REPORT on reforms in the Arab world: what strategy should the European Union adopt?

3.4.2007 - (2006/2172(INI))

Committee on Foreign Affairs
Rapporteur: Michel Rocard

Procedure : 2006/2172(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected :  


on reforms in the Arab world: what strategy should the European Union adopt?


The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the policies and strategies adopted by the Commission and Council towards the various countries of the Arab world,

–   having regard to interim report on the Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East, adopted by the European Council in December 2006,

–   having regard to the European strategy for the Arab world presented in 2003 by the EU’s High Representative,

–   having regard to the Commission’s communication to the Council and the European Parliament entitled “Wider Europe – Neighbourhood: A New Framework for Relations with our Eastern and Southern Neighbours” (COM(2003)0104); its Strategy Paper on the European Neighbourhood Policy (COM(2004)0373); its proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down general provisions establishing a European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (COM(2004)0628); its communication to the Council on the Commission proposals for action plans under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) (COM(2004)0795) and the action plans for the countries concerned; and its communication on strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy (COM(2006)0726),

–   having regard to the political priorities of the European presidency of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, formulated on 21 April 2005, which focus on intensifying the dialogue on human rights with the parliaments of the partner countries,

–   having regard to the resolutions of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly adopted at its meetings of 21 November 2005 in Rabat and 27 March 2006 in Brussels,

–   having regard to the reports on human development in the Arab world published in 2002, 2003 and 2005 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and especially the 2004 report ‘Towards freedom in the Arab world’,

–   having regard to its earlier resolutions on the European Union’s Mediterranean policy, in particular its resolution of 12 February 2004 on reinvigorating EU actions on human rights and democratisation with Mediterranean partners, the Five Year Work Programme adopted at the Barcelona Euro-Med Summit on 28 November 2005 and its resolution of 27 October 2005 on the Barcelona process revisited,

–   having regard to the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A6‑0127/2007),

A. whereas the notion of Arab identity, understood as a unifying factor, is perceived and claimed as a shared characteristic by the peoples and states of a vast geographical area stretching from the Maghreb, via the Mashreq and the Middle East, to the Persian Gulf,

B.  whereas this Arab identity, while it manifests itself in varying forms in different real-life situations, be they political (in monarchies, Arab republics, or within the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority), religious (among Sunni including Wahhabi , Alawite, Druze and Shiite Muslims, and Christians of various denominations) or social (in large cities, rural or mountainous areas, and among nomadic peoples), nevertheless displays a number of common, trans-national parameters,

C. whereas the European view of the Arab world is generally confined to an approach based on relations at bilateral or sub-regional level between states, and whereas the EU’s overall strategy towards the Arab world should be revitalised not only by using existing regional organisations (Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council, Arab Maghreb Union), and existing tools and structures (Euromed, Meda Programme, association agreements, European Neighbourhood Policy), but also by strengthening support for non-state actors in the region,

D. whereas the strategy for the Arab world presented in 2003 by the High Representative of the EU was very largely the result of the risks and threats which emerged following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001,

E.  whereas a better and deeper understanding in Europe of the multi-faceted society and cultural diversities in the Arab world is currently necessary so as to bridge the gap between the two shores of the Mediterranean, improve integration policies in the EU Member States and overcome stereotypes and prejudices,

F.  whereas the upheavals caused by the end of the Cold War and of the bi-polar world order not only encouraged aspirations towards emancipation within Arab societies but also spurred on some Arab governments and economic and social forces to take an active part in globalisation and in the multi-polar order,

G. whereas civil society and other stakeholders, long muzzled in the Arab world, are making their presence increasingly felt and are demanding more attention, greater responsibilities and a growing political role,

H. whereas a number of intellectuals, notably Samir Kassir in “Considérations sur le malheur du monde arabe” and Guy Sorman in “Les enfants de Rifaa” have expressed their views on these matters,

I.   whereas earlier experiments with an “Arab renaissance”, understood as attempts at reform, generally ended in failure, and whereas state nationalism has been a considerable hindrance to any project seeking to create Arab unity,

