EU ambassadors unhappy over policy on Jordan

European diplomats in Jordan think the EU is being too uncritical of King Abdullah, according to a new policy memo from the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

"There is growing consensus among European diplomats in Amman that the reform process lacks meaningful substance," it says. "Indeed, European heads of missions have, on occasion, wanted to engage in a more critical dialogue, and there has been some discontent about the entirely supportive position taken by Brussels."

It explains that the ambassadors in Amman "had been considering pushing for the introduction of a greater degree of conditionality" on aid to Jordan until José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, turned up in Jordan last month and announced a further €40 million in financial assistance. (For good measure, Barroso also heaped praise on the king's half-hearted reform efforts.)

The ECFR paper adds: 

"The EU mission in Amman has also failed to deliver strong messages agreed upon by European heads of mission, in part because it has been hamstrung by the line set in Brussels."

The paper's author, Julien Barnes-Dacey, who is a senior policy fellow at the ECFR, continues:

"Europe – so keen to make Jordan a success story for reform in the MENA region – risks repeating the mistakes that marked its relationship with North African states prior to the 2011 uprisings. Its unquestioning support for Abdullah and unwillingness to engage in a critical dialogue is positioning it on the wrong side of history ...

"Europe should recalibrate elements of its relationship with the kingdom. Public support for Amman remains understandable, given regional uncertainties and the kingdom’s role as a strategic ally; however, a more critical dialogue, even if only in private, is growing ever more essential. At present, European praise is reported to be as vocal in private as it is in public. 

"While the kingdom does face threats associated with regional volatility and terrorism – which the king will adeptly use to leverage international support – deferring action on domestic challenges invites growing political risk."

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 28 November 2012