Next week, the Council of Europe and the European Union will launch a joint project to strengthen democratic reform in North Africa and the Middle East.
The three year ‘South Programme’ will be unveiled in Brussels on 7 September. It aims to assist participating countries in their moves towards European and international standards of democracy and human rights.
At a May 2011 meeting in Istanbul, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers approved a new neighbourhood policy, designed to strengthen ties with countries in the regions, in the wake of events of the the Arab Spring in 2011.
In a speech the following September to Slovenia’s Bled Strategic Forum, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland described the policy as based on respect and consistency.
He added: “The underlying principle of the policy is based on the fact that the political changes which are taking place in several countries in the region are home-grown and spontaneous.
“This is a very important element of legitimacy and lasting popular support. Our relations with the countries concerned and our action should be perceived and accepted as genuine co-operation and assistance, not interference.
“The key to the success of our endeavour is respect. Respect for the people in the region, for their courage, for their ability and their right to decide about their own future.”
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