Category Archives: Mediterranean Union

Al Jazeera Forum: Arab revolts herald a New World Order

The Peninsula | Mar 13, 2011


The revolutions taking place in the Arab world could herald a new international order and change the relations between countries, the sixth Al Jazeera Annual Forum here was told yesterday.

This year’s Forum held in the backdrop of the mass revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and several other Arab countries is aptly themed “The Arab world in transition—Has the future arrived?”.

Several leading thinkers, intellectuals and politicians from the Arab and Islamic world are attending the three-day event, along with experts from the US and Europe.

A major attraction of the Forum is the presence of a number of youth activists from Egypt and Tunisia who played an active role in the successful mass uprising in those countries.

The opening session of the conference featured a prominent Islamist leader from Tunisia, Rachid Al Ghannouchi, president of the Al Nahda Party, who returned to his country last month, after spending decades in exile in Europe.

The session titled “Winds of change in the Arab world” also saw leading writers and intellectuals from the West and the Arab world including Abdel Bari Atwan, Oliver McTernan and John L Esposito. The interactive session was moderated by Dr Abdul Rafeeq Salam.

Ghannouchi said the revolution had changed the image of the entire Arab nation, who had been branded as passive and backward.

“The revolution became a necessity because people had no other option to get rid of their corrupt and dictatorial regimes, who had made the countries the private properties of the ruling families,” said Ghannouchi.

He said the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia underestimated the value of the people and the youth. The conflict was not between Islamists and secularists. It was a struggle between the people and the regimes. The revolution became a success because all the people united under a common goal.

“The revolution has changed the momentum all over the Arab world. Some regimes are now talking about changing to a constitutional monarchy. A change from absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy itself is a revolution. It is not just a reform,” said Ghannouchi.

He said there was no need of worrying about the future of the revolution. The youth who has brought the revolution are also capable of guarding it.

Key element

A key element of this revolution is that it had united all segments and ideological groups in the Arab society. New democratic institutions will emerge in these countries based on justice, trust and pluralism. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups are also realising the importance of such a political framework, noted Ghannouchi.

McTernan said the depth of the changes in the Arab world was not yet realised.

“This marks the end of the colonial era. The neo-colonial structure in Arab countries is crumbling. This will redefine relationships and bring a new international order,” said McTernan.

He said the revolts represented an innate quest for dignity by people who suffered from decades of grievances.

Atwan was vehemently critical about the western attitude toward the Arab revolts, which he termed hypocritical.

British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Tahrir Square and declared solidarity with the protesters. His next stop was Abu Dhabi, where he visited an arms exhibition and negotiated arms deals with governments in the region. This is ironic, said Atwan.

During the days of the revolution, the US used its veto power to defeat a UN resolution calling for a freeze of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

He said a military intervention by the US or the Nato in Libya would have grave consequences on the region.

He felt that the Libyan people were capable of defeating their regime, if they get support from other Arab countries.

He urged the Arab League to come out with an aid package to support other Arab countries in the same way the Gulf countries announced a $20bn development aid for Oman and Bahrain.

Atwan said the US and Europe were looking at the developments in each Arab country from the perspective of their national interests.

“In Libya, their concern is oil while in Egypt, it is Israel and the Camp David Accord. When it comes to Yemen, their problem is Al Qaeda,” he said, concluding that the policies of the West toward Arab revolutions had not been driven by respect for human rights or democratic values.

Esposito said the changes in the Arab world had stressed the need for a new framework and a new mind set for the US and the Europe. He, however, added that current leaders would not be able to change the paradigms that they had been used to for several decades.

“If a miracle happens in the Arab world, as result of the current developments, it may lead to a miracle in the US policy toward Israel and Palestine,” said Esposito.

In the question and answer session, several participants shared their concern about the future of the revolution and wondered how stable democratic institutions would develop in the Arab world in the absence of a clear political ideology and leadership.

If Gaddafi succeeds in crushing the revolts in Libya, it could have a negative impact on the momentum that the mass protests have been gaining  all over the Arab world.

