Europe and the Arab World

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<ul><li><p>7/30/2019 Europe and the Arab World</p><p> 1/10</p><p>The Royal Society of EdinburghJoint event with the European Movement in Scotland</p><p>and supported by the European Commission Office in Scotlandand the Centre for Advanced Study of the Arab World</p><p>Europe and the Arab World Conference</p><p>Tuesday 27 November 2012</p><p>Report by Matthew Shelley</p><p>The Arab World is undergoing major political and social upheaval at the same time,Europe faces a far-reaching economic crisis. The conference examined the relationshipsbetween the regions and how Europe can promote stability, peace and prosperity inArab countries. The speakers were His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of</p><p>Jordan, Professor Yasir Suleiman of Cambridge Universitys Faculty of Asian and MiddleEastern Studies, Christian Berger of the European External Action Service, AndrewClaret of the Anna Lindh Foundation, Dr Malik Dahlan from the Institution Quraysh forLaw and Society and Tarek El Sherbini of the European Bank for Reconstruction andDevelopment. The welcome was provided by Sir David Edward, outgoing RSEInternational Committee Convener.</p><p>Overview</p><p>Professor Suleiman said the relationship between Europe and the Arab World is anancient one, with many bloody encounters at one end of the spectrum and peaceful,productive ones at the other. Today, the memories of warfare and colonialism outweighthose of rich cultural exchange. The conference, he said, was designed to help tiltperceptions towards the positive end of the spectrum.</p><p>Arab and European attitudes are not helped by over-simplistic attitudes. Many Arabsconflate Europe and other powers, such as the USA, and simply see them as the West.Likewise, Europeans tend to see Arabs and Muslims as one and the same, when thereare many Arab Christians.</p><p>According to Professor Suleiman, there has been a range of initiatives from the EU inthe past three decades responding to changes in the southern and easternMediterranean. These have had three goals:</p><p>1) Prosperity economic co-operation, access to oil and gas, trade plus economicand technical aid. Tied in with these are European worries about mass migrationand combating Islamic terrorism.</p><p>2) Stability democratic governance, respect for human rights, the rule of law,freedom of expression, association and assembly, along with free media,independent judiciaries, political pluralism and a strong civil society.</p><p>3) Peace solving conflicts, chiefly those between the Arabs and Israel.</p><p>Good intentions have been undermined by security fears, which have led Europe totolerate tyrannical regimes. There was often a bogus idea that Arabs had little interest indemocratic freedoms a notion destroyed by the Arab Spring. European economicprotectionism has also undermined the pursuit of prosperity.</p></li><li><p>7/30/2019 Europe and the Arab World</p><p> 2/10</p><p>The Arab Spring has placed a moral responsibility on Europe to live up to its convictionsand support Arab people in their drive for freedom and democracy. It is a goldenopportunity to dispel the notion that Europe speaks one way and acts another.</p><p>Nonetheless, democratisation ends the certainties offered by tyrannical regimes. Europemust learn a new kind of politics dealing with forces such as the Muslim Brotherhood which it has previously demonised. The progress of the Arab Spring is uneven andEurope also needs to consider its relationships with surviving old regimes.</p><p>Professor Suleiman said: The challenge for Europe is how to fill the trinity of prosperity,stability and peace with new meanings, both conceptual and practical, to deal with anewly-emerging order in the Arab World.</p><p>He said the conference goals were to:1) Identify and examine common challenges faced by Europe and the Arab World.2) Facilitate relationship building between experts from academia, civil society and</p><p>state institutions.3) Provide the basis for a focused action plan and concrete follow-up initiatives.</p><p>The aims would be addressed under three headings:1) Civil society2) Structures of government3) Sustainable and equitable economic development</p><p>Session 1</p><p>Christian Berger</p><p>European External Action Service Director for North Africa, Middle East, ArabianPeninsula, Iran and Iraq</p><p>Europe can be a powerful actor in the world, but it is currently dissipating its energies bybeing introspective, as it struggles with internal issues and fails to unite on externalones. He predicted that the EU would appear weak as it split in the forthcoming UN voteon giving observer status to Palestine [vote took place on 29 November see BBC Q&amp;A]. Mr Berger compared this tothe EUs highly effective role when member states united over the issue of settlements inthe Occupied Territories.</p><p>North Africa and the Middle East have presented security challenges and have been</p><p>places of rapid geopolitical change since long before the Arab Spring. There has beenthe spread of terrorist groups, the emergence of Turkey, the nuclear ambitions of Iran,and the Iraq War.