J.   whereas the Final Declaration adopted by the Summit of the Arab League Council held in Tunis on 23 and 24 May 2004 reiterates amongst other things a commitment to reform and modernise its Member States through democratic consolidation and political participation,

K. whereas it is in the common interest of the Arab countries and their European partners that political, economic and social reforms should be initiated with a view to revitalising cooperation, stability and democratisation, and to raising living standards and reducing social disparities, in the region as a whole,

L.  whereas advances in political and economic liberalisation and progress on human rights and in the social and educational fields are the only way to contribute to greater stability in those countries, and whereas, by contrast, resistance to change is not a guarantee of real stability,

M. whereas the contributions made over the past few years by the UN, and in particular by the High-Level Group of the Alliance of Civilisations and by the UNDP, deriving from a close involvement with the different strands of Arab society, need to be translated into real concrete policies,

N. whereas Europe’s relations with the authorities of the countries concerned have for too long been based exclusively on the pursuit of stability and strategic partnership, without taking into account respect by the authorities for universal human rights, thus undermining efforts by civil society actors to reform the various societies from within,

O. whereas it is important to create a framework within which the dialogue between all the various components of the Arab societies can take place freely and openly, in such a way as to bring about, from inside, a genuine reform process,

P.  whereas the Arab Charter on Human Rights adopted in 1994 is an expression of the aspiration to guarantee respect for human rights in the Arab world; regretting, however, that some of its provisions are worded in such a way as to allow differing interpretations,

Q. whereas the Arab movement, as conceived by its founding fathers, is a project which has included the secularisation of societies among its objectives; whereas the current paths of political Islam do not always appear to be providing appropriate answers to the problems of political reform; concerned that the deadlocks in political reform are fuelling radical Islamism and its rhetoric of hatred towards Jews; and whereas the moderation of Islamism depends on both the stability of the institutional framework in which they evolve and the opportunities which the latter offers to influence policy making,

1.  Is convinced that Arab identity is by no means incompatible with the notion of modernity nor with the initiation of serious reforms; considers that the feeling of impotence which underlies the “Arab malaise” can be overcome through a renewed partnership based on understanding, mutual confidence, respect for social and cultural practices and credibility; recalls that the Westernisation of Arab societies is not the most appropriate route to this end and that the notions of democracy, human rights and the Rule of Law are fundamental and universal values which innumerable Muslim authorities and governments have declared to be compatible with Islam;

2.  Welcomes the above-mentioned Commission communication on strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP); regards the ENP as a crucial tool in promoting reform in the EU’s southern and eastern neighbours; expresses disappointment at the proposed amount of the Governance Facility, which it believes should be increased in size in order to ensure effectiveness;

3.  Considers, in view of the inherent limitations of the bilateral, ad-hoc strategies pursued by the EU towards its partner countries over the last few decades, that a fresh boost should be given – in the context of the rationalisation of the EU’s external actions – to the partnership between the EU and its Member States on the one hand and the Arab world as a whole on the other, while targeting very specific cooperation sectors and acting in tandem with existing political structures such as the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, and even with the Maghreb Union, if it is revived; emphasises that engagement with civil society organisations and reform movements at the regional level should be part of this effort, as well as specific cooperation, in particular with those political organisations which promote democracy by non-violent means;

4.  Stresses that the weakness of the reform process in the Arab world is also due to the difficulties and the controversies between some of the Arab countries; takes the view that the EU should make every effort to facilitate the political and economic integration of the Arab countries; notes that, in order to be really influential, the EU should not demonstrate any feeling of superiority or the impression of giving lessons, but should rather make the Euro-Arab dialogue a true dialogue between equals;

5.  Considers that, while it is important that the Euro-Arab relationship include consideration of the need to combat terrorism, it is vital for the effectiveness and substance of that relationship that the fight against terrorism does not overshadow or hold back a host of other topics of common interest, such as economic and social development, employment, sustainable development, proper public administration, the fight against corruption, the development and consolidation of a strong and genuine civil society as the promoter of advances in terms of the democratic system and of tolerance, the fight for gender equality, conservation of the global cultural heritage, inter-cultural dialogue, good governance, free and fair media, political participation and the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, freedom of conscience including religious freedom, freedom of expression and association, the rejection of torture and the abolition of the death penalty, and the rejection of intolerance and fundamentalism, with a view to creating a genuine area of shared peace and prosperity;

6. Calls on Arab countries to combat impunity wherever it occurs and to set up mechanisms of transitional justice, to ensure that the victims of serious human rights violations receive justice and that the people responsible for these crimes are held to account; calls, in the same spirit, on Arab countries to ratify the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court and to sign the International Convention on Enforced Disappearances;

7.  Welcomes the existence of forums for dialogue between the European Union and the Arab world and the numerous cooperation projects and initiatives set up via the Barcelona Process, the Strategic Partnership for the Mediterranean and the Middle East and cooperation with the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG);

8.  Emphasises the role played by the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA) as a democratic body bringing together parliamentarians on both shores of the Mediterranean in the three pillars of the Barcelona Process; calls for a strengthening of cooperation between the EMPA, the Commission and the Council of the European Union; reaffirms that, as the parliamentary institution of the Barcelona Process, the EMPA is available and willing to help in finding a resolution to the Israeli-Arab conflict;

9.  Considers it necessary subsequently to promote the third pillar of the Barcelona Process, namely human and social cooperation, in order to overcome the stereotypes and misunderstandings which prevent a frank and deep rapprochement between the peoples on both shores of the Mediterranean; calls on the actors in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, and particularly on the governments, to support the work of the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures by giving it the substantial resources it needs to consolidate its Network of Networks bringing together more than 1200 bodies and associations working to achieve dialogue in their societies;

10. Calls on the EU and its Member States, as well the entire international community, to develop balanced relations with the countries in the region; points out that unilaterally supporting and condemning certain states more than others can result in polarisation and risks further complicating the already very complicated situation in the Arab world;

11. Believes that efforts to open fresh negotiations with the Arab world should not include persons, organisations and states which condone terrorist activities and deny the State of Israel’s legal right to exist;

12. Notes that Europe is often viewed as being partisan in the Israeli-Arab conflict and that any deepening of Euro-Arab relations will depend on the energy and talent which Europe brings to bear in reconciling its historic duties and responsibilities towards the State of Israel and the Jewish people with its responsibilities to play a more active and effective role by guaranteeing greater respect for international and humanitarian law, so as to achieve a lasting settlement of the conflict, in particular by creating a Palestinian state existing side by side, in peace and security, with the State of Israel;

13. Understands that one of the inherent weaknesses in the Euro-Arab dialogue derives from the lack of legitimacy which sometimes characterises the Arab political interlocutors within their own countries, particularly as a result of their poor democratic, economic and social performance;

14. Calls, therefore, for Europe also to give visible political support to the actors in civil society, in associations and in religious life, and in particular to those political organisations which promote democracy by non-violent means, excluding sectarian forces but including where appropriate moderate Islamists and secular actors whom Europe has encouraged to participate in the democratic process, thus striking a balance between culture-based perceptions and political pragmatism; believes that the success of such support critically depends on a thorough understanding of political and social structures and developments and the ability to act in accordance with local political dynamics; considers that inter-cultural dialogue can only be revived through the affirmation of a common and universal basis of human values which transcends dogmas and community allegiances, in accordance with the proposals on the dialogue of civilisations and with all UN initiatives on this subject;

15. Resolutely endorses, therefore, the need for the European Union to engage in a wide-ranging cultural dialogue to encourage its Arab interlocutors to embrace the Union’s fundamental values (the rule of law, human rights, democracy, etc) while taking differing cultural and political perceptions into account;

