After the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Lybia, Algeria, Morocco and Jordan, European leaders should rethink their strategy for the Mediterranean area. The Union for the Mediterranean launched by Sarkozy was ill-conceived and largely expected to fail in the absence of political support.
An influential opinion leader, P.Defraigne, secretary-general of Madariaga foundation wrote recently in a Belgian newspaper (la Libre Belgique 05 March): "the euro-mediterranean alliance was that of rent and fear. Despotic and corrupted regimes unable to build a fair development sought support from the West by the oil, the ambivalent view about Israel and repression of islamism. The Barcelona process (...) has failed. EU money has been spent. Reforms did not follow. For too lon, large member States neutralised European action due to their bilateral interests. Now, the EU has to regain control, because Europe and the Mediterranean area share a common destiny in the face of globalisation. (...) The EU does not need now to buy reforms. For people are asking them..."
Euromed Rights* issued in its Executive Committee session (4-6 March) hel in Geneva a declaratioon in which it urged the international Community to bring the necessary political and financial support to make sure that transition in Tunisia and Egypt could lead to the introduction of democracy and full respect of human rights and recommends " an independent mechanism of surveillance of the electoral process" in those countries.
For the time being, European leaders are determined to act to resolve the Lybian conflict in particular by humanitarian means as there are profound divisions on military intervention. But, they should think ahead in terms of stabilisation of the whole Mediterranean area. Socialists MEPs support the idea of a Marshall Plan for the area. Remember : the Plan - officially called the European Recovery Program -was launched in 1947 (and finished in 1951) to rebuild European economies after WWII with a transfer of about 1% of the US gross national product per annum. As usual, some big member States opposed the idea arguing that in times of budgetary restrictions they cannot afford to spend large amounts of money. Let's be clear : 1% of EU GDP corresponds to about 100 billion euros, a bit less of total loans granted to Greece to resolve its debt crisis.
In the 80s, Reaganites were opposed to any form of aid to poor countries and their favorite motto was: Trade but not aid". Now, if we want to stabilise our southern neighbourhood, Europeans will have to spend money and pursue at the same time the creation of a free trade area with North Africa. It is a long time endeavour but it is worth doing as the costs of non action would be much higher.
* http://www.euromedrights.org/ , a network of more than 80 human rights organisations based in 30 countries of the euro-mediterranean area was set up in 1997 in response to the Barcelona Declaration and the establishment of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership