Think EU-MED

Monday, June 30, 2008

European Neighbourhood Journalism Network

The European Neighbourhood Journalism Network is a new website developed by the European Journalists Centre, which went online on 4 June 2008. The project operates within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). It is a follow-up to the "Europe for Mediterranean Journalists" initiative. The project funded by the EU is part of the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (ENPI) Regional Information and Communication Programme, designed to raise awareness and understanding within the beneficiary countries of the ENP. The ENP consists of the southern Mediterranean, eastern European and southern Caucasus countries. The Network offers on its website news, the main policy areas and basic info on the EU and country profiles.

The European Neighbourhood Journalism Network will facilitate networking with the goal of building bridges within the EU’s neighbourhood. A network on-line community also exists, to which one can register. At the community site you can inform about project updates and news. Until now, just few people have found their way to this site. Within the small registered group there is not any discussion yet. So we all hope that this might change quickly as “building bridges” without any solid fundament existing of active and enthusiastic people could be hard to maintain.

The project also claims to provide training and support on EU affairs to journalists, editors, producers, and other media professionals from the ENPI countries. In addition the programme aims to support journalists in utilizing their newly acquired skills and knowledge in their job by developing a complementary programme for their media (editors, manager, owners). Although this objective sounds important and the trainers are the skilled experts of the Thompson Foundation, there are not any training possibilities and complementary programmes visible on the website right now.

The European Neighbourhood Journalism Network convinces with its concepts and objectives. We hope that they can fulfil their high expectations like building up a high skilled and active network of journalists from the European neighbourhood where they exchange experiences and learn from one another.

Visit the European Neighbourhood Journalism Network website

Saturday, June 21, 2008

EU Approved the Principle of the Union for the Mediterranean

The European Council approved the principle of a Union for the Mediterranean which will include the Member States of the EU and the non-EU Mediterranean coastal states. It invited the Commission to present to the Council the necessary proposals for defining the modalities of what will be called "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean" with a view to the Summit which will take place in Paris on 13 July 2008.

Read the Conclusions of the European Council

Friday, June 20, 2008

Democracy in the Arab World? The Western Position between Interests and Ideals

How could the western world solve the incompatibility between its ideal of promoting democracy and its interest in enhancing stability in the Arab region? From an idealist point of view, you might think that peace and security in the Middle East goes hand-in-hand with the expansion of democracy and freedom. However, from a realist point of view, you would answer that the western world could only negotiate peace with a stabilized government. A rapid democratization pushed from outside could create civil disorder, radicalism, and stop the process of political reformism.
When there is not any strong movement towards democracy in the Arabic countries themselves, promoting democratisation might bring the opposite results.

Eva Bellin, Associate Professor of Political Science at Hunter College,
reviewed two books on this theme: Freedom's Unsteady March, by Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Beyond the Façade, edited by Marina Ottaway and Julia Choucair-Vizoso.
Both books explore the US interests in promoting democracy in the Arab world.
According to Bellin, promoting democracy from outside cannot replace "the work of forces on the ground who daily make their own calculations of the costs and benefits of mobilizing collective power and challenging the status quo".
Therefore, the best proposition for the US and also for the EU is that outsiders "cheer from the sidelines, pressure allied regimes to make space for these local forces, and provide material and technical assistance where possible. . . . Washington must narrow its efforts to the protection of political freedoms, . . . press reluctant regimes to include Islamists in the political process, and make aid and trade conditional on performance on these more limited goals" says Eva Bellin in regard to the books’ proposals. In addition, she says that this should be done "without the slightest hope of cashing in any political returns in the near term".

But is the devil not in the details?
First, for example, the movements of the Muslim Neighbourhood were impeded by mostly non-democratic governments that were backed by Washington and Brussels. How could the western governments now give preference toward Islamists in the political process while they were declaring that combating the 9/11 terrorist’s cells in the Arab world was the major task? If the western world is willing to tread this brave path then they need to stop the rhetoric war against the "Islamists enemies" and completely change their policy toward the Arab world.
Secondly, since the beginning of the Barcelona Process, the EU has been trying to make aid and trade conditional on their making reforms regarding political freedom, state of law, and human rights issues. However, as the EU cannot offer lucrative prospects (as done in the East Enlargement with the EU Membership), the current proposal is far too unattractive for the Arab governments to accept and thereby risk their own political power. The EU should talk with the leaders at eye level to better understand what the autocratic leaders really want.
In the last years, the EU has rather worsened their image and authority in the Arab world by implementing similar policies within the ENP (European Neighbourhood Policy). For example, as Belarus might be a potential EU member state candidate in the future and because of its geographical important status between Russia and Europe, there are many arguments as to why a conditional policy might work. North Africa and the Middle East have no chance to become member states of the EU, and even more importantly, there would be neither chance nor recommendation to split off the region in either EU favoured or non-favoured states. As Gaddafi outlined a few days ago, the Mediterranean Union should be a common strategic policy. If this cannot be made clear to the Arabic partner states, the tragedy in the EU-Med relations will continue and undemocratic governments will be supported with an even stronger Islamic opposition.

Some critics suggest that the idealistic proposals presented in the two books are fundamentally flawed and, perhaps, naive. One of the strongest arguments for this is the following: Who really believes in western politics where the long-term goals are prioritised before the short-term ones? It is too easy for politicians to hide behind the rhetoric of long term goals and to close their eyes to the present.