16. Notes the limited progress made in liberalising inter-Arab trade and in strengthening the private sector; calls on the Commission and the Council to redouble their efforts to encourage the sustainable and equitable economic development of the Arab countries, seeking to reduce inequalities through structural and social policies which limit the harmful social effects of economic reforms; supports the economic integration of the Arab countries, particularly in essential markets such as energy and telecommunications, with a view to generating a dynamic development process which will favour other sectors, and at the same time to put in place policies aimed at encouraging reform, subject to precise and limited technical and political conditions; welcomes the efforts made to create a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area and welcomes the Agadir Agreement, which promotes intra-regional trade; looks forward to the conclusion of the EU-Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Agreement;

17. Notes that, with regard to political reforms and the progress of democracy, the situations in the Arab world are very diverse and that it is therefore not appropriate to establish uniform models;

18. Hopes that those Arab countries which have not yet done so will commit themselves more fully to religious freedom, or to the right of individuals and communities to freely profess their beliefs and practise their faith; on this point, the testimony of millions of Muslims living in Europe should help the Arab countries to implement on the domestic scene the consistent principle of reciprocity which underlies international relations;

19. Stresses that supporting the development of civil society and respect for fundamental rights particularly those relating to the freedom of expression and religion, must not be confused with the choice of regime nor with the procedures for choosing leaders; stresses the need to monitor developments in the region whilst respecting the will of the people and taking into account cultural, historical and political differences; notes that the will of the people, in its various forms, may differ from what is accepted in Europe, and that any attempt to align it with European models by force may accordingly prove counter-productive; stresses that in order for change to be legitimate it must be adopted and supported by the peoples concerned;

20. Hopes in particular for greater awareness of the role of women and female emancipation in civil and political society;

21. Urges the Arab League to revise and clarify certain of the provisions of the Arab Charter on Human Rights and to develop mechanisms making it possible to monitor compliance with the Charter’s provisions in the signatory states;

22. Points out that strengthening democracy and the Rule of Law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are among the European Union’s foreign policy objectives and that it is therefore fair and consistent to wish to pursue an ambitious human rights policy based on compliance with the human rights and democracy clause in the agreements and on a structured and in-depth political dialogue in this area; points out at the same time that the Arab countries have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, thereby undertaking to ensure respect for these rights in their respective countries;

23. Calls on the Commission to give more encouragement in the Arab world to respect for the principle of the Rule of Law and the legal reform movement, which should be undertaken with due regard for the values deriving from the universal system of human rights, a political reform seeking to legalise the action of opposition movements on the basis of the existing institutions – without seeking to undermine the validity of those institutions – in line with the action plans under the European Union’s neighbourhood policy and the decisions taken in the context of the Barcelona Process; encourages the Commission to make full use of the possibilities offered by the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) to support civil society and political reform movements in the region;

24. Calls on the Commission therefore to give appropriate support to all the actors of the reform movement in the Arab world, to involve state actors and civil society actors, and to give its support to the creation of common Arab institutions, particularly parliamentary institutions; calls on the Commission also to devise a regular formal mechanism for consultation and monitoring, with the League of Arab States, at the highest level and, by subsidiarity, in all areas of common interest; calls for the European Union and the League of Arab States to hold regular summits with a view to developing common agendas and areas of work;

25. Notes the importance and encourages the role of new media in the dissemination of democratic values in the Arab world and in the creation of a pan-Arab public sphere characterised by debate and the meeting of ideas; emphasises in this regard the need to start broadcasting Euronews programmes in Arabic and Farsi;

26. Calls on the Commission, the Council and the Member States to encourage exchanges of students, teachers, academics and researchers between the EU and Arab countries and to facilitate those exchanges through an adapted and more flexible visa regime;

27. Calls on the Commission to encourage, using all available means, university and scientific research in the Arab world and to promote the implementation of an ambitious publishing policy with a view to developing the publication and translation of scientific and literary works at prices that are accessible to everyone;

28. Calls on the Commission to support initiatives aimed at combating corruption in the Arab world, in particular by introducing clear rules on the appointment of civil servants;

29. Considers that, as in the recent case of the Paris III Conference for Lebanon, the European Union’s financial aid could be the most effective and reliable means of ensuring the visible presence of the Union and its Member States through the provision of strategic and conditional support for reforms in the Arab world, with due respect to existing agreements and the local political situation at state or regional level;

30. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the governments and parliaments of the Arab countries.


