The EU and South Yemen: Between Thorny History and Available Opportunities


Sun, 28-11-2021 02:30 AM, Aden Time

Aden (South24) 

A political paper reviewed a number of perceptions and interpretations that dominated the corridors of international organizations when talking and dealing with the past, present and future of South Yemen and tried to identify the most prominent ideas and problematic issues that had a profound impact on the course of events during the past years.

The paper, which was issued by "South24 Center for News and Studies" and written by political researcher Ameen Shandhor (Al-Yafaee), has focused on the nature of the European Union's relationship with the "Southern issue", and how it was formed through the circumstances of each stage, calling on it - the EU - to "develop a more suitable strategy, especially in the presence of the new UN Envoy. This won’t be achieved without making deep and constant strategic discussions and dialogues that skip the traditional previous channels."

As a historical background, the paper reviewed the European relations with the former Southern state, and later with the Southern issue, noting the most prominent problematic stations that this relationship passed through. "Ranging from the tense and cautious relations that clouded the atmosphere during the Cold War period, through those relations that prevailed after the achievement of Yemeni unity, and the circumstances it witnessed during the transitional period, to the 1994 War, and the various positions on it."

After the 1994 War, the paper highlighted the developments that occurred in the Yemeni file, and the perceptions and interpretations that prevailed about what was going on in the country, perhaps the most prominent of which was the post-September 11, 2001 era, which prompted the " European group to increase the degree of interest as it presented a comprehensive strategy that reflected its vision and the possible partnership opportunities,” and later suggested expanding it to implement the “strategic partnership” between Yemen and the European Union.

Given the promises of political reforms that the Yemeni regime was making, the paper said that “these initial perceptions led it to consider Yemen an acceptable pattern with which it can engage in a strategic partnership, regardless the contradictions between those perceptions and the nature of facts, the reality of the political regime and its emerging democracy, the nature of the ruling Kleptocracy elite which marginalized the real organizations that have the ability to make reforms".

It pointed out that the ruling regime developed a strategy based on emptying the "emerging democracy" from within it, "so that that maintain an amount of despotism allowing it to keep authority and serve the power inheritance project while preserving the foreign aids conditional with enhancing democratic practices."

Although the European Union, after the 2015 war, was the most adherent to its vision of the political path as the only solution to the Yemeni crisis, but, as the paper says, "the EU failed to transform its vision about the solution into an executable project to block the way for regional actors and their allies on the ground from turning the war into a possible long-term investment".

Southern issue

The paper, which attempted to examine aspects of the prevailing perceptions of the European decision-maker regarding the "Southern issue," claimed that these perceptions led to a relationship that "has been mingled with a lot of ambiguities, and has passed through thorny stations and bumpy roads, being affected by the compass of different international conflicts."

According to the paper, "the European Commission didn’t support South Yemen apart from an only project in 1982. Previously, the relationship with the Marxist states has witnessed a lot of reservations."

After the 1994 war, “The positions of these European policies towards this war had a lot of similarity with the American attitude including backing the efforts to stop war through the initiative adopted by the Gulf States. However, those positions were fully against separation, so they refused to provide any support to South Yemen during that period, and turned a blind eye towards cease-fire violations by the Northern forces."

The paper adds: "After the end of the 1994 War, there was a dubious silence towards what happened in Yemen and towards all humanitarian violations and the destruction of the life bases for the majority of the Southern people. Moreover, no one talked about the international decisions issued during the war."

The paper said that the general view that prevailed after the war somehow placed the blame on the Southern part for its inability to bear the "consequences of democratic practice!" It also pointed out that "what is usually ignored and not mentioned" is that the political elite in South put forward a promising program for political and economic reform after the 86 disaster and in anticipation of major transformations at the international level, most notably the reform of the political system.

As a result, the paper lists how, after the war, Southerners will “suffer from harsh economic, political and psychological situations after dismissing them from their jobs, losing all chances for a better career future, losing everything, even their good picture into the minds of their sons due to their inability to provide their simplest needs. This is related to many consequences on more than one generation and at all levels. Regarding the general situation in Yemen, the country transformed in a few years to one of the most dangerous epicenters that threatens the World security order."

