Mediterranean Special Group
7th Mediterranean Dialogue Seminar
Malta, 14 - 15 December 2001
This Secretariat Report is presented for information only and does not necessarily represent the official view of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
International Secretariat, 30 January 2002
- The NATO Parliamentary Assembly held its 7th Mediterranean Seminar in Malta on 14-15 December, organised in cooperation with the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies of the University of Malta. The event gathered parliamentarians from European NATO member countries and from eight Mediterranean partner countries - Algeria, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia - as well as experts, academics and diplomats. Although during the two days a number of issues were discussed - international terrorism, Mediterranean dialogue and cooperation, media and civil society, and migration - the crisis in the Middle East overshadowed the meeting.
- All participants recognised that security in the Euro-Atlantic area is closely linked to security and stability in the Mediterranean, and the events of 11 September have made this linkage all the more crucial. Many problems currently discussed in relation to terrorism and its origins have indeed been on the agenda of the dialogue across the Mediterranean for many years: the Israelo-Palestinian dispute, North-South economic and political imbalances, demographic pressures, and arms proliferation. However, in the present context they have acquired additional urgency, as Wafaa Bassim, Egyptian Ambassador to Romania and former Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister, pointed out. She also stressed the need to understand the deep causes of terrorism, which in her view are: (1) the policies of "double standards" in international relations carried out by some world powers; (2) the economic "marginalisation" of many developing countries; (3) cultural globalisation that undermined local traditions. In his introductory presentation, George Joffé of the Centre for International Studies, University of Cambridge, stated that the refusal of the victim to analyse the underlying causes of this new kind of terrorism could further reinforce them.
- Most European parliamentarians agreed that the world is facing an entirely new kind of transnational terrorism, characterised by attacks of unprecedented scale, but lacking clear political objectives apart from hatred of the West. Claude Moniquet, a writer and consultant for CNN, specified however that the desire to overthrow authoritarian, but pro-Western, regimes in certain Arab countries (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Algeria) was driving the actions of some al-Qaeda members. Participants from Mediterranean countries were less inclined to make distinctions between transnational and domestic terrorism. All forms of terrorism, declared Abdelhamid Si Afif, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Algerian National Popular Assembly, "are equally condemnable as a mean of political expression or social protest". The only possible distinction, he added, could be between terrorism and the "legitimate struggle of peoples for their right to self-determination".
- Strategies to fight terrorism were also discussed. George Joffé pointed out that a military victory in Afghanistan did not mean the defeat of al-Qaeda, and that future strategies against this and other similar groups should include intelligence, legal, and police efforts rather than military campaigns. According to Bruce George, Chairman of the Defence Committee in the British Parliament, there will be no room for negotiation in dealing with this "new terrorism", as opposed to more traditional terrorist groups. Fighting terrorism "within acceptable legal frameworks", as many countries have done at national level (i.e. Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom), is not an option anymore, and the world has to learn to live in a new environment. This could also lead, according to Mr George, to temporary limitations of civil liberties in Western countries.
- Some participants expressed their scepticism about NATO's ability to cope with this new threat, at least if the organisation kept its present structure. Moreover, many European legislators agreed with Mr Joffé that a long term campaign against terrorism would primarily involve diplomacy, law enforcement and international intelligence cooperation rather that military operations, therefore making NATO's role less fundamental. George Katsirdakis, Deputy Director of NATO's Defence Partnership and Cooperation Directorate, indicated that the Alliance was nonetheless reacting to the "new threat" on three different levels: (1) declaratory, including statements by its leaders; (2) operational, with the invocation of Article 5 and other decisions (also involving partners); and (3) institutional, working to enhance specific capabilities and including additional requirements in its planning.
THE CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
- The crisis in the Middle East was at the centre of an animated debate on the second day of the seminar. Ambassador Miguel Angel Moratinos, EU special envoy to the Middle East, and Ziad Abu Amr, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, cancelled their participation in the seminar at the last minute due to the worsening situation in the Middle East, thus leaving Ambassador Daniel Mokady, Deputy Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as the only official speaker. The Israeli representative gave a short presentation and tirelessly answered questions for approximately four hours.
- The general feeling among participants was that although 11 September has created a diplomatic opportunity, violence and hatred are preventing Israelis and Palestinians from seizing it. While all participants seemed to agree on the right of the Palestinians to have their own state, there was no meeting of the minds on how to achieve this and put an end to the current violence. Discussions in Malta also focused on Yassir Arafat's ability to control the Palestinian territories and stifle Islamist terrorists, as well as on the strategy of the Israeli government.
- After a brief analysis of the failure of the Oslo Peace Process, Mr Mokady declared that so far Mr Arafat has been unable, or unwilling, to accept compromises in order to reach a final peace agreement with Israel. This was demonstrated by his attitude during the 2000 Camp David summit, when he rejected a "generous proposal" made by Prime Minister Ehud Barak and essentially opened the way to the current outbreak of violence. In sum, according to Mr Mokady, peace would have more chances without Mr Arafat, as Israelis could more effectively deal with his successors. Yassir Arafat, he added, was not a credible interlocutor anymore, having lost support even among moderate Palestinian leaders and intellectuals because of the corruption in his administration.