While the Arab world confronts reforms, the role of the European Union is to encourage, engage and assist

Shortly before he was murdered in June 2005, the Lebanese intellectual and political journalist Samir Kassir published a short work which was stimulating, incisive and made no concessions, entitled “Considérations sur le malheur arabe” [Thoughts on the Arab malaise[1]]. Clearly there is an Arab malaise: it affects each of the countries in that vast community, it also affects the internal organisation of that community and its potential relations with the outside world, particularly with the European Union, its most important and closest partner and neighbour.

Our first task is to take stock of the current situation of the Arab world in relation to the international community and the European Union. Next we will consider whether there is really such a thing as an Arab community, and if so how best to define it and how it works. Only then can we start to consider a possible European support strategy for the Arab world and Arab societies.

1. The Arab world in relation to the international community and the European Union

There is a degree of ambiguity in the way in which Arabs speak of themselves and of their community. Verbal references to Arab unity are frequent, but for the present each of the Arab states remain in sole charge of its own diplomacy and external actions. For some of them the reference to Arab unity mainly expresses a cultural aspiration.

Nevertheless the Arab world does have a considerable international presence and influence. It is clear that there is now such a thing as Arab public opinion, largely formed by shared mass media. It is in the light of this situation that we must place the issue of how the Arab world is perceived by the European Union.

1.1. The international presence of the Arab world

This presence manifests itself in two main forms: in the League of Arab States and its activities, and in the holding of occasional meetings confined to the Arab states.

The League of Arab States was founded in 1945 by six states, which were joined by Yemen three months later. Now there are 22, including the Palestinian Authority. It is the oldest of the regional organisations set up after the creation of the UN. Meetings of the heads of the Arab states are held annually, and a Council of Ministers meets twice a year. Decisions are taken by unanimity. In addition to the Council of Heads of State, the Defence Council and the Economic Council have taken on an important role. The Secretary-General, elected for a renewable 5-year term, manages the functioning of the League and its standing committees, and his diplomacy is exercised in terms of influence.

The League of Arab States is internationally recognised. The European Union and its Member States receive visits from the Secretary-General and visit him in return. Of particular note was the visit in February 2006 by H.E. Amr Moussa to the European institutions in Brussels, including the European Parliament. Though it is sometimes seen as a relic of the Cold War, in fact its current leaders have succeeded in modifying the League’s image, thus boosting its credibility and indeed its legitimacy on the major questions which concern and preoccupy the Arab world, chief among which are the conflicts and instability in the Middle East.

The other high points in the common life of the Arab world are the conferences of Heads of State. The League organises these meetings, but does not inspire their content. The conferences often reveal the very deep rifts within this community.

The most important of these conferences were that of 1964 which created the Palestine Liberation Organisation, that of 1974 which made the PLO a full member of the League, and that of 1978 which decided to expel Egypt following the Camp David agreements and move the seat of the League from Cairo. In 1982, in Fez (Morocco) the first Arab summit was held to consider the Israel-Palestine problem from a political point of view with the possibility of opening negotiations at some time in the future. In 1990, Egypt was reinstated and the seat of the League returned to Cairo.

In Sana’a in January 2004 the first Arab summit was held devoted to democracy and human rights. Again in 2004, in March, the Secretary-General of the League took the initiative of publishing a document entitled "Arab reform: its cause, visions and implementation". It should be noted that the collective defence pact, included in the rules of the League, has never been applied, either during the Suez crisis or during any of the Arab-Israeli wars.

On the other hand the existence of an Arab Charter of Human Rights, adopted in 1994, and subjected to a major update in 2003, should not be forgotten: this was an important event and gave real support to democratic forces in the different Arab countries.

