L’UE ET L’EVEIL DEMOCRATIQUE EN MÉDITERRANÉE : ACCOMPAGNER LE PRINTEMPS ARABE EN ACCROISSANT L’AIDE AUX JEUNES DEMOCRATIES EN GESTATION
7 DECEMBRE 2011 Marseille – PALAIS DU PHARO
Mediterranean is not just a sea that unites continents and represents a bridge between historical cultures, religions, civilisations. Mediterranean, in this globalised world, is a broad region whose stability, prosperity, security should be taken as an absolute priority by the international community as a whole.
The latest developments of the so-called “Arab spring”, the serious problems that still people are facing in some countries of the region, the unsolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the very heavy impact, in many fields, the Iranian nuclear proliferations is having: all these factors are crucial not only for the Mediterranean, but for a safer and prosperous world already in the near future.
Europe, and our political family, EPP and the affiliated national parties, bear a special responsibility.
In fact, in the past decades European and in general western countries accepted, sometimes encouraged or contributed to strengthen, partnerships of convenience with many dictatorial regimes. We, together, used to think to be better guaranteed in the fields of the counter-terrorism strategy or the comprehensive policies on illegal immigration. We put, in other words, emphasis first on stability and security, at the expenses of a shared prosperity for all the people living in these countries; above all we didn’t consider properly the crucial role played during decades in these societies by the massive and continuous violations of human rights and fundamental liberties. We all made a serious mistake.
First of all because, while making deals with dictators, we undermined the European and Western credibility to the eyes of millions of young people and broad social classes in Arab countries.
– Arab spring was a wake-up call.
– Protesters massively running to the streets have been asking for dignity, human rights, bread and jobs for all.
– A number of regimes have fallen.
– Some did so immediately, while in Lybia an international mission was necessary to protect people, and it led to the fall of the Gaddafi’s regime.In Syria, a discredited regime under international sanctions should leave as soon as possible, even though an international force action should be avoided.
And now, how can Europe, and how can our Party, contribute to regain ground in this key regions of the world, by replacing the old partnerships of convenience with new forms of equal partnerships based on rights, development, mutual understanding?How can we encourage our friends in the region to avoid any kind of extremist approach, while we have to respect free elections’ results? In this, Egypt will be by far the test-case for all the region.
Along the lines of the European charter and the EPP charter of basic values, we should promote not only economic growth in the southern Mediterranean region. We should invest in those young generations which ask for cultural and occupational opportunities and full respect of the basic rights of all human beings.
First, invest in cultural exchanges; let us create networks among northern and southern universities, and launch a comprehensive Erasmus project for Mediterranean students, while softening too strict visa regimes, often seen as an obstacle to the broad circulation of ideas and cultural experiences.
– Invest in research and innovation
– Implementing a broad economic plan for supporting economies that risk to collapse, and so reducing the heavy risk of more unemployment.
– The worst case scenario of these Arab revolutions would be a feeling of frustration within these young and often well educated societies, spreading the idea that none of the main goals are achievable.
This would strongly empower indoctrination and incitement from extremist groups, that have no interest in cooperating and engaging with western countries, and rather tend to disseminate hostile and discriminatory thoughts.
So, if we fail on engaging with these societies, if we leave them in the high seas of difficult transitions and deteriorating economic situations, we, Europe, and the West, all will soon have a much heavier price to pay.
When people are desperate and hungry, they massively migrate, regardless the risk for their lives. When young people and students find a wall before their aspiration to exchange free ideas with their colleagues in European education networks, they would probably grow in the conviction that clash of civilisations is the only way to prevail on what they would start considering “Europe fortresse”.
In promoting such as open strategy we, in the EPP family, are only following our principles. But in these are also some red lines, based on values and rights that are not negotiable. Human life and dignity; equalitybetween man and woman in all fields; right to freely profess everybody’s religion, just to mention some.
On these, I think EPP bears a special responsibility to keep and strengthen our common identity, including all the principles that are part of our Christian values.
We don’t want to impose our model of democracy, nor our framework of fundamental rights. Democracy cannot be exported rather it should flourish within a people and a society.But an open dialogue and mutual understanding between different cultures and civilisations doesn’t mean giving up the foundation of our own society just for the sake of complacency toward our interlocutors.
So, when it comes to the freedom of religion, for example, we cannot remain silent on the grave discrimination perpetrated on the Christian minorities as in many countries including physical violence and assassinations, or the prohibition by law to profess Christianity.The issue of considering reciprocity guidelines, in these cases, should be on the table, as an element of a equal partnership and dialogue, where – nevertheless – one cannot accept imbalances and distortions from the other.
In conclusion, EU, with the contribution of EPP, to be an effective and well respected player in Mediterranean, should be visionary, speaking and acting politically and not bureaucratically with only one voice, and strike the right balance between openness on others’ reasons and arguments, and firmness on keeping the basic foundations of our European construction.
More Europe, not less Europe on investing on the future of Mediterranean region, paving now the way to results to be achieved in the short, mid and long term.
One of the European founding fathers, Alcide De Gasperi, once said: “A politician looks at the next elections; a statesman looks at the next generation”.
Let Europe showing leadership in this spirit.
Let our party playing a strong role on this