Category: Politice

This category covers all news related politics

Euro-Med redux? (Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt))

As part of its progress towards a more integrated regional organisation, and in reaction to events and opportunities, European Union (EU) policy towards the Mediterranean has evolved through several phases, from the Barcelona Process in 1995 to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2004 and the Union for the Mediterranean in 2008.

The ENP goal was to create “a ring of well-governed states” to the south and east of an enlarged EU, including the countries of the “Eastern Partnership” (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) and the countries on the south and east of the Mediterranean.

But strong challenges to the ENP have resulted in calls for its revision, if not replacement with a new approach. Now the new EU leadership has tackled this issue. But what are the views of the Arab countries that are members of the Euro-Med order?

Over the last year or so, momentum has been gathering for a review of the ENP. There are three main reasons for this. First, there have been very substantial changes in the Mediterranean landscape, including upheavals, changing governments, civil wars and new European concerns such as waves of migration and returning jihadis.

A policy that sought to bring together Eastern European countries with those of the south and east of the Mediterranean has become severely challenged as two very different sets of changes have taken place: conflict over Ukraine and state failures and problems of democratic transition after the Arab Spring.

Second, there has been a growing critique of, and also perhaps a frustration with, the Euro-Med track record since the launch of the Barcelona Process in 1995. The transformational objectives or hopes placed on the ENP may have been responsible.

As one analyst, Stefan Lehne, says, “The European Neighbourhood Policy was conceived as the European Union’s alternative to traditional geopolitics. Through long-term, in-depth engagement, including financial support, trade agreements and arrangements for easier travel, the ENP would promote structural reforms in the EU’s partner countries.

“The policy was meant to help those partners become democratic states governed by the rule of law with prosperous economies that would share in the benefits of the EU’s internal market. Ten years after the launch of this policy, it is clear that this plan has not worked.”

Third, the new team taking over the management of the EU secretariat (President Jean-Claude Junker and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini) was determined to tackle the ENP as one of its top ten priorities, under the title of “stocktaking and way forward.”

The criticism of the ENP is extensive and multidimensional. Another analyst, Michael Leigh, has written: “In fact, there is hardly any other external policy of the EU with a larger gap between its stated objectives and the actual outcome.”

There are many shortcomings, among them that the geographic scope of the ENP does not encompass a number of countries that influence the neighbourhood (e.g. Russia, Iraq, Iran and Sudan), which raises questions on the geographic logic of the policy.

Moreover, the long-term goals remain unclear, except for aspiring to a peaceful, well-governed hinterland, and the model of perspective EU membership is not useful in the case of countries that will never become members.

Other criticisms include the fact that EU incentives are insufficient to impose on other countries the EU’s agenda or to counter the influence of other actors, and EU countries do not follow the ENP political conditionality in their bilateral relations with the concerned countries.

There is also an avalanche of confusing terminology and concepts, such as Black Sea Synergy, Eastern Partnership, Barcelona Process, Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and Union for the Mediterranean.

Some years ago, former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi said, “Europe has not implemented policies in the Mediterranean committed to a decade ago … There is no European initiative and countries are divided. Europe is effectively absent from all foreign policy scenarios.”

After the 1995 Barcelona Process, he added that the Euro-Mediterranean policy had stalled and that there has been division and jealousy. “What happened in Iraq, in Syria, the permanent tension between Palestine and Israel … all this should be addressed with strong, united policies. This is not happening … when there are great problems and high levels of tension, the ball is in the American court.”

DIRECTIONS OF CHANGE: In order to meet such challenges, ten ideas have been presented in European debates on redesigning the ENP:

– A new and urgent analysis of the European security environment as a whole is required, and new policy responses should be developed accordingly. The concept of a “neighbourhood” is too confined as dialogue is also needed with the “neighbours of the neighbours,” addressing a larger area to include the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

– Planning should be on the basis of different values, not shared values. But rather than dropping the human rights approach, it should be sharpened to make it more effective through innovative cooperation with all actors, including governments, civil society, youth and social media.

– There is a need for more and better coordination with the US. The opposite view was also presented – that US disengagement requires a more active and independent EU role.

– Capacity to address transnational phenomena such as migration flows, terrorism and organised crime should be increased.

5. The concept of “more for more” should be changed in order “to accept that there are situations, such as the risk of state failure, when both the interests of the partner country and the EU’s interests demand more engagement regardless of the level of reform.”

– There is a need to work more closely with the intelligence, military, security and border management services of member states. There is also a need to mobilise all policy instruments like trade, financial and development assistance.

