Rashford comes off bench to net hat-trick as United crush Leipzig    Barcelona overcome Juve as Morata has three goals disallowed    Tunisian parliament, cbank chief tell govt to cut spending plans    Egypt extends deadline for reconciliation requests in building violations to 30 November    Hundreds of Muslims hold anti-France protest in Bangladesh    Russia approves bill allowing national law to trump international treaties    US accuses Syria of delaying constitution ahead of election    Europe enacts new curbs as COVID surges in absence of vaccine    Live score: Juventus v Barcelona (UEFA Champions League)    Fathi Hassan's exhibition at ZAGpick gallery is a must go    Don't miss the webinar with Secretary-General on the UN's 75th anniversary Fabrizio Hochschild    Egypt reports 170 new coronavirus cases, 11 deaths on Tuesday    Al-Sandouk Al-Aswad (The Black Box)    Parliament's ‘driving force'    The Senate and the return of party politics    Sculptor Tarek Zabady, tamer of difficult materials    GERD: In quest of meaningful negotiations    Egyptian child Maysarah wins Austria 2020 'Person of the Year' award    Egyptian insurance companies' premiums 9.6% up in five months    Egypt's President Sisi names new head of anti-corruption watchdog    Egypt's c.bank offers 18 bln pounds T-bills on Sunday    EgyptAir offering discounts for some international flights    Egypt records 212 new coronavirus cases, 14 deaths on Saturday    Egypt to require PCR coronavirus tests for airport travelers    Egypt sends 125 tonnes of glass by sea to Beirut    Legend Messi officially wants to leave Barcelona, hands transfer request    Global smartphone sales drop 20% in Q2, yet Apple's iPhone sales steady    Sisi: Egypt keen on establishing development projects with Iraq, Jordan    Egyptian megastar Amr Diab releases new hit music video    Making of Harry Potter will be available for fans at new park in Tokyo    Egypt's Senate elections official results to be announced Wednesday    Netflix Egypt is bringing megastar Amr Diab back with a new original    Egypt reopens Rafah border crossing for first time since April    Egypt's senate elections 2020 trending on social media in few days    African Champions League final will be played on Oct. 16-17, CAF says    No room to delay Egyptian Premier League games – EFA's board member    The Facebook Preacher's Search for Fame, and Egypt's Economy    Egypt calls on UNSC to address oil spill risks off Yemen coast    Egypt economically strong in face of COVID-19, reforms ongoing: International Cooperation Minister    Arafa Holding reports $144,000 COVID-19-related losses in April    Egypt's efforts in Libya to activate free will of Libyan people: Al-Sisi    Hyksos campaigns were internal takeover, not foreign invaders: study    COVID-19 affects Egypt sporting clubs    COVID-19 will soon turn to seasonal like swine flu: Presidential Health Advisor    ‘Egypt's Support' coalition convenes to discuss its Senate election list    Robbery attempt leads to discovery of Ptolemaic monuments in Qena    Flouting international guidance, Ethiopia unilaterally starts filling its Nile dam    Zaha speaks out after online racial abuse    







Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.





The Mediterranean: Bridge or barrier?
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 28 - 02 - 2019

