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Developing new models of democracy

Legatum Institute

5 min read Partner content

The Arab Spring is more important even than 9/11 in its far-reaching consequences, the foreign secretary has said.

Taking the podium at a joint event between ConservativeHome and the Legatum Institute, the London-based think-tank behind the Prosperity Index, William Hague highlighted the new challenges, responses and alliances that need to be brought forward in response to the uprising in countries such as Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Egypt.

Unlike the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, which saw the collapse of a "monolithic system", Hague identified a new challenge which the Arab Spring brings, "as these nations have no immediate models of democracy".

"They need to develop their own models," he said.

Adamant that we must not be seen as patronising to the countries in transition, Hague maintained that this was not a situation in which a carbon copy of the Westminster system could be imposed.

Hague called for a "bold and ambitious response" from Europe, urging a revitalised European Neighbourhoods Policy, and a formal economic relationship between the countries of North Africa and the European Union.

Strengthening relationships

Hague stressed the need for the government to strengthen its relationships around the world.

Referring to the previous government, Hague said they had "not put enough energy" into building and maintaining diplomatic networks.

In a bid to increase the United Kingdom's presence around the world, Hague said that not only would the government not be closing any embassies during the current Parliament, but was in the process of opening six new embassies.

With the Foreign and Commonwealth Office the only department to have 50 per cent more ministers than during the last Parliament, Hague stressed the wish of the government to increase ministerial-level meetings around the world.

He also focused on the importance of building strong bi-lateral relationships with individual countries, like France, something which he said had eluded the previous government.

"This is a crucial insight that eluded our predecessors who thought the world had gone entirely multilateral," he said.


Hague attributed one of the main successes of the military action in Libya to the fact that no one country dominated.

Settling what Hague called an "international misconception" following a recent visit to Libya, he said that unlike in Iraq, there was no significant damage to civilian infrastructure.

He took the opportunity to commend the work of the British Army for its "extraordinarily precise" military action in Libya.

In terms of how the British government is helping Libya move forward, Hague said the government had already offered the National Transitional Council (NTC) expertise in the area of policing.

Ensuring the government provides ongoing support in the region, Hague told the audience of a £110m Arab Partnership Fund over 10 years, which is designed to support knowhow and expertise in these countries. The fund is already being put to work in Egypt and Tunisia, supporting the development of civil society.


With David Cameron's recent trip to Russia, the first meeting with the Russian president in four years, Hague said the government has set out to create a more workmanlike relationship with Russia.

However, he added that it was "not possible" to have the same relationship with Russia as the United Kingdom maintains with other countries around the world, because the two countries often come at things from "different values".

Hague did not attribute the lack of relationship-building with Russia to the Labour government, but asserted that Russia had done some truly unacceptable things, including in London.

Describing the relationship, he said: "I and the Russian foreign ministers have described this as patient, steady work."

Cyber security

Hague said the government was committed to investing an extra £650m in the country's cyber capabilities, claiming the UK was a world leader in the field.

"Cyber security is one of the rising issues over the next decade," he said.

The government is hosting a cyber security conference in London on November 1 and 2, with over 60 nations taking part.

Hague said he would be encouraging another country to chair the next conference, and called for the need to clearly establish what is acceptable in the realm of cyber security through the international community.


Often cited as a Eurosceptic, Hague said he has always maintained the importance of Europe in using its collective weight in the world over issues such as Syria and Iran.

A critic of the euro since its inception, Hague held his standpoint. "I think every single word I have ever said on the euro has been correct," he said.

On the Lisbon Treaty, he spoke of how he would like to have seen a referendum, a measure which the government has pledged for any future European treaties.

As somebody who thinks Europe wields too much power, Hague criticised the interference that Europe sometimes has over people's lives.

Citing the European Working Time Directive as an example, he said he did not believe it was necessary for the European Union to set the working hours of the junior doctors in his constituency.

"It is that kind of unnecessary interference," he said, "that makes people disillusioned about the EU."

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