November 30, 2014

Report on the 16th International Summer School, Berlin, 2012

The Cases of Egypt and Tunisia, August 26–September 7, 2012

The DGAP’s 16th International Summer School (held in Berlin August 26–September 7, 2012) focussed on the transitions underway in Egypt and Tunisia and tested new concepts, theories, and models of democracy. Some 29 promising young professionals from Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, and Europe took part in the program of debates, workshops, lectures, and roundtables. Speakers included Paul Nolte, Tariq Ramadan, Volker Perthes, Mustafa Kamel Al-Sayyid, and Hamad Abdel Samad.


Egypt and Tunisia have been witnessing radical transformations ever since presidents Hosni Mubarak and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali were toppled. The countries have seen, among other changes, a remarkable awakening of public interest in politics and in shaping their own societies, an unprecedented flourishing of their political landscapes, and relatively free and fair, and hence historic, elections. However, as is to be expected, uncertainties prevail, and both countries are struggling hard with the complex steps of their respective transitional processes. They are encountering formidable challenges (although the degrees and dimensions of these challenges vary), such as the emergence of new powerful political actors with an Islamic reference system and an unpredictable and unclear agenda as regards their commitment to democratization; a society split along a secular-Islamist divide; and, correspondingly, a lack of consensus on the draft of a new constitution. A deteriorating and hence alarming socio-economic situation, an unwillingness to deal with atrocities committed in the past, a highly politicized judiciary, and a complex and opaque constellation of actors further complicate the situation.

Against this backdrop, the DGAP’s 16th International Summer School (held in Berlin August 26–September 7, 2012) analyzed the status of the transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, highlighting achievements, failures, and the challenges ahead. Viewpoints and analyses were exchanged in intense debates, and possible solutions were developed. For example, new concepts, theories, and models of democracy were addressed. The quality of the political process, the agenda of dominant political actors, and socio-economic dimensions of the transitional phases and related policies were scrutinized. The Summer School also delved into other relevant subjects such as the issue of transitional justice, EU and German policies toward Egypt and Tunisia, new regional alliances and power shifts, and how other countries experienced their transitions from autocratic to more open and democratic systems, and whether lessons derived thereof are relevant for Egypt and Tunisia.

The Summer School gathered 29 promising students and graduates from Europe, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco for ten days in Berlin. It offered participants a unique opportunity to experience a highly stimulating intellectual environment and to broaden their horizons by attending lectures, panel debates, working groups, and communication and argumentation workshops, and by engaging in Oxford-style debates. The Summer School aimed at offering a space for learning, fostering the exchange of knowledge and experience, and sensitizing participants to appropriate and effective policies, as well as for the development of joint solutions. Moreover, it allowed for an intercultural dialogue to increase understanding and trust between young potential policymakers from Arab countries, the EU, and Turkey. By exchanging views on political and societal developments and discourses in the respective countries, participants became sensitized to the interests and needs of different sides. And, finally, the Summer School supported a pluralistic, tolerant, and respectful debating environment, and enabled young professionals from various backgrounds to establish their first professional networks.

Dina Fakoussa
Head of EUMEF 


Bibliographic data

DGAP Report 28 (December 1, 2014), 36 pp.