– The requirement to undertake fundamental political and economic reforms to achieve “deep and comprehensive free trade agreements” (DCFTAs) should be reined in. In a situation where states are collapsing, huge numbers of refugees are moving across borders, unorganised migration is a concern and youth are being recruited to join terrorist organisations a different set of instruments is needed.

– The ENP branding should be dropped in favour of a “differentiated approach” or “targeted policies” with dedicated strategies for each country or group of countries.

– There is a need to work more with regional organisations, take more regional initiatives and strengthen capacity to work on crisis management and humanitarian assistance.

– The EU management structure should be changed, bringing the ENP under the wing of the high representative (it is now shared between her and the European commissioner for enlargement and the ENP). Another idea is to appoint a new commissioner for non-EU European countries.

Arab critics of these proposals see them as deficient in five key ways. First, they are Eurocentric approaches, since Mediterranean initiatives, designed mainly by EU institutions and members, seem to be more focused on EU policy towards other regions than reflecting a jointly conceptualised and implemented framework.

The concepts, terminology, review processes and critiques used are all Eurocentric. Second, the calls for involving the US, Turkey, Israel, the GCC and “other interested states” in redesigning the ENP do not clarify the process or criteria for identifying the non-EU parties that should be consulted or involved.

Third, countries like Morocco and Tunisia, for understandable reasons, are interested in going their own way rather than being hindered by instability in other parts of the region. Fourth, there is no emphasis on problem-solving or a European role for addressing problems in the Mediterranean, particularly the Palestinian issue, when there is the assumption that closer cooperation can be forged with Israel, irrespective of its policies.

Fifth, there are questions to be answered that may be different from the ones addressed in a Eurocentric review. What should the Arab region be seeking from the northern Mediterranean (both EU and non-EU) at this time?

What kind of understanding should be sought in the light of difficulties faced in the post-Arab Spring era, with transition processes facing setbacks? Where should the ENP be directed on issues like support for democracy, human rights and civil-society groups?

How should the ENP reflect shifts in European thinking on Israel, as in the cases of Sweden and France? What kind of EU action is needed in the face of growing threats from nonstate actors (like Islamic State, AQIM, AQAP, Al-Shabab and Boko Haram)?

How should the role of the Gulf be viewed in contrast to that of the EU and US at a time of such uncertain politics and a likely declining future for the volume of both Gulf and EU resources in the coming decade?

What position should the Arab states take in response to increased restrictions in Europe over south-to-north migration? How should the ENP deal with the rise of xenophobia, negative images of Islam and the advance of extreme right-wing groups in Europe, as well as the negative perceptions of the West in the Arab world?

AN ARAB POINT OF VIEW: Earlier this year, the EU issued a “green paper” to solicit ideas for redesigning the future ENP. Two meetings were held with Arab countries in Barcelona and Beirut. Civil society organisations were invited to present their views by the end of last June.

Despite efforts to present a coordinated point of view, Arab inputs appeared to be late, lacked creativity and generally accepted that the ENP should be shaped by the dominant EU side rather than through a process of dialogue and consensus.

The Arab partners fell into three different groups: countries that want to push back against the EU bid to promote democracy, human rights and the role of civil society; those that want to forge ahead with closer relations with the EU (mostly North Africans), irrespective of the complex problems of the “Arabs of the East”; and countries that play it by ear and are ready to go with the flow.

It has been proposed that the Arab League form a committee of the wise to review the ENP and present a new set of strategic ideas. Arab think tanks and prominent persons should also be invited to debate the objectives and mechanisms for building peace and prosperity around the Mediterranean.

And in the future, there should be a sharper focus on joint projects that promote education, health and peace. None of these ideas were heeded, and the routine intergovernmental processes have continued, losing opportunities and repeating old songs.

The writer is director of Development Works International and a board member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

Continue reading

‘You Stink’ (Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt))

It was a stroke of genius that Lebanon’s young protesters named their movement “You Stink.” In just two words they captured both the essence of their country’s immediate crisis over uncollected garbage and its longer-term structural problems.

For months now, trash has piled up in Lebanon’s cities while the country’s politicos dickered over awarding contracts for collection and disposal. It’s summer and the smell of rotting waste is everywhere. But as the protesters correctly note, this mess is only a sign of the deeper rot that is Lebanon’s corrupt and now paralysed sectarian political system.