Finally, while the Arab countries seek to converge in their voting in the UN, they by no means always succeed in doing so.

1.2. The European Union and the Arab world

The phrase “the Arab world” appears frequently in the speeches of the EU’s leaders. On the other hand, it is not surprising that expressions such as “the Arab nation” or “Arab unity” are never used.

In fact, we have purely formal and very distant relations with the League of Arab State and its Secretary-General, which have never been reflected in any kind of concrete action.

Consequently, in terms of practical politics, the EU’s contacts take the form of direct relations with each of the Arab states. For us, the Arab world is completely fragmented. We are aware of the Maghreb, but since the “Union of the Arab Maghreb" has totally faded from the scene, bilateral relations are entirely predominant in this area. In the same way, we deal separately with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Arab peninsula.

Nevertheless, there has been in the EU a constant and increasing desire – at least as reflected in successive strategy documents in recent years – to encourage the processes of regional and sub-regional integration within the Arab world. This has been manifested, for example, in the mechanisms of the Barcelona process, or via the MEDA programme; and now, through the new financial instrument of the neighbourhood policy, the EU is endeavouring – admittedly with limited success at present – to promote transversal and trans-national South-South projects. The same is true of the deepening of relations, particularly economic relations, with the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The main problem, however, lies in the culture-based and often ethnocentric approach with which the EU tries to promote change. The underlying objectives of this approach are praiseworthy and generally unimpeachable: the development of democracy and proper public administration, the promotion of and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, national and regional political stability aimed at fruitful cooperation, controlled economic development and shared prosperity. However, we should take care not to transform the technical and political conditions, which are legitimate in themselves and which go hand in hand with policies to promote reform, unthinkingly into conditions which affect the mechanisms of power and disregard concepts of legitimacy which differ from our own, conditions which may in the long term prove to be counter-productive.

2. Is there really such a thing as the Arab community?

2.1. History, attempts at reform and entrenchment of national autonomy

According to Samir Kassir, Arab history reads like an accumulation of cultural diversities. Consequently, this heritage sometimes provides reference points and legitimacy, even today, for the most contradictory systems of ideas. It is well known to what extent the Arab world is marked by recurrent fragmentation in spite of the desires and attempts – whether utopian or realistic, even in very recent history – to achieve total or partial unity: Syrian-Egyptian unity, the AMU, the 1957 commission on Arab economic unity, the ambitions of the Baath party, the dreams of Libya. For a long time nationalism was striding forward, and was seen as the only true guiding light of any reform project, at the expense of inter-Arab relations or Arabism, which were seen as more of a hindrance.

Nevertheless it would seem that, although it manifests itself differently in different real-life situations, a certain Arab identity, understood as a unifying factor and governed by its own parameters, is perceived as a common characteristic by the Arab peoples of the whole geographical area from the Maghreb to Iraq. This Arab identity, which is generally seen as a chiefly cultural factor, is claimed more and more as a political instrument by emerging civil societies, as witness for example the creation of modern mass media which are actively contributing to the development of a pan-Arab public sphere, or the excellent UNDP reports on Arab development, which result from a critical and constructive self-analysis carried out by Arab societies themselves.

2.2. Exchanges, interactions and universalisation

Prospects of economic integration in the Arab world, which for years were limited or non-existent, are now being revived, and the first signs are encouraging. For example, inter-Arab trade has doubled over the past 20 years, although it remains at a very low level. Exports – despite the boon of oil, which distorts the picture – have also increased, even though the industrial base remains very poorly diversified. We are seeing a transformation from a highly verticalised economy (in which trade was dominated by Europe) to the beginnings of sub-regionalisation. For example, 58% of the Gulf States’ exports go to other Gulf States, and the same is true of 57.2% of trade in the Maghreb.

Progress on the cultural level is well known. Globalisation and multi-polarity have not spared the Arab world. Arab societies are now making their desire for emancipation felt and are demanding a political role tailored to their needs. Without denying cultural diversity, it is certain now that the essentially human and universal rights and values are increasingly widely accepted, including by innumerable Muslim authorities which have declared them to be compatible with Islam.

