Tuesday, 1 March 2011

"The EU Has Failed the Arab World"

German magazine Der Spiegel notes how the European Union has been propping up dictators in North Africa in the interest of stability. Now the divided EU is struggling to respond to the popular uprisings. The magazine describes the debate in the EU foreign ministers´ meeting on February 20:

But, as is typical in the European Union, the meeting turned into a heated dispute. Right after Lady Ashton finished reporting on recent talks she had had in Cairo and Tunis, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini piped up. He spoke about the unrest in Libya, a country he claimed to know particularly well. He claimed that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was the only person who could guarantee the country's stability. The most important thing for now, he said, was preserving the country's territorial integrity. His colleagues from Greece and Malta seconded his opinion.

After that, the room fell silent. Germany's Werner Hoyer, a senior Foreign Ministry official who was attending the dinner as a stand-in for German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, was one of the first to resume the conversation. "If that were our position, it would be a massive mistake and a betrayal of our fundamental values," he said. "Instead of worrying about Gadhafi, we should be happy when he's gone." (NNoN: Well spoken, Dr Hoyer!)

For weeks, a blossoming democratic movement in North Africa has been toppling one dictator after the other -- first in Tunisia, then in Egypt, now possibly in Libya. During this whole period, the reaction of Europe's governments can best be described as paralyzed. While Gadhafi's regime was ordering its forces to fire upon its own people, the reactions of the political elites -- whether in Brussels, Berlin, Paris or Rome -- were unsure, divided and without a plan.
When it comes to determining Europe's policies in North Africa, national interests trump the principles expounded in the EU treaties. In regard to its former North African colonies, France still considers itself a regional power player. Malta and Cyprus have long-standing worries about stampedes of illegal immigrants. Italy made Libya one of its preferred trading partners.
As a token of his appreciation, Gadhafi has made massive investments in Italy in recent years. Libya owns a 7.2 percent stake in Unicredit, Italy's largest bank, 2 percent of Finmeccanica, Italy's most important arms manufacturer, and another 2 percent of FIAT, its largest automotive company. Libya also owns a 7 percent stake in Juventus Turin, the publicly traded and massively popular football club. Similarly, more than 100 Italian companies are active in Libya, including the oil and gas giant Eni, the transportation electronics company Ansaldo STS and the construction company Impregilo.

Read the entire article here.

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