Parliament doesn’t meet, can’t muster the votes needed to elect a new president (the post has been vacant for almost two years), hasn’t passed a budget in a decade and has twice extended its mandate because it can’t agree on how to run the next elections.

One might say that Lebanon is the American Conservatives’ dream, the embodiment of their mantra, “The government that governs least, governs best” — that is, until you smell the garbage.

In the absence of effective state institutions, power and privilege reside in the country’s clans and sects and the feudal chiefs who run them. In a perverse way, this weak state and the agreed upon distribution of power and patronage served, for a time, as a source of Lebanon’s resilience. It provided members of each sect a degree of access and patronage, and absorbed their discontent.

This system became ossified, but remained “the only game in town.” Interference from Israelis, Syrians and Palestinians, at different times in Lebanon’s history, created unbearable pressures that severely tested this fragile order by distorting the country’s demographics, communal relations, balance of power and its ability to provide basic services for its citizens.

This is such a moment. The bloody war next door has inflamed passions, directly involved some Lebanese (most notably Hezbollah), and brought one and a half million Syrian refugees into Lebanon, placing severe stress on the country’s resources and decaying political system.

Observers have been surprised that, even with these pressures, Lebanon has remained remarkably calm. Until now. “You Stink” is the first eruption of mass discontent.

Lebanon’s problems are so deep, however, that they will not be solved by mass protests. The sectarian system is too entrenched and, despite Lebanon’s vibrant political culture and relative freedoms, there is a marked absence of nonsectarian national political institutions that can be vehicles for needed change.

But there is something to build on. In analysing polls we have conducted in Lebanon over the past decade and a half, I have noted a remarkable convergence of views across sectarian lines that could form the basis for a broad-based movement for fundamental change. There are, to be sure, issues that divide the Lebanese.

But Lebanon is the only Arab country where all demographic groups state that their principle identity is their country, not “being Arab” or religious affiliation. And across sectarian lines, all Lebanese identify the same political priorities: expanding employment opportunities, ending corruption and nepotism, political reform and improving the country’s education and healthcare systems.

Most notably, when asked if they support elections based on the current sectarian distribution or a “one man, one vote” model, majorities of Lebanese, from every group, say they favour the latter approach.

Make no mistake, the existing structures will ultimately find a way to pick up Lebanon’s garbage, but they won’t willingly give up their privilege. What Lebanon needs is a political movement that embraces a nonsectarian national reform agenda, that can mobilise the Lebanese on the issues that unite them, a movement that can field candidates, run in the next parliamentary elections and begin the process of bringing a new generation of leaders to the table.

This is not the time to get dewy eyed, as some writers have done, and celebrate the Arab Spring’s “second wind.” Lebanon is not Egypt (which didn’t turn out so well), nor is it Tunisia. The country does not need nor will benefit from upheaval.

It is too fragile and lacks national institutions that can absorb the shock of a radical overthrowing of the government, such as it is.What Lebanon needs issteady political evolution that can only come from a disciplined national movement with a strategic vision. It will not be easy, nor will change come quickly. But there is really no alternative.

The writer is president of the Arab American Institute.

Continue reading

Pakistan press India for cricket series (Regional Times (Pakistan))

Pakistan’s cricket chief Wednesday wrote a letter to the Indian cricket board secretary pressing him for an update on a proposed series between the arch rivals in December this year.

A two Tests, five one-day and one Twenty20 series in United Arab Emirates is shrouded in uncertainty with volatile relations between Pakistan and India.

The two countries have not played a full series against each other since 2007, though Pakistan toured India for a short series in December 2012.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan told he had written to Anurag Thakur, secretary of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

“I have written a letter to Mr Thakur, in the main saying that cricket and politics should be kept apart,” Khan told.

“I am positive that the BCCI shall be able to convince the Indian government that it ought to honour its MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the PCB,” he added.

Last year PCB and BCCI had signed a MoU under which they were scheduled to play six series in the 2015-2023 Future Tours Programme, but all were subject to clearance from New Delhi.

Khan, a former foreign secretary and a career diplomat, said that strained relations should not affect cricket.

“While relations between Pakistan and India have seen its share of ups and downs, cricket should be kept out of it,” he said.

Thakur has previously said that the countries´ cricket teams should not meet while relations between the South Asian neighbours remain fraught, saying cricket cannot be played with bullets.

“On one hand there is a rise in terrorist activity, on the other you can´t expect to play a cricket series with Pakistan,” Thakur said in July.

But last week Thakur softened his stance, telling a private television channel in Pakistan that a series was possible.