3.        Towards a European strategy to support Arab development

A few main policy guidelines may be highlighted which are set out in greater detail in the attached motion for a resolution.

3.1         In spite of many reverses, the 20th century brought the Arab world a number of benefits which have enabled Arab societies to participate in the world market. Arab renaissance does not necessarily mean Westernisation, but it does mean the acceptance of democratic values as a shared heritage of mankind. This is where cultural dialogue can be useful and fruitful.

3.2.        While it is true that reforms seek to give Arab societies ownership of their destiny, it is through a process of ownership that these reforms should be initiated. The aim is not in any sense to question the existing order in a fundamental way, but rather to engender independent and indigenous dynamic processes in various sectors of society (justice, administration, education, higher education and research, etc.) on the basis of existing institutions, and in the context of cooperation programmes such as the European neighbourhood programme, together with its action plans.

3.3.        On both sides an effort is urgently needed to put an end to the ambiguities which encourage a culture-based process of confrontation, so as to develop normal relations between states and normal civil societies. While on the one hand no concessions are possible on the acquis international in its various forms such as the UN Charter or the rules of the WTO, it would be courageous and salutary for Europe to strike a balance between its culture-based perceptions and political pragmatism. While in no way denying Europe’s historic duty and responsibilities towards Israel, it is clear that Euro-Arab relations will be all the more fruitful, credible and legitimate if Europe takes on a wider range of Arab interlocutors, giving particular attention and visible political support to actors in civil society, associations and religious life, including the non-radical Islamists whom it has encouraged to participate in the democratic process. Similarly it would help the quality of dialogue if a clearer distinction were to be drawn between on the one hand respect for human rights and freedom of expression, which are intangible universal principles, and on the other hand changes to the mechanisms for the devolution of power, which are much more closely linked to history and local traditions.



Reforms in the Arab world: what strategy should the European Union adopt?

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Enhanced cooperation
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Michel Rocard


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Members present for the final vote

Roberta Alma Anastase, Robert Atkins, Christopher Beazley, Panagiotis Beglitis, Bastiaan Belder, Vito Bonsignore, Elmar Brok, Marco Cappato, Simon Coveney, Véronique De Keyser, Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos, Hélène Flautre, Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka, Michael Gahler, Jas Gawronski, Bronisław Geremek, Maciej Marian Giertych, Ana Maria Gomes, Alfred Gomolka, Richard Howitt, Jana Hybášková, Anna Ibrisagic, Jelko Kacin, Ioannis Kasoulides, Helmut Kuhne, Vytautas Landsbergis, Willy Meyer Pleite, Eugen Mihăescu, Francisco José Millán Mon, Philippe Morillon, Pasqualina Napoletano, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, Vural Öger, Ioan Mircea Paşcu, Tobias Pflüger, João de Deus Pinheiro, Bernd Posselt, Michel Rocard, Raül Romeva i Rueda, Libor Rouček, Katrin Saks, José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, György Schöpflin, Hannes Swoboda, István Szent-Iványi, Antonio Tajani, Charles Tannock, Inese Vaidere,Geoffrey Van Orden, Ari Vatanen, Kristian Vigenin, Josef Zieleniec

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Laima Liucija Andrikienė, Giulietto Chiesa, Konstantin Dimitrov, Alexandra Dobolyi, Árpád Duka-Zólyomi, Kinga Gál, David Hammerstein Mintz, Milan Horáček, Anneli Jäätteenmäki, Gisela Kallenbach, Tunne Kelam, Evgeni Kirilov, Jaromír Kohlíček, Miloš Koterec, Marios Matsakis, Antonyia Parvanova, Rihards Pīks, Aloyzas Sakalas

Substitute(s) under Rule 178(2) present for the final vote


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  • [1]  Translator’s note: The book has been translated under the title “Being Arab”.