A youth representative called on the Arabs to go and support the Libyans, instead of wasting time on meetings and deliberations.

Arab League asks U.N. for no-fly zone over Libya

Egypt- and Tunisia-inspired protests spread through Middle East, North Africa: Motivated by recent shows of political strength by neighbors in Egypt, demonstrators in the Middle East and North Africa are taking to the streets of many cities to rally for change. | Mar 12, 2011

By Richard Leiby and Muhammad Mansour

CAIRO — The Arab League called on the U.N. Security Council on Saturday to immediately impose a no-fly zone over Libya and announced that it was recognizing the rebel movement as that country’s legitimate government.

The move could significantly raise pressure on the United States and European nations to act in response to the conflict that has erupted in recent weeks as rebels have seized half of Libya and Col. Moammar Gaddafi’s security forces have struck back with massive firepower. NATO has said an Arab endorsement of the no-fly zone was a precondition for taking such action.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa announced the league’s decision in Cairo on Saturday evening, describing the no fly-zone as a “preventive measure” whose chief goal is to “protect Libyan citizens.”

“The main priority right now is to stop the deadly situation,” Moussa said.


In a statement, the White House said Saturday that “we welcome this important step by the Arab League, which strengthens the international pressure on Gaddafi and support for the Libyan people.”

“The international community is unified in sending a clear message that the violence in Libya must stop, and that the Gaddafi regime must be held accountable,” the statement said. “The United States will continue to advance our efforts to pressure Gaddafi, to support the Libyan opposition, and to prepare for all contingencies, in close coordination with our international partners.”

The Arab League’s decision came after 51 / 2 hours of closed-door deliberations by the foreign ministers of 21 nations. Representatives of Gaddafi’s government, which the league had suspended this month as a member, were not invited.

Addressing a packed news conference at the league’s headquarters, Moussa also said the Arab League would begin working immediately with an interim council established by rebels in the eastern city of Benghazi.

To buttress their extraordinary request for international military action against one of their own members, the ministers issued as statement saying the measure was also needed to “maintain the safety and sovereignty of neighboring nations.”

In declaring Gaddafi’s regime illegitimate, Moussa referred to a section of the statement that cited “the fatal violations and serious crimes at the hands of Libyan authorities that make [the government] illegal.”

Moussa, who this week declared he would run for president of Egypt, seemed determined at the briefing to avoid describing the no-fly zone in military terms, although such an operation could require aircraft enforcing the zone to engage Libyan aircraft in combat.

Gaddafi is just one of the autocratic leaders who have become targets of popular uprisings throughout the region. But taking action against him does not open the door to other military intercession, said Oman’s foreign minister, Yusuf bin Alawi Abdullah, who joined Moussa at the briefing.

“We refuse any foreign intervention in any Arab affairs,” he said when asked whether the resolution could be applied to other Arab states.

Outside the league’s headquarters on Tahrir Square, Egyptians and Libyans waved signs describing Gaddafi as a genocidal butcher and displaying grisly photos of dead Libyans. But they also expressed wariness about any Western military involvement in the conflict. “We are not calling for American intervention,” said Omar Mohamed, a 21-year-old student. “But they should give weapons to the rebel fighters.”

Officials of Libya’s so-called government in waiting welcomed the Arab League’s endorsement of a no-fly zone and said they hoped the United States and other Western powers will follow, adding pressure on the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone. Western powers have stressed they would not take military action unless they had the approval of Libya’s neighbors.

“We hope the Europeans will deliver now. This changes things a lot,” said Mustafa Gheriani, a spokesman for the Libyan National Council, the provisional leadership running eastern Libya. “We hope it will change the American position, but most of all the European position.”

Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, vice chairman of the Libyan National Council, said that if a no-fly zone is imposed, the rebels will prevail over Gaddafi’s forces. But he warned that if Western powers do not take military action, the rebels were prepared to purchase more weapons from other countries to protect their revolution.

