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Strategic Partnership in Transition

Final Report Summary - SPRINT (Strategic Partnership in Transition)

Strategic Partnership in Transition “SPRinT” was started by two European think-tanks: the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) in Warsaw and the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) in Helsinki in close cooperation with the AlAhram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS) in Cairo. It was a project that initially, in 2012, envisaged sharing European experience in transition, democratization and good practices with Egypt but overtime underwent a metamorphosis similar to which Egypt itself has experienced over the period between 2012 and 2015. Security situation in the country significantly worsened, political upheavals have stirred a global debate over their nature, and the presence of foreign researchers and funding in the country has been politicized in the media. As a result of the internal situation in Egypt EU-Egyptian relations have been slowing reaching ever new lows, with the European Parliament finally ordering a review of EU-Egypt relations in March 2016. All of these factors have made the effectuation of the project in its primary form impossible. However, despite the changes in the project, “SPRinT” has managed to meet the objective of sharing Polish and Finnish experience in systemic transition and democratization with Egypt and enriching the European understanding of the ongoing processes allowing for a close monitoring of the changes in Egypt.
Thanks to “SPRinT,” a small group of seven analysts – three from Poland, two from Finland and two from Egypt – managed to conduct research in Egypt between February 2014 and February 2016, spending a total of little more than 250 exchange days. This small group covered a broad range of socio-political issues that usually come to the fore in political transition: i.e. institutional change, security, education, religion. As a result of “SPRinT” 15 scholarly articles, press pieces and policy analyses have been published, 7 project seminars have been organized, while the results of the research were presented at 6 international conferences. Throughout its duration “SPRinT” arrived in one way or another to Egypt, Finland, Germany, Lebanon, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the UK. Its results were disseminated in American, British, Egyptian, German and Polish press. All this happened against a worsening environment for researchers in Egypt, which culminated in the horrific death of Giulio Regeni at the beginning of 2016, an Italian analyst doing similar work to the SPRinT researchers at the very same time.
All “SPRinT” publications – even if they cover very different aspects of Egypt’s post-2011 life – remarkably share a common thread, which should also be considered the main finding of the whole project: the political system has not democratized. It is vividly shown in publications on the changes in the following realms: politics (the role of external actors in Egyptian transition, Egypt’s relations with neighbours, the significance of radical and religious parties), society (the role of religion in public sphere, the history of religious radicalization and the teaching of modern history in Egyptian textbooks) and security (“counterterrorism” measures and the crackdown on opposition). Hence, the dominant theme of the final report that is going to be published by the Polish Institute of International Affairs by mid-2016 is “Egypt’s Transition to the Past.” This is not to say, however, that nothing has changed. On the contrary, the civil society and conscious citizenship that was born or matured after 2011 is a new phenomenon that attests to the upcoming change in Egypt. The participants of “SPRinT” hope that their publications and experience prove valuable to EU and EU member states’ policy makers, European researchers, foreign policy analysts, students and NGOs in their pursuit of independent information about the post-2011 Egypt.
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