Arab Spring, CIS, Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, Europe, Middle East, Middle East and North Africa, Post-communist transition and development issues, External Publications, transition, transition economies

Transition experiences of Europe and CIS: an overview and opportunities for cross-regional sharing with the Arab States

More than three years have passed since the start of the political uprising against the authoritarian regimes in the Arab world called the Arab Spring. The protest movement started in Tunisia in December 2010 and then spread to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria. Indirectly, it affected other countries in the region, most of which had to accelerate domestic political reforms to avoid political destabilization. The entire region has been also affected by the negative consequences of civil wars in Syria and Libya.

Unfortunately, collapse of the previous autocratic regimes has not led to establishing viable democratic regimes able to ensure elementary political stability and responsible economic management yet. On the contrary, most of countries directly affected by the Arab Spring have suffered from domestic political, economic and social instability and insecurity.


At the beginning of 2014 there is no longer doubt that geopolitical and socio economic context of the Arab revolution appeared to be different, in many respects, from that of former Soviet bloc countries more than twenty years ago. Thus relevance of post-communist transition for Arab countries and reform advice based on that experience can be only partial. Perhaps experience of other emerging market economies in their transition to democracy and market oriented reforms can be of equal or even higher value. Nevertheless, learning from others’ experience (both positive and negative), including that of CEE and CIS 3 region may be a useful exercise especially if the differences between regions are not forgotten. One cannot also exclude sharing experience in the opposite direction. The three - year history of the Arab Spring, sometimes very dramatic, may serve as a good lesson for those post - communist countries which have not completed their transition to democracy yet, find difficulties in building domestic political consensus, suffer from unresolved ethnic, sectarian and territorial conflicts, inability to pursue responsible economic policies, etc.


The purpose of this paper is to analyze major similarities and differences of political and socio-economic transition in both regions and suggest areas of cross-regional experience sharing. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 discusses the process of political transition, including the role of civil society, followed by Section 3 on economic transition and Section 4 on long-term development challenges. Section 5 presents major lessons from post-communist transitions which can be useful for Arab countries.

In geographical terms our analysis covers 29 post-communist countries of CEE/CIS region and 22 member countries of the Arab League. The statistical data are drawn from IMF, World Bank, other international databases and rankings or results of other research projects.


The publication is available at the website of