“If the international community chooses to play the role of bystander, with Libyan cities being destroyed and Libyan people being killed, then we will have to defend ourselves on our own,” Ghoga said. “If no steps are taken, we have to take the decision to arm ourselves as best as we can.”

Ghoga said the rebels have made contacts with other nations that might provide them with weapons, if needed, although he declined to name those countries.

Mediterranean Union Chooses Royal Palace in Barcelona as Headquarters


The headquarters will now be housed in the Palace of Pedralbes

Deutsche Welle | Nov 4, 2008

The Spanish port city of Barcelona will become the headquarters for the Mediterranean Union, it was announced on Tuesday.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Aboul Gheit announced the location of the new union’s main office on Tuesday, Nov. 4, in Marseille.

Agreement on what had been a bone of contention among the 43 members of the union was reached during the two-day meeting of foreign ministers and other representatives from European Union members and Mediterranean states.

The meeting was held in the French city of Marseille because France currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency.

Royal accommodations

Malta and the Tunisian capital, Tunis, had also been in the running to host the group’s secretariat, which will bring status and jobs to the city. Tunis, the early favorite, might have proved too controversial because of the country’s dubious human rights record.

The headquarters will now be housed in the 17th-century Palace of Pedralbes, on the grounds of which stands a fountain created by the legendary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.

Arab League won’t get a vote

Kouchner said the foreign ministers had also agreed to allow the Arab League to participate at all future meetings of the group, but without any voting rights.

“The role of the Arab League was a particularly hard nut to crack,” the French foreign minister told journalists.

Egypt’s Gheit, however, called the decision to allow the Arab League to sit in on meetings “a historic moment.”

Israel had lobbied against a more influential role for the Arab League, and reminded delegates to the meeting that not all of its members were situated on the Mediterranean.

France, Egypt to act as co-presidents

France and Egypt are to hold the union’s co-presidency for two years, even though the Czech Republic will assume the EU presidency on Jan. 1.

“We need stability,” Kouchner said.

It was also decided that the Union for the Mediterranean’s general secretary is to come from a southern country, and that he or she would have five deputies, including one Palestinian and one Israeli.

The post was not filled, but Kouchner suggested that a Tunisian could be named.

Mediterranean Union Sets Example for European Union

Estonia: Mediterranean Union Sets Example for European Union Co-operation with Eastern Neighbours

ISRIA | Nov 5, 2008

Foreign Minister Urmas Paet participated in the meeting of the Mediterranean Union foreign ministers that took place on Tuesday, 4 November in Marseille, France. The foreign policy leaders talked about the future of Mediterranean Union co-operation.

To advance the Middle East peace process and accelerate co-operation in the region, the ministers approved the greater involvement of the League of Arab States in Mediterranean Union co-operation. “The Arab League plays a vital role in advancing the Middle East peace process, and including the League in Mediterranean Union co-operation will strengthen partnership and help with ensuring stability,” said Foreign Minister Urmas Paet.

According to the Estonian foreign minister, co-operation with states on the southern and eastern banks of the Mediterranean sets a good example for European Union co-operation with its neighbours to the east. “Positive developments in the co-operation between the European Union and its Mediterranean partners creates a good situation for implementing a similar model with the European Union’s eastern partners, especially Ukraine and Georgia, for their more rapid integration into European Union co-operation structures,” said Foreign Minister Paet.

The foreign ministers agreed to establish the Mediterranean Union Secretariat in Barcelona. The European Union’s partnership with the countries on the southern bank of the Mediterranean, which was established in Barcelona in 1995, was the foundation for the creation of the Mediterranean Union in the summer of this year.

The ministers also discussed the implementation of Mediterranean Union projects. At the Paris summit on 13 June 2008, it was agreed to initiate co-operation projects for reducing pollution in the Mediterranean Sea, developing sea traffic and land transport, using solar energy, protecting citizens in the case of a natural disaster, promoting higher education, and supporting small businesses.

The Mediterranean Union includes all European Union member states and countries along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Foreign Minister Paet also met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan in Marseille yesterday. At the meeting, they discussed the status of Turkey’s accession negotiations with the European Union.