"The European Union and the Mediterranean"
Report work shop III
Event contributions, Berlin, Apr. 17, 2012
Ed.: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V.
Young people from European and Arab countries took part in a workshop called "The European Union and the Mediterranean – Which Role Ought Germany Play?" Here is their report.
According to Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering, chairman of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation and former President of the European Parliament, Europe and Germany could help for example by showing the Arab countries the 'rule of law'. As he said in his opening speech: "with our experiences and our failures we can contribute towards the becoming of a legal state."
Result of the brainstorming in workshop III - After one and a half day filled with heated discussions about Germany's role towards and within the Arab World, many seem to agree with Pöttering's words that Europe could contribute - but only with a clear concept. The last thing Germany should do according to the participants is imposing European values on the Arab countries. Germans should not think that their way of living and their common values are best for everyone. The EU ought to realize it has lost some credibility due to its backing many of the dictators against whom the revolutionists protested. Not to mention the lost trust in the European-American way to solve issues by intervention. A Syrian participant stated: "We saw what happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya after the 'West' thought it was going to solve the problem. We don’t want others to interfere." Military intervention too often becomes part of the problem instead of solving it.
The topics discussed in this workshop were mostly about migration, human rights vs. security, misconceptions, Germany as a moderator and most of all the Israel-Palestine conflict. As has been stated several times during the whole conference, 90 percent of the problems the Arab world is facing today are rooted in this conflict. For example: When Hamas won the 'freely-held' elections in Palestine, Europe refused to recognize the results. Once again, European leaders lost credibility in the region. All of the workshops participants agreed on the fact that Germany could be a good moderator between Israel and Palestine, maybe even be a mediator. This could carry an element of risk; but Germany is respected on both sides. As a leader of the European Union, Germany could initiate a dialogue. Presently, no other region or country is in a better position. Everything the Americans would suggest, if they were to be the moderator, would be hated right away by the Arabs.
But there will be some prerequisites for Germany as well. The 'we-accept-everything-attitude' towards Israel is no longer totally accepted by many of the participants. The highly important friendship between Germany and Israel cannot imply that the Israelis can do whatever they want. If a friend does something wrong, you must tell him. Germany should distinguish between Israel's political actions, for example the settlements on the one hand and the unconditional protection offered against the Iranian threat on the other.
Concerning migration, Europe should start more projects to attract many of the qualified and unemployment Middle-Easterners. Germany and Europe are facing a massive decline in their population. The participants do not consider this the solution of the demographical problems Europe is facing. But they are convinced it could be a major help for both sides. For the years to come it is important for Germany and Europe to first observe and recognize in which direction the new democracies are willing to go. Governments resulting from free elections should be recognized as legitimate representatives of their countries; whether Europe likes the outcome or not.
Both sides are finding themselves at a crossroads. Europe backed the Arab regimes for decades. It should now look at this region again and form a new policy. Without forcing European values on the Arab countries, it should start a new intercultural dialogue. Each side could enrich the other. With Germany as a key player within the European Union and as a respected country by Israel and many of the Arab countries, German politicians as well as its citizens could potentially play an appreciated role in the Mediterranean.
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