Two years after the popular uprisings that will go in the history books as the Arab Spring, nothing in the MENA region looks the way it should. But skepticism is as predictable as misguiding. And a total political reset is as desirable as utopian. Every surge for democracy over the decades has been followed by moments of uncertainty along with questioning the functionality of democratic values and governance. Today none of the countries that embraced the transition to democracy two and a half years ago is comparable to the others, but neither can be described as stable or clearly democratically. While in Syria Assad’s regime triggered a full-scale civil war with terrible humanitarian consequences and no political solution in sight, in Egypt the democratic institutions were seized by the military and the ultimate goal of the transition is under threat. Tunisia faces social and economic challenges, among which notably the unemployed and strikingly disengaged youth; while Yemen is on the verge of a humanitarian collapse with more than half of the population in need of relief aid.
With this year’s edition of the Sofia Platform we want to take a snapshot of the current state of play in the countries of the MENA region in terms of progress of the ongoing transformations. The comparative perspective is again the core of the sessions. The experience of Central and Eastern Europe, including mistakes, wrong choices and steps not taken, has proven throughout the years to be a helpful starting point for a mutually enriching exchange of views, experience and know-how.