</p><p>The Arab uprisings have accelerated change and brought new challenges includingthe possibility that the conflict in Syria could destabilise the whole region. The EU hasused sanctions and diplomacy to try to achieve peace in Syria and is providing aid forrefugees. Mr Berger expressed hope that the work done to create a more united Syrianopposition may yield results.</p><p>The recent violence in Gaza and Israel has demonstrated the importance of finding asolution to the Arab/Israeli conflict the EU backs a two-state solution. The instability in</p><p>the Sahel region is another area of concern, with the rapid spread of weapons and</p></li><li><p>7/30/2019 Europe and the Arab World</p><p> 3/10</p><p>armed groups. In places such as northern Mali, the EU is working with governments tostem the consequent illegal traffic of weapons, drugs and people.</p><p>The Arab Spring has brought hope that people can achieve freedom. It has also brought</p><p>the chance for dignity, which Mr Berger described as having three facets:1) Political the redefinition of the relationship between state and individual.</p><p>Something similar happened in Europe with the revolutions of 1848.2) Social and economic better lives, opportunities and education.3) National Arabs seek their own national dignities and national dignity for</p><p>Palestinians.</p><p>Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have had free elections and significant reform is underway incountries such as Jordan. The EU has imposed sanctions on dictators during periods ofstruggle and given support to build new state and civil society structures in times oftransition. The policy is more for more, meaning if a country can absorb more help,then the EU should provide it. Despite its own internal issues, Europe is committed to</p><p>improved arrangements on trade and the movement of people.</p><p>Many issues are regional and are being addressed at that level, with the EU working inconjunction with organisations such as the League of Arab States which played aleading role in Libya and is loosely involved in Syria. European foreign ministers havejust agreed a work programme with the Arab League which covers many areas, fromenergy and culture to law and electoral processes.</p><p>Mr Berger said that progress in the Arab World is likely to have setbacks, just as it had inEurope. Despite the revolutions of 1848, much of Europe was only democratised in1948, and other parts not until 1989, with the collapse of communism. In Europe, the EUreacted positively to change by supporting progressive and humanitarian forces and</p><p>seeking to integrate newly democratic states.</p><p>With the Lisbon Treaty in place and the establishment of the European External ActionService, the EU is able to play a greater role in North Africa and the Middle East. This isvaluable in terms of building and strengthening the institutions and infrastructure neededby stable, pluralistic and democratic societies.</p><p>The EU needs to look at what it can offer democratised Arab states. Options mightinclude a broader European economic space or new customs arrangements. Whateverthe case, the EU is committed to being a long-term partner for Arab peoples freedom,dignity and economic prosperity.</p><p>Mr Berger then took questions from the audience. Professor David Breeze asked what could be done to combat European ideas ofArabs being other or even bogeymen. Mr Berger said that Europe needs to recognisethat there are fewer differences between peoples aspirations than it imagines. Asked about Europe and the Palestinians, Mr Berger said Europe has givenassistance to the Palestinian Authority, which has allowed progress towards recognitionof statehood. The commitment is to recognise statehood when appropriate thedifficulty being disagreements over timing. On supporting access to education and financing social development, Mr Berger saidthat these are areas where the EU is active, but which will suffer due to budget cuts. Mr Berger was asked if oil explained why Europe swiftly intervened in Libya but not inSyria. He responded that Russian and Chinese concerns about regime change had tobe taken into account. Also, the Libyan opposition had been coherent from an earlystage whereas it has, until recently, been fragmented in Syria.</p></li><li><p>7/30/2019 Europe and the Arab World</p><p> 4/10</p><p>Session 2</p><p>His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan Bin TalalThe post-World War I attempts to create a settlement in what is often called the Middle</p><p>East have failed. New thinking is needed which recognises the pluralism of Western Asiaand North Africa as a diverse region incorporating Arab Muslim and non-Arab Muslimnations, such as Israel.</p><p>Commenting on progress towards greater freedoms in the Arab World, Prince El Hassansaid that in 2009 he chaired the Arab Thought Forum, which welcomed participants frommany countries to discuss the compatibility of democracy and Islam. A number of themare now in power and some are bringing change.