“If situation improves I cannot rule out cricket series in December,” Thakur said. “I toured Pakistan in 2004 and was overwhelmed, and when Pakistan toured India the following year I distributed sweets on their captain´s (Inzamam-ul-Haq) birthday.”

Continue reading

Red Cross: Water being used as weapon of war in Syria (Al Jazeera)

September 2, 2015

Civilians in Aleppo city undergoing huge suffering because of deliberate cuts to water supply, humanitarian agency says.

Civilians in the city of Aleppo are undergoing enormous suffering because of deliberate cuts to water and electricity supplies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said.

About two million people live in the Syrian city but many, on both sides of the frontlines, are having severe difficulty in accessing water, the organisation said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Vital services for the people, such as the water supply, must be kept away from the politics of the Syrian conflict,” said the head of the ICRC delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser.

The water supply in Aleppo depends on the operation of pumping and electricity stations but each is controlled by different warring parties.

The operation of the stations is often used in a way to put pressure on the other side.

“Too often in Syria, water becomes a tool in the hands of fighting parties. It becomes a weapon of war. And it is civilians who suffer the most. Access to water should be unconditional,” said Gasser.

Once home to almost 2.5 million residents and considered Syria’s economic powerhouse, Aleppo has been divided between government and opposition control since shortly after fighting there began in mid-2012.

Al Jazeera’s Omar Yousef, reporting from Aleppo, said water has been cut in both government and rebel-held areas for more than a month and that the different sides continue to trade blame over who is responsible for the lack of water.

A similar situation exists in the capital Damascus, where cutting the water supply has been used as a tactic to by warring parties to exert pressure on the other side, ICRC said. 

Five years of conflict have severely affected the country’s water infrastructure, with as much as half of the total production capacity lost or damaged.

Between January and June 2015, 16 million people across Syria benefited from water projects organised by the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

Continue reading

In 2010, US envoy said Netanyahu lacks ‘generosity of spirit’ (The Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to “lack a generosity of spirit” with regard to peace talks with the Palestinians, and a fear of being considered a “sucker” by his public inhibits him from making concessions and complicates the negotiation process, then-American envoy to Israel Martin Indyk wrote in a 2010 email recently declassified by the US State Department.

“The process of bringing [Netanyahu] down to a reasonable price uses up a lot of energy, uses up a lot of goodwill, humiliates his Palestinian negotiating partner, and raises doubts about his seriousness,” according to Indyk, who served as a senior member of the Brookings Institution at the time the email was sent.

“In the end, under great pressure from all quarters, he will make the final concession, but only after wasting a lot of time, making everybody furious with him, and thereby securing no credit either with his supporters or negotiating partners,” the email continued.

“At heart, he seems to lack a generosity of spirit. This combines with his legendary fear of being seen as a ‘freier’ (sucker) in front of his people to create a real problem in the negotiations, especially because he holds most of the cards.”

Indyk recommended that American officials convey their support for Netanyahu in order to assure that the Middle East peace process moves forward.

“Put your arm around [Netanyahu,] he still thinks we are out to bring him down,” Indyk advised State Department representatives. “There is no substitute for working with him, even though he makes it such a frustrating process.”

He emphasized, however, that “the purpose of embracing [Netanyahu] is to nudge him forward, not to buy into his exaggerated political fears or accept his inflated demands.

“As his friend, paint a realistic picture of the strategic consequences of his negotiating tactics, particularly in terms of what is likely to happen to the PA leadership if he worries only about his politics and not at all about [Mahmoud Abbas’s] politics,” Indyk continued.

“If all else fails, avoid recriminations in favor of a ‘clarifying moment.’ The world will of course blame [Netanyahu]. But you should avoid any kind of finger-pointing in favor of a repeated commitment to a negotiated solution and a willingness to engage with both sides in trying to make that happen, when they’re ready. The Israeli public and the American Jewish Community should know how far [President Barack Obama] was prepared to go and they should be allowed to draw their own conclusions. [Netanyahu], [Abbas], and the Arab states need negotiations and time is not on the side of any of them. They will come back to the table sooner rather than later as long as we keep the door open,” he concluded.

Earlier this year, Indyk, who served as the Obama administration’s special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace in 2013 and 2014, assessed in a interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that Netanyahu suffers from dysfunctional relationships with world leaders, citing tensions between Netanyahu and European leaders otherwise seen as Israel-friendly.

“It’s that mutual lack of trust which has poisoned the relationships,” Indyk said.

Continue reading