Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1345, (18 - 24 May 2017)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1345, (18 - 24 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Regional visions

Mohamed Abdel-Baky attends a panel discussion on the future of Europe held in Cairo

Regional visions
Regional visions

European and Egyptian intellectuals met earlier this week at the Egyptian Academy of Sciences in Cairo for a panel discussion titled “The Future of Europe”. Participants included Mustafa Al-Feki, the new director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina; Amr Moussa, former secretary-general of the Arab League; Boris Tadic, former president of Latvia; Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, former president of Serbia; Rexhep Meidani, former president of Albania and Zlatko Lagumdzija, former president of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The last four are all members of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s board of trustees.

Ismail Serageddin, the former director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, moderated the sessions which addressed political and economic changes taking place in Europe.  

“Europe is facing unprecedented developments including Brexit and the recent French elections, the upcoming German elections and a recession in the European economy,” Serageddin said.

Using Andrew Moravcsik’s essay Europe is still a Superpower as his starting point Serageddin mapped the rise of inequality from Sweden to Somalia, arguing that traditional political players are being forced to adjust as India, China and Russia “fight for a place in the world order”.

On military spending, Serageddin pointed out that the “NATO alone accounts for 57 per cent of the world’s military spending.”

“And in Japan and South Korea, both very strong US allies, the total accounts for 63 per cent of the world’s military expenditure”.

Vīķe-Freiberga agreed with Serageddin that Europe remains powerful. The former president of Latvia also argued that Europe’s supranational policies constitute a unique political structure.

“There are 24 different official languages in Europe yet the people of Europe are eager to unite while preserving their separate identities,” she said.

Vīķe-Freiberga also addressed the rise of xenophobia in Europe, arguing that it is “a result of the fear of loss of identity compounded by the 2008 financial crisis”.

Zlatko Lagumdzija attributed Europe’s success to the “500 million people living in freedom and stability, able to pursue their beliefs, study and work wherever they want.”

“Europe is the biggest free trade market… and the largest peace project known to mankind. This structure has helped us achieve the longest period of peace the area has known.”

Yet Europe is a “pessimistic continent” with a “much greater degree of pessimism than the Middle East”. Speaking of the fear of refugees Lagumdzija said: “It is not a north/south divide within the continent of Europe since countries like Sweden and Spain are not afraid of receiving refugees while others have totally closed their borders.”

Lagumdzija argued in support of President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker’s vision of the future of Europe, saying “Europe is not going to function at different speeds but must function to meet different needs under one umbrella.” He described Europe as “inclusive, intellectual and interconnected”.

One pressing question he raised is whether Europe will face a process of Balkanisation or the Balkans undergo a process of Europeanisation.

Former president of Serbia Boris Tadic said the most pressing challenges facing the EU — unemployment, the fallout of the financial crisis, relations between EU members and the ramifications of Brexit — represent uncharted territory.

Amr Moussa stressed the importance of closer cooperation between Europe and Arab states, especially when it comes to facing the challenges posed by terrorism.

“The Mediterranean is connected and when we talk about the future of Europe we are also talking about the future of the whole region around the Mediterranean,” he said.

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