holding hands high

A model for North African economic and political modernization

Helping Hands Across the Mediterranean

October 2011, Number 02.04

“Midday on December 17, 2010, a young Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi doused himself with gasoline and set himself alight while standing in the middle of traffic across from the local governor’s office. It was an individual show of frustration and a protest against the constant humiliations and harassments suffered at the hands of the local authorities. His act of absolute despair resonated throughout the Arab world, ultimately igniting what came to be known as the Arab Spring.

One man’s gesture put into motion the most extensive geopolitical shift in Europe’s “southern neighborhood” in more than four decades. Within half a year from Bouazizi’s self-immolation, the longtime presidents of Tunisia and Egypt were deposed, NATO was drawn into a civil war in Libya, Syria’s 40-year-old state of emergency law was repealed and the kings of Jordan and Morocco agreed to advance radical constitutional reforms relinquishing some of their powers. Echoes spread all the way to Yemen and Bahrain, across an arc of crisis encompassing most of the 350 million people of the Arab speaking world...”

Excerpt from Adrian Matei, “Helping Hands Across the Mediterranean,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues  2, No. 4, 2011: 18-23.

Adrian Matei is a Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellow at the U.S. Department of State, currently serving as a regional affairs officer in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Office of Regional and Security Policy Affairs. He has previously served in the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy Unit and the Political Affairs Unit of the Romanian MFA. Mr. Matei holds a master’s in international relations (SNSPA Bucharest, 2006) and in European Economic and Public Affairs (UCD Dublin, 2008). He is a 2006 graduate of the Marshall Center's Program in Advanced Security Studies.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.