On January 25, 2011 began in Tahrir Square in Cairo (Egypt) the popular revolt that would win the Mubarak regime, a few weeks after the fall of the autocrat Ben Ali in Tunisia.
Ten years later, the results of the Arab Spring appear bleak.
Alain Juppé, appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs by Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of February 2011, testifies.
Ten years ago, the Arab Spring caught you off guard?
Yes, no one had seen a movement of this magnitude coming.
We have also been criticized for having neglected the development of these societies, for having supported authoritarian regimes that suited us, as guarantees against terrorist and fundamentalist movements.
Realistic or unfair accusations?
They are partly justified.
In Tunisia, President Ben Ali seemed rather solid and his stable regime, Mubarak in Egypt, was seen as a trusted partner.
How do you explain this blindness, too close to the regimes and far from the peoples?
When I arrived at the Quai d'Orsay, in a speech at a conference at the Institut du monde arabe on “the Arab Spring, challenges and hopes for change”, to which I had invited personalities from these countries, I drew the lesson of the need to open up to civil societies, to cultural and economic worlds, which we had neglected in order to stick to institutional relationships.
The other explanation is that these are deep, underground movements that the regimes in place themselves have not seen or wanted to see coming!
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What were the ferments?
First of all, a deep aspiration for more freedom, more oxygen, more democracy, which is not the privilege of Westerners.
I went to Cairo in March 2011, I spent a few hours in Tahrir Square among the young men of 20 to 30 years old who made up the vast majority of the demonstrators.
In Syria, too, at the beginning it was the young people who asked for a little freedom.
The other factor is the economic situation, unemployment, poverty, especially among the youth who were becoming a dead grenade.
This is still the case today.
Syria: "In Idleb, they bomb schools, refugee camps ..."
France then revised its Arab policy?
I let myself be won over by the enthusiasm.
It was believed that these movements would upset the political balances all around the Mediterranean.
We got on the train, our line was to encourage them, not to cling to the defense of the regimes in place.
The Americans let go of Mubarak in the space of a few hours, we ourselves have reoriented our policy towards the Maghreb countries in favor of these new forces.
From this point of view there has been a change of policy.
The most extreme case is Libya;
it was no longer Colonel Gaddafi in Marigny
(Editor's note: on an official visit to Paris in 2007, the Libyan head of state had set up his tent in this republican palace)
Why did you intervene in Libya?
It was the most repressive, the bloodiest regime, the quintessential dictatorship, supporting terrorism.
Everything played out, the appeals for help from the population of Benghazi, our contacts with the Libyan National Transitional Council, our information according to which Gaddafi's tanks were only a few hours away from a massacre ... That's what I stressed before the Security Council to get the green light from the UN.
We have acted within the framework of its resolution, and with our partners.
I had warned that we didn't want to contribute to diet changes… and that's what we did.
Chaos in Libya: why the situation is explosive
Would you do it all over again?
A posteriori, when I reread my speech in 2011 and look at the situation today, I see that the fiasco is total: none of the objectives that we had set, to promote freedoms, to create a more effective economic and social partnership, n 'was reached.
What is left of it today?
Tunisia is fragile but has nevertheless progressed towards democracy, thanks to a more structured civil society, a better organized trade union world, the decisive role of women, academics ... The Islamist party Ennahda has made a kind of democratic opening. .
However, the current protests in several Tunisian cities show that dissatisfaction remains strong.
Is this the exception?
Everywhere else, the outlook is hardly encouraging: we see Algeria blocked, Libya devastated, Egypt returned to the previous state, Syria destroyed ... In Libya, we left the National Transitional Council to fend for itself, it should have accompanied its leaders on the paths of democracy, which they totally ignored.
I am not sure the people of the region are happier today than in 2011.
There is a second wave, in Lebanon, in Algeria… Could this lead to?
Lebanon has long appeared to me as a textbook case where communities coexisted in relative harmony.
His situation today is overwhelming.
President Macron has been extremely courageous in committing, without much result so far.
We see both that the aspiration for freedom and the fight against corruption remains deep, but that the regimes in place have an extraordinary capacity for resilience.
The Lebanese political class is doing the big back and popular movements are getting bogged down for lack of a leader.
In Algeria, the regime is impervious to popular movements, it is on a volcano ...
Lebanon: Emmanuel Macron tries to get the political class moving
France is criticized for treating the Egyptian Al-Sisi well… Arab policy is not changing?
No more than that of our European neighbors.
All governments are caught in the trap between the defense of major democratic principles on the one hand, the search for political stability and economic interests on the other.
What happened in 2011 is not likely to encourage democratic countries to change line: we have tried to support the liberalization of these regimes, resulting in anarchy, chaos, the return to regimes. authoritarian with whom we are naturally led to resume cooperation.
Isn't the rampart against Islamism sometimes a pretext?
No, the threat is strong, I understand that we are giving ourselves all the means to fight it.
Political life has taught me that alas!
morality does not necessarily have its place in diplomatic action.
Emmanuel Macron wants to better control Islam in France, what do you think?
I rejoiced too soon to see the CFCM finally adopt a charter of secularism
(Editor's note: the “Charter of Principles” of Islam in France)
before finding that three of its components refused to sign it.
All the same, seeing a text adopted in which Muslim leaders affirm the equality of women and men is important.
Do you support the project to create a National Council of Imams?
Of course, Muslims themselves need to take hands on these issues.
The imam of Bordeaux, Tareq Oubrou, says that nothing in the Koran obliges women to veil themselves, nor that women are subject to men.
We must encourage these intellectual, religious and social forces to move in this direction, to free themselves from a reductive vision.
What to do vis-à-vis those who refuse to enter into this pact?
The Republic must be uncompromising with them and close, for example, the mosques in which we preach against the values of the Republic.
I am always amazed that people wonder about what secularism is.
It is clear, it is a double principle: firstly, respect for freedom of religion, a fundamental constitutional right;
but also, the requirement that no religion can make its laws prevail over those of the Republic.
It took a century to convince the Catholic Church and it is a given today.
We have the same work to do with all religions and in the first place Islam, which is the religion of many French women.
The challenges our leaders face are immense.
All the more reason to cling to our values.