Dutch Foreign Policy Towards Egypt: the Democracy-Security Dilemma

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The regime of the Arab Republic of Egypt can be described as a repressive authoritarian regime that is violating human rights. The Netherlands is interested in promoting better human rights and democratic reform in Egypt, not only because it values human rights and democratic principles, but also because it is essential for a sustainably stable Egypt. However, whereas the Netherlands ideally wants to see a democratic, responsive and inclusive Egyptian government with respect for human rights, this is hardly reflected in their current actions towards the country. In the literature, an often named explanation for this ambiguity is the democracy-security dilemma, meaning that Western states fear short-term instability when an authoritarian country in the Middle East and North Africa region democratizes. This is named ‘destabilization by democratization’. However, this thesis has shown that the focus of these theories is not enough to explain why the Netherlands is not really pushing Egypt to reform. The Netherlands is not afraid of ‘destabilization by democratization’. Instead, the presence of two other interests prevent the Netherlands from taking action towards Egypt’s authoritarian regime. Namely, the Netherlands has certain economic and migration interests. Pushing Egypt too hard on better human rights and democratic reform might weaken the (currently strong) bilateral relationship between the Netherlands and Egypt. In turn, this can damage these economic and migration interests. De facto, this means that the Netherlands takes limited action against Egypt which enables President Sisi to strengthen his authoritarian regime and to crush human rights.
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