Monday, July 14, 2008

Anyone joining the Mediterranean Union?

Working under the big boss..., originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The papers are full of talk about a Mediterranean Union, to match the European Union and also be funded by the EU. This is an initiative of President Sarkozy of France and seeing as France is hosting the EU Presidency this half-year, they have managed to get the respective countries to all meet in Paris, all countries need to have some Mediterranean coastline, which would exclude countries further into Africa like Sudan and Chad.

I am all for international co-operation and bringing Europe closer to Africa and the Middle East, so I really hope this initiative will work. It might help solve the Turkey issue by having Turkey a leading member of the ME rather than a member of the EU, which many people do not want because of the human rights situation there (and all the other reasons, such as an Islamic background/culture and so on).

It is interesting to see that the Presidency of the fledgling MU is being shared by France and Egypt. Egypt is a country with a so-called democracy where the sitting President gets over 90% of the votes every time. Compare this to Mugabe, who only manages around 50% despite cheating, killing and torturing. I suppose the main difference between the two is that Mubarak has not wittingly condemned a large number of his people to hunger and starvation, as has his Zimbabwean counterpart. But this is not a question of democracy vs dictatorship but bad/disastrous dictatorship vs not so bad dictatorship. Just don’t be a blogger in Egypt…

And then we have our friend Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who is also a dictator and it is a matter of opinion whether he is in the good, moderate or bad camp. It depends quite a lot on who you are, I suppose. He was there at the MU meeting, having talks with Israel, as guest of the Turkish Prime Minister, following on their peace process. Of course, there is a lot of noise from the Israelis about not giving up the Golan Heights and not trusting Syria and all that. But would it not be much better for Israel to have peace with Syria and Lebanon as well as the peace they have with Egypt and Jordan? I very much think so, but maybe it is easier to say this at a distance without any particular personal experience. Will the US let it happen?

So, while we are on the subject of democracy vs dictatorship, how wonderful is democracy when it brings in governments in Israel, one after the other, which encourage and perpetuate the crimes against the Palestinian people, degrading them, stealing their (best) land and building walls to keep them out and obstruct them from going about their work and lives, imposing sanctions and stopping them for even exporting the few surplus products?

Back in Syria, and I know we are jumping around here, we read an article in the NRC which called Syria the Cuba of the Middle East, given its closure to many American multi-nationals (more probably because the US government forbids them from selling into Syria than the other way around). The BBC reckons that Assad wants to end his international isolation in order to attract money and investment from the US. If this is so, then I think he is treading a very sticky path. He will get hung up by debts and economic policies which will play to the hands of Western interests, the rich will get richer the poor will get poorer and the country will have lots its independence (and charm) as Syria become just like any other American satellite state. Let’s hope the Mediterranean Union can offer an alternative.

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