The European Union’s Public Diplomacy towards the Arab Spring: The Case of Egypt

In: The Hague Journal of Diplomacy
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  • 1 Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt

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This article discusses the public diplomacy of the European Union (eu) towards the Arab Spring by focusing on the case of Egypt. It argues that despite its clear efforts, the eu’s response to the Arab Spring was a missed opportunity to establish Europe’s normative power. The eu has simply maintained its pre-Arab Spring policies. By analysing and comparing the content of the Facebook pages of both the eu delegation to Egypt and the European External Action Service (eeas) during the period from 14 October 2012 until 16 August 2013, the article demonstrates the differences between the messages and image presentations that were promoted in each page. Comparing these public diplomacy messages with specific eu policies reveals the gap between the words and deeds. The article explains this gap with reference to the discrepancy between Europe’s perception of the region, which results in certain policies, and its internal identity-building considerations.

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    On 30 June 2013, millions of Egyptians poured into the streets asking for the stepping down of the first democratically elected President of Egypt — the Islamist Mohamed Morsi. Simultaneously, Morsi’s supporters encamped in two squares in Cairo to object to the calls for his removal. The police and army carefully protected, and even encouraged, anti-Morsi demonstrators. Egypt’s Minister of Defence at that time — Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — issued an ultimatum to the political forces to settle their disagreements. On 3 July 2013, the Minister of Defence announced the ousting of President Morsi and the appointment of the Head of the Constitutional Court as an interim President. Morsi was kept in an unknown location and most of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood were held in custody. Within a month, the encampments of the pro-Morsi supporters had been brutally dispersed. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi became President of Egypt one year later via very controversial elections. The degree of repression and persecution to opponents of the regime is far worse than during Mubarak’s era. For more details, see Emad Shahin, ‘A Bitter Year: Egypt After the Coup’, Middle East Eye (3 July 2014), available online at (retrieved 25 November 2014).

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    Christopher Ross, ‘Pillars of Public Diplomacy: Grappling With International Public Opinion’, Harvard International Review, vol. 25, no. 2 (2003).

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  • 14

    Ian Manners, ‘Normative Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms?’, Journal of Common Market Studies, vol. 40, no. 2 (2002), p. 242.

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    Commission of the European Communities, Report from the Commission on European Governance, pp. 19-20.

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    Khader, ‘The European Union and the Arab World’, pp. 26-29.

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    Duke, ‘The European External Action Service and Public Diplomacy’, p. 3.

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    Ian Manners, ‘The Normative Ethics of the European Union’, International Affairs, vol. 84, no. 1 (2008), p. 67.

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    Manners, ‘The Normative Ethics of the European Union’, p. 76.

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    Catherine McGoveran, ‘Evaluating the Uses and Realizing the Benefits of Social Media Use in Politics’, Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management, vol. 8 (2012), available at (retrieved 13 February 2013).

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  • 51

    Robert Putnam, ‘Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-level Games’, International Organization, vol. 42, no. 3 (1999), p. 429.

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  • 57

    Quoted in Leigh Phillips, ‘Europe “Should Have Backed Democrats Not Dictators”, Commissioner Says’, EUobserver (1 March 2011), available online at (retrieved 10 March 2014).

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  • 62

    Uri Dadush and Michele Dunne, ‘American and European Responses to the Arab Spring: What is the Big Idea?’, The Washington Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 4 (2011), p. 132.

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  • 71

    A youth movement appeared by May 2013, which started collecting signatures calling for early presidential elections. The movement played a key role in mobilizing the protest of 30 June 2013. The main youth figures of the movement are now among the biggest supporters of the Egyptian Army and Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

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