The democratic uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have created a major political challenge for the European Union (EU) and its recently created External Action Service. For reasons of geographic proximity, ties of immigration and energy routes, the political destiny of this region is inextricably linked with that of Europe. While the unity of the EU has been tested in the case of the military operations in Libya, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton has started putting together a coordinated answer to the Arab Spring commensurate with the political, economic and social challenges it presents.
On July 12, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings and the Heinrich Boell Foundation hosted High Representative Ashton for an address on the role of the European Union in supporting the Arab Spring. Ashton was appointed to her current position in December 2009, following the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. Among other senior positions, she previously served as European commissioner for trade from 2008 to 2009, and, in Great Britain, served as leader of the House of the Lords and lord president of the Council from 2007 to 2008.
Vice President Martin Indyk, director of Foreign Policy at Brookings, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion. After the program, High Representative Ashton took audience questions.