</p><p>Prince El Hassan criticised Western views of the pace of change: I did rather smart atthe European Councils report on how Jordan is not fulfilling the promises of reform the promises started in 2009 before the Arab Spring process and the reality is that the</p><p>street protests actually delayed the process of reform that was being envisaged by theleadership not only of Jordan but of the Arab World. The reforms were to bring aboutintegrated rather than piecemeal change.</p><p>The Arab Spring has brought some progress, but Prince El Hassan said the attitudes ofsome from the West have been disquieting. He was visited by a leading Europeanambassador who said we have done it in Tunis, we have done it in Libya, we have doneit in Egypt. This, said the prince, missed the whole point that it was Arabs had broughtchange for themselves.</p><p>Despite positive developments in some countries, Prince El Hassan believes the ArabWorld faces many dangers and that the momentum is towards mutually assured</p><p>destruction, when the goal should be mutually assured survival. The region is caughtbetween two right wing realities which threaten the advance of reform. The first is thatthe Gulf oil states are not keen on change and their Western allies are reluctant to pushthem. The second reality is that the current Israeli government is only interested in thetraditional lament of we are surrounded by enemies an argument he hoped had beendisposed of some time ago.</p><p>The Prince highlighted Irans nuclear status as an area of concern and expressed regretat the US cancellation of a planned Helsinki Process meeting. He added that during avisit to Tehran, for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, he made some unpopularstatements on nuclear issues, but rather than being dismissed they sparked seriousdiscussion.</p><p>Prince El Hassan described Syria as being the centre of a proxy war between rich andignorant protagonists on the so-called Sunni side (though their interest is political notreligious) against forces aligned with Iran who want to maintain an axis of powerbetween Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon. At the same time, there is a growing struggle forwater resources. This, the Prince fears, has the potential to bring regional nuclear war.</p><p>While the search for democratisation, human rights and dignity are of fundamentalimportance, Europe has put economic interests first. The West has benefited from hugemilitary contracts with Arab countries, when what is needed is a plan for the equitablesharing of water blue peace.</p></li><li><p>7/30/2019 Europe and the Arab World</p><p> 5/10</p><p>Europe, according to the Prince, often fails to understand the nature of the challengesfacing the Arab World for example, the impact on stability of 26 million refugees anddisplaced people.</p><p>He called on the USA to look towards the Arab World in a spirit of partnership and formoves towards a CSCME (Conference for Security and Co-operation in the MiddleEast). The Prince advocated an end to local axes of power and a move towards aBenelux solution of intra-independence you may be a small country or you may be alarge country, but you recognise my right to express an opinion.</p><p>In addition, he called for the establishment of a regional bank for reconstruction anddevelopment that would make use of some of the regions wealth to put a smile on theface of every Somali child, and every child for that matter, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. This would help pull the rug from under the feet of extremists who point to theungenerosity of the regions rulers to argue that they are unfit to rule.</p><p>Beyond this, Prince El Hassan argued that paternalistic generosity is not the answer tothe regions needs; a social charter is required to empower all citizens, regardless ofethnicity, faith or gender. This must be accompanied by rights-based measures toaddress the needs of all people.</p><p>The region faces challenges from two sources, extremism and oil. Neither benefits theordinary people, or the children, of the Arab World. Prince El Hassan said that all ourefforts must be to secure their future and to ensure that human dignity is the wayforward.</p><p>Prince El Hassanthen took questions from the audience. Asked if there was a need to promote greater understanding through education at all</p><p>levels, the Prince said it is sad that more is not done to celebrate the material cultureand intellectual contributions that North Africa and West Asia have made to the world.One sign of progress is that students from the West are learning Arabic and developingan understanding not just of the spoken word but also the idiom. Giles Cunningham asked what the Prince believed will happen to Syria. He suggestedthat if the regime loses Damascus, it will retrench in the north of the country, which ishome to a Kurdish population that is regarded as a potential threat by Turkey. Ultimately,a negotiated settlement is essential.</p><p>Sessions 35</p><p>The next sessions saw speakers deliver three short talks. The audience then separated</p><p>for roundtable discussions and the results were fed back to the entire conference.</p><p>3. Civil SocietyAndreu ClaretExecutive Director of the Anna Lindh Foundation, based in Alexandria</p><p>Western approaches to the Arab World ar...</p></li></ul>