The future of the Arab-Euro relationship, following the first EU-Arab League summit, will boil down to whether both sides see the Mediterranean as a bridge or a barrier between them.
Bridge means enhanced trading, legislative and regulatory coordination, new thinking about migration across the Mediterranean, and security arrangements based on both averting the threats of radicalism and militancy, as well as increasing understanding of each other's value systems (and how often they are different from the other). The ultimate objective here would be bringing the Mediterranean shores together into a truly integrative economic neighbourhood.
Barrier means transactional relationships, seeing the other through the lens of a fraught history, clinging to old suspicions but coating them with vague political correctness, and cooperating against radicalism and militancy, but from vastly different perspectives. The destination here is calculated interactions based on short-term interests, after which each side retreats to its shores.
Let's start with the Arab calculus. Here, the case for a “bridge” rests on three points.
- Many in political Arab circles believe they have transcended the grave threats that emerged in the region in the past years, have shielded their societies from the chaos that has engulfed others, and have contributed to (relatively) stabilising the wider Middle East and North Africa. In this view, they now enter a stage where they must effect transformative changes in their countries' socio-economic landscapes — without which, the security they brought would be vulnerable to the social and economic ills from which their countries suffer. In this view, these transformative changes will only materialise through lasting linkages to the “advanced” world. And so, here, Europe represents the closest neighbour in that “advanced” world.
- Those Arab political circles believe they have a case that Europe must appreciate. In their view, the stability they have brought spills over to Europe. Without that stability, Europe would be scrambling to confront acute dangers that will always be drawn to its riches. And so, a serious partnership between the two shores of the Mediterranean is not transactional, but, in this view, grounded in an unescapable connection between Europe and the Arab world, and a meeting of minds on a hugely important long-term objective.
- Beneath the official rhetoric, there is a recognition, at the highest level of Arab leadership, that the solutions to the socio-economic ills in the Arab world necessitate much more than direct investments, developmental programmes, fiscal support and technological transfers. There's a recognition that Arab societies need to resuscitate the old modernisation projects of the first half of the 20th century, when large sections of Arab elites looked to Europe, not as the “other”, but as a role model, at least as an inspiration.
But, along with these factors, there is an Arab suspicion that augurs well for the Mediterranean being a “barrier” rather than a “bridge”. This suspicion is that many in Europe aim to impose their view of political systems and social development on the Arab world — whether because of failure to understand the region or because of a condescending view of its modern history. This suspicion gives rise to apprehension, within key Arab political circles, of Europe's long-term objectives in the region, and so to a guarded approach to cooperation.
In Europe, the case for a “bridge” rests on two factors.
The first, similar to one in the Arab argument, is based on inescapability. The idea goes something like this: “If we [in Europe] cannot, realistically, detach ourselves from the threats coming to us from the Arab world, we must engage with it in ways that ensure that our investments in it are sustainable, and would lead to meaningful and lasting positive changes. These changes would not eradicate, but will lessen, the socio-economic problems there, and so will dilute the dangers that would come to us through the Mediterranean.” This view leads to a long-term, ambitious, and deep commitment, which is step one in seeing beyond the dangers, in reflecting on the wider scene, which contains, along with the perils, major promise.
The second originates from a more humble realisation. Europe understands that many of its views and conceptions of the Arab world, including after the wave of Arab uprisings in 2011, have proven wrong. Some in Europe cling to the idea that Europe sided with the forces of good in the Arab world and sought a transformation in the region similar to that which took place in Central and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But, within many decision circles in Europe, the view is different — and more realistic. That view realises that any serious engagement with the Arab world must stem from respecting its own history, interpretations of global politics in the past half century, and the dominant streams in its own cultures — and not from a haughty view that wants the Arab world to “evolve” to Europeanism.
On the other side, the case in Europe for the “barrier” is bottom up. All European leaders know that at the heart of the rise of the far-right across the continent are acute feelings against immigration, especially from the Islamic world. And so, in this view, European efforts, aside from politically correct rhetoric and diplomatic gestures, must cater to the feelings of the voters. Meaning: European efforts must engage with the Arab world so as to keep its people, ideas and cultures away.
The tragedy here is that most of the factors for “barrier” are old, or stem from domestic anxieties that give rise to images of the other that have nothing to do with reality on the other shore of the Mediterranean. Working on these anxieties necessitates open, honest dialogues. And this is the real value of this first EU-Arab League summit. It inaugurated a discussion, without which misperceptions and blindfolded views will transform the Mediterranean (one of the most illustrious conduits of ideas in human history) into a moat.
The writer is the author, most recently, of Islamism: A History of Political Islam (Yale, 2017) and the writer and presenter of several BBC documentaries on the Arab and Islamic worlds.


Clic here to read the story from its source.