Coming Up Short on Specific Pledges, G8 Superpowers Say Up to $20 Billion Available for New “Arab Spring” Democracies

May 27, 2011 7:59am

DEAUVILLE, FRANCE — The G8 nations today announced what it called "the Deauville Partnership" with the people of North Africa and the Middle East, "support(ing) the aspiraitons of the 'Arab Spring'" and pledging up to $20 billion in potential aid over the next three years to "free, democratic and tolerant societies."

Bereft of much detail, the "Deauville Partnership" seemed very much a work in progress — as is the Arab Spring itself.

“It’s not a blank check, it’s in the context of overall reform programs," said Mike Froman, President Obama's deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs. "It’s an envelope that could be achieved in the context of suitable reform efforts.”

With officials from Egypt and Tunisia and the Secretary of the Arab League on hand, the G8 leaders issued a communique stating that the world leaders "welcome the work done by Egypt and Tunisia in presenting to the international community of donors their program of actions towards economic and financial stability and preparing for more inclusive growth, and stand ready to support them. We welcome the Egyptian authorities’ decision to request IMF and multilateral development banks’ assistance and Tunisia’s request for a joint and coordinated development policy loan."

"In this context, multilateral development banks could provide over $20bn, including €3.5bn from the EIB," — European Investment Bank — "for Egypt and Tunisia for 2011-2013 in support of suitable reform efforts," the communique stated.

There were not many specifics beyond those numbers and the previously announced $2 billion in US aid for Egypt. On Thursday, French officials said they would offer Egypt up to $250 million a year in aid, and officials from the UK said they could expand their aid to 110 million pounds.

Some officials from the US had hoped for more specific pledges from other countries, but that did not happen.

Other American officials today said the G8 meeting was not intended as a donors conference, and that they were pleased with what had been achieved.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that the Egyptian and Tunisian leaders with whom he met "said their main problem was the economy. They need some support. I think they are ready. Let's do everything to support the Arab Spring. I think they can succeed."

"G8 members are already in a position to mobilise substantial bilateral support to scale-up this effort," the G8 communique stated. "We welcome support from other bilateral partners, including from the region."

The G8 leaders called for "action plans" from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank / FEMIP, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Islamic Development Bank.

"There was a lot of discussion about how does this compare to the fall of the Berlin wall," Froman said, "what the G7 at that time did to help drive institutional reform at the international level as well as democratic and economic reform in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the willingness of the G8 to step up and try and do the same thing with the Middle East and North Africa."

"There are vast differences between Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East and North Africa so it's not an analogy that one should overstress," he added. "But in terms of moments in time when important democratic and economic transitions begin this is a comparable moment"

-Jake Tapper

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