Foreign Affairs

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gaddafi Opposes the "Union for the Mediterranean"

Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi opposed the proposals for a Mediterranean union at a mini-summit in Tripoli where the leaders of Algeria, Syria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Morocco, and Syria met. The summit was convened to discuss the ambitious proposals by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy for a Mediterranean bloc modelled on and linked to the European Union. These initiatives aimed to promote a regionalist concept with North Africa and the Middle East, but they were strongly criticized by Gaddafi.

In Gaddafi’s opinion, the French initiative 'Union for the Mediterranean' might harm the “Arab and African unity efforts". The European States should understand that the Arab league similarly will not accept the destruction of its own unity. Gaddafi stated, "we are member states of the Arab League and also the African Union and we will not take any chances with damaging Arab or African Unity." Gaddafi has labelled the participation of African countries in the Mediterranean project a "violation" of resolutions by the African Union. The Libyan leader, who came to power in 1969, and has become the Arab world's longest serving leader, accused the EU of wanting to dominate its southern partners that were once under European colonial rule. According to the AFP news agency, Gaddafi said: "We are neither hungry nor dogs to be thrown bones”.

The Tripoli meeting came ahead of a broader gathering and launch ceremony for the 'Union for the Mediterranean' in Paris, scheduled for July 13 of this year. Gaddafi had already made it clear that he will not be present at the meeting.
Although no decision was formally adopted on the summit, the meeting sorts out differences over the EU plans. Just two countries are strongly supporting the "Union of the Mediterranean". First Egypt, because the EU has offered it co-presidency with France, and second Tunisia, which has been promised it could host the initiative's Secretariat. One of the dividing issues, which could also be seen as a major obstacle in the whole Barcelona Process, is the presence of Israel in the Union. Another more organisational point is that some Arab countries have requested clarifications from the EU over a number of issues relating to the new EU-Mediterranean structure, such as administrative structures, financing, and decision-making process of the Mediterranean Union. With some reason, Arab states fear that Brussels will dominate the decision-making process, which has already happened with the stalled Barcelona Euro-Med process.

So, it is not surprising that Gaddafi said that the Mediterranean Union proposal was just another "passing fad", which would make no more progress than the so-called Euro-Mediterranean partnership process launched in Barcelona in 1995. He may well have a point regarding the EU proposal after the modest outcomes of the Barcelona Process. However, playing a two way political game, like Gaddafi is doing with the European Union, does not helping one’s credibility as political leader. On the one hand, in July 2007, Gaddafi signed a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements with the EU; however, on the other hand, Gaddafi raised the idea of an African Union that was loosely modeled on its European counterpart. This dual strategy did not exclude his country from the economical benefits of the coming free trade zone with the EU, but also made him the glorious unifier of the African continent. Gaddafi’s game is simple, but for Libya, this might be an important opportunity to profit from both regional blocs.

• AFP: Kadhafi opposes Mediterranean Union plan
Gulf News

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Should the EU talk to Hamas?

Is it time for the EU to consider talking directly to Hamas? Several European governments believe that the current policy of isolating the Hamas and so weakening the extremist has failed if not even has strengthened support for Hamas among Palestinians. On the other hand the Fatah has suffered from their role as more modest and open minded party. So what shall the EU do?

On June 11th Dr. Mark Heller, Director of Research and Principal Research Associate at the Institute for National Security Studies, pointed out his view on this question at the European Parliament. Heller has written extensively on Middle Eastern political and strategic issues and published numerous book chapters and articles in prestigious journals.

In the debate MEP Jana Hybaskova and Emanuele Ottolenghi, Executive Director of the Transatlantic Institute, considered a constructive dialog with the Hamas in the future as possible.
In opposition to that Dr. Mark Heller neglected any dialog-cooperation between the European Union with Hamas as long Hamas is “using violence and hanging with terror, and so long they don’t accept the reality and existence of Israel in Middle
Heller warned the EU that talking to the Hamas means to legitimate and tolerate the terrorist organisation which doesn't respect any conditions or international agreements. He underlined that “it will give wrong impression to all the states in the Middle East that Europe accommodates to the force of the Islam terror rather then be opposed to its brutal means".
According to Heller, only Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the help of Egypt can successfully solve the issue of this Islamic organisation. However, any engagement of the EU would discredit the European values and standards.

Visit the Transatlantic Institute here to get more information

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Socialist Group present their future of Euro-Mediterranean relations

The Socialist Group in the European Parliament, PSE, has published in April 2008 its report “The Future of the EU-Mediterranean Relations”. The PSE proposed in their document to re-launch the EU-Mediterranean relations and underlines the potential which remains to be optimized.

The main objectives are:

• Consolidate the spirit of the Barcelona process by re-affirming its conceptual framework in view of the construction of the establishment of a community of values, interests and destinies, breaking with the security logics of the Mediterranean stakes.
• Announce a real policy of democratisation and promotion of human rights via a visible support to the civil societies and political organisations.
• Launch an agenda of economical regional and sub-regional cooperation in order to lower the social and economic disparities between the two shores and anchor the region into the global economy.
• Participate with our proposals in the debates and initiatives which aim at reviewing and developing the EU-Mediterranean cooperation by strengthening them in the framework of the existing institutions. In this perspective the European Parliament will have a major role to play. At the same time, the EMPA will assure the parliamentary dimension of the Barcelona Process. Finally, civil society must find its place within the EU-Mediterranean decision making mechanisms.

Read the hole pdf-document of the PSE "The future of the EU-Mediterranean Relations"