to a brainstorming at
EUISS about scenarios for Syria and Humanitarian responses; list of
attendees at brainstorming; draft agenda for follow-up in Geneva with UN.
Confirmation that Hollis's scenarios were used to frame discussions can be
provided by the then Director of EUISS.
(2) Letters of invitation to the Tatlidil; invitation to speak at
the second Tatlidil; letter of commendation for Hollis input from senior
British MP. Confirmation of value of Hollis's input can be obtained from
former UK Ambassador to Turkey and orchestrator of Tatlidil
(3) Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom
and the European Union Foreign Policy (July 2013) pages 45, 46 and
47 where Hollis's evidence is quoted. Minutes of Arab Partnership Advisory
(4) E-mailed responses to Hollis's media appearances sent by
viewers/listeners previously unknown to her.
Sample clips of media appearances (e.g., BBC Radio 4 `Start the Week' 3rd
October 2011; BBC Radio 4 `Any Questions' 21st October 2011;
BBC Today Programme 29th August 2013 with audience figures).