Monday,20 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1432, (28 February - 6 March 2019)
Monday,20 May, 2019
Issue 1432, (28 February - 6 March 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Genuine Arab-European cooperation

The first Arab-European summit that concluded in Sharm El-Sheikh on Monday was a rare, unprecedented opportunity for an open and frank discussion on the many urgent challenges facing both sides. Whether combatting terrorism, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the ongoing wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen, or illegal immigration, climate change and economic development, all are vital issues that require close cooperation between Arab countries and European neighbours, considering either historic ties or geographic proximity.

Indeed, such a lengthy and complicated agenda requires many summits and meetings, but the beginning was in Sharm El-Sheikh with the participation of 50 Arab and European leaders. The summit’s slogan, “Investing in Stability,” rightly summed up the strategy that both sides need to work on in the coming months and years.

After the disintegration of several key Arab nations in recent years, the region needs stability, and that requires sincere efforts to achieve. As several key leaders made clear in their remarks during the summit, neither Arab countries nor Europe can stand still while human suffering continues on a wide scale in Syria or Yemen. Protecting the lives of the Syrian and Yemeni people should top the agenda of political settlements in those countries, and outside parties should refrain from using the two countries as fronts in proxy wars.

Meanwhile, the lack of a strong central government in Libya that unites the country does not only threaten the country’s neighbours who suffer the infiltration of suspected terrorists now using Libya as a safe haven, but also affects Europe through the flow of immigrants who represent another human tragedy. The same applies to Iraq whose stability influences the entire region, helping to reduce the dangers of growing sectarian tensions that followed the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

And while Israel can try to distract attention from its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories by highlighting the threats posed by Iran, both Europe and Arab countries are fully aware that without finding a just settlement to the long-standing plight of the Palestinian people, this region and Europe will not reach stability. This situation is also fuelled by the absence of political will towards a comprehensive and just settlement that would allow the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, despite the fact that the terms of reference of this settlement are well known and documented in international resolutions that are as old as the United Nations, confirmed and enhanced annually, no matter how long we wait for their implementation.

The threat of abhorrent terrorism is also spreading throughout the world as a dreadful epidemic, but Arab and European countries have been paying the heaviest price. Thus, both sides need to work together to assure that terrorist elements cannot move freely across their borders, exploiting some countries as safe havens until they resume their abominable terrorism, or receiving support and funding and hiding behind the veil of some suspicious entities. Terrorist organisations should not also be allowed to employ the media and popular social media networks on the internet to recruit new elements and incite violence and hatred.

Terrorism is very different from peaceful political opposition, which most Arab countries have gradually come to accept as a healthy phenomenon and a fundamental pillar of any sound political life. Egypt has put forward a comprehensive vision to eliminate the threat of terrorism and its negative effects on human rights. In this respect, Egypt’s top priority has been to maintain the nation’s unity and to protect human lives. Considering realities on the ground, and the threats we face, Egypt does not need to be lectured by any outside parties on its human rights record, as the key violation to human rights is to live under the threat of terrorism and the possible total disintegration of the state as an entity.

Arab countries acknowledge that there are no magic solutions to overcome these challenges, but the region’s modern history has proven that the continuity and maintenance of the nation state entity, and its reform if necessary, is the key to stability and the first step towards regaining security for peoples fearful over their future, opening the door to development efforts.

Therefore, cooperation between Arab and European nations should be strengthened in order to reinforce the institutions of the state to face the difficult challenges ahead, while respecting the principle of citizenship as the only means to confront sectarianism and extremism. The state is primarily responsible for controlling its borders, ensuring respect for the rule of law and safeguarding the lives and rights of its citizens. Thus, it is important to disregard any call, whatever its source or motive, that could lead to the destruction of states and associated institutions. 

There is no question that these messages were delivered loud and clear by Arab nations at the Sharm El-Sheikh summit to their European partners. Action is what should come next.

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