Top recommendations

The paper came out with several recommendations and points, which it said could be re-discussed with regard to the relationship with the European Union:

• The political projects are not sacred but they alway have to be subjected to discussions, negotiation, and reconsideration. Accordingly, to force a certain reality to walk in a futile road in which results are known in advance means contributing in dragging it towards more problems and devastation, and hinders any better opportunity. Thus, the efforts seeking to find out sustainable solutions should not fall into duplicity due to the political stereotyping and preconceptions, such as those patterns based upon attitudes towards the Unity and separation in the Yemen case for instance.

• Writings, political papers, and recommendations usually have focused on divisions that hit the Southern movement, and the lack of a unified and coherent entity which can represent it in any negotiation, as well as the social divisions based upon tribal and regional backgrounds. In light of this, they justify alienating them and not listening to their voices or making any efforts that could help them to solve the various problems and challenges which confront the Southerners and are not able to make it alone. Because Yemen has been always looked upon as a security problem, it has not been surprising that the perceptions about proposed solutions focus on the need for the existence of strong, coherent, dominating parties. From a perspective of solving and settling disputes, there is the so-called “ripe moment”, when all parties fall into “mutually hurting stalemate” and it becomes impossible to resolve the matter alone.Those divisions sometimes could be a perfect opportunity to help these parties which who are ready to give concessions for the sake of building a rational political domain based on the minimum degree of democracy, pluralism, accepting the other’s opinion, respecting human rights and a commitment to peaceful civil competition, instead of making big  concessions under the pressure of external forces in a way that could lead to negative results related to the development in these countries in democracy and human rights.

• The current moment could be suitable to establish principles and values that govern and adjust public sphere competition among different Southern factions, and help them to move from the regional and tribal dispute to the political competition, as well as establishing a framework that can defend them in the face of the threats that harm their existence and continuity. This path could constitute a horizon or an alternative option for achieving peace and stability at the level of Yemen as a whole

• The EU categorically believes that the only solution for the Yemen crisis is the political one, as the military solutions won’t reach any goal but will deepen the crisis and increase humanitarian suffering. Based on that, the EU made unremitting efforts to prevent exporting weapons to the disputing parties, in addition to its diplomatic efforts at the international level. The general principle upon which this perception is based is very moral, for not dragging the country towards more violence. However, in return, there should be a pre-tacit agreement among the interested parties, based on joint values and principles, in a way that makes it applicable on the real ground.

• Regarding the threats that Yemen poses to the world, “there is a heavy need to adopt an all-out strategy based on more than one dimension to help the local efforts. The forces which were established after 2015 made a lot of progress in the n the file of combating terrorist organizations, however, these security forces lack institutional standards, qualifications and training on the one hand, and on the other hand, they practice some human rights violations, which may lead to negative results in the future. The EU can contribute to the qualification, training and upgrading of these forces not only in the field aspects, but also with regard to the humanitarian aspects. This requires new strategies and partnerships".

• The European Union and its states worked to support and qualify many civil society organizations, cadres and local experts, which rendered them to international competencies, and their presence, voice and representation became strong and effective at the global level. On the other hand, and for different reasons the Southerners have been deprived from enjoying any appropriate opportunities to develop and qualify themselves. The weakness and fragility of representation is clearly revealed during the international events… However, due to the current local divisions, the support and rehabilitation could lead to one way towards establishing a permanent state of injustice, depriving many groups from representing themselves well in the occasions that require high competence

• The local parties have to work hard to prevent human rights violations and all illegal practices, as well as allowing the freedom of expression and practicing the civil political rights, encouraging diversity, enhancing the participation of women in the public sphere… etc, if those parties want to build partnerships with international bodies that can help them to restore and develop their institutions, organize the general field and creating a reality which is viable for sustainable stability solutions. 

Non-resident fellow at South24 Center, writer and researcher 
Full PDF of the study (here)

South YemenEUYemenYemen WarSTCHouthisAden1994 War