- European and Arab participants alike objected to any policy seeking to replace Mr Arafat, as all credible successors would be likely to prove less accommodating. Many European legislators expressed their criticisms with regard to Ariel Sharon's strategy based on extra judicial killings and military strikes. Jean-Michel Boucheron, Head of the French delegation to the NATO PA, reaffirmed his support for the coexistence of two different states, Israel and Palestine. He also recognised Mr Arafat's mistakes at Camp David and thereafter, but insisted that the Israeli government should have continued to pursue a diplomatic solution, even after the beginning of the second Intifada. The Israeli military response to Palestinian violence and terrorism, according to Mr Boucheron, was actually limiting Mr Arafat's ability to control his people and contain the terrorists. Mr Sharon's "crazy logic", he concluded, was in fact destabilising the whole region because it strengthened extremists on both sides.
- George Joffé criticised Israeli policy with regard to the settlements in the West Bank, although Mr Mokady indicated that Mr Sharon had decided a freeze on new settlements. Mr Joffé also rejected Mr Mokady's interpretation of extra judicial killings as "self defence" directed at "ticking bombs". In fact, he pointed out, these assassinations were premeditated and only instigated responses in kind from the other side.
- Vasiliy Iver, a member of the Russian Duma, declared that only an international peacekeeping force could bring peace and stability to the Middle East. But Mr Mokady replied that there was no need for such force and the solution had to be found at the negotiating table between Israelis and Palestinians. Negotiations, he added, could set off from the platform established by the Mitchell report and the Tenet plan, but only if and when Mr Arafat (or, preferably, his successor) had put an end to Palestinian terrorist attacks.
- Tahir Köse, a member of the Turkish parliament and Chairman of the Mediterranean Special Group of the NATO PA, inquired about the role of Lebanon and Syria in the situation in the Middle East. Mr Mokady replied that none of these countries were contributing to peace efforts in the region. In Syria, after some initial hope for a new course, Bashar al-Asad "had put power back into the hands of the ‘old guard'", loyal to his father's policy. Lebanon, according to the Israeli diplomat, could even represent a threat because of the permanently aggressive attitude of Hezbollah on its Southern border.
- In conclusion, the debate offered a rather bleak picture of the future of the Middle East, which will remain "a serious obstacle to stability in the Mediterranean" for a long time to come, as Wim van Eekelen, Vice President of the NATO PA, noted in his remarks at the end of the seminar.
DIALOGUE AND COOPERATION IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
- What would be the right strategy to cope with the problems in the Mediterranean region? While participants agreed on the necessity to continue engaging in dialogue and cooperation between the different actors, there was little agreement on specific strategies. Some speakers questioned NATO's ability to address security problems in the Mediterranean without a fundamental restructuring of its activities. Others seemed more positive, regarding NATO's Mediterranean initiative as a useful complement to other schemes, such as the EU Barcelona Process.
- George Joffé argued that the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue, as it is structured now, was not the proper forum to address the major security concerns in the region. Primarily, Europe and the United States do not have the same outlook on the Mediterranean: the former is more focused on "soft" security issues (migration, smuggling and organised crime), while the latter has more strategic concerns (WMD and missile proliferation, transnational terrorism). Moreover, according to Mr Joffé, NATO is not equipped to deal effectively with any of these security concerns because of the limitations in the scope of its Mediterranean initiative. The most serious security problems of the region could be addressed more appropriately in the context of the security basket of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Programme. Unfortunately, the most important EU initiative in this area, the Euro-Mediterranean Charter for Peace and Security, has been obstructed by the crisis in the Middle East.
- The NATO initiative should not be seen as competing with other organisations, objected Alberto Bin, Deputy Head of the Multilateral and Regional Affairs Section at NATO HQ, but as a complement to the more structured and complete EU programmes. Clearly, the European Union has a "fundamental and primary role" in the economic, political and cultural spheres, and can also count on much more resources: _ 7 billion as opposed to _ 1 million from the NATO Dialogue. The NATO initiative should be seen primarily as a forum for "engaging" Mediterranean partners, involving them in political and practical discussions on security matters concerning the region. Furthermore, it offers some substantial activities in areas in which NATO has a specific competence, such as participation in military exercises (search and rescue, civil emergency and crisis management).
- NATO also offers a number of activities specifically tailored for Mediterranean partners in the areas of information and press, civil emergency planning and science. Nicola De Santis, Information Officer for Mediterranean Dialogue & Partner Countries at NATO HQ, presented an overview of the numerous Mediterranean activities organised by his office. These have also included, in 1998 and 1999, the first multilateral meetings between NATO's permanent representatives of the (then) six Ambassadors of the Mediterranean partners.
- Southern and Eastern Mediterranean participants appeared generally satisfied by the NATO Dialogue, although some indicated a need to expand the range of certain military-related activities. A few representatives from Arab countries criticised the EU programmes, which did not fulfil their expectations in terms of assistance and investment, and indefinitely postponed the approval of the Charter for Peace and Security.
- Ms Bassim, however, disagreed with these criticisms and indicated that some "soft" security problems such as organised crime, illegal migration and terrorism are already being dealt with in the context of the political basket, and in particular in the area of justice and home affairs. She nonetheless stressed the need for more complementarities among the Mediterranean programmes of various organisations (EU, NATO, OSCE), which at times have overlapping initiatives. At both national and regional levels, according to Ms Bassim, there should be more coordination in order to avoid wasting resources. Ambassador Alfred Zarb, Euro-Med Coordinator at the Maltese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called upon the new Spanish presidency of the European Union to restructure the Barcelona process by increasing the quality and quantity of activities involving all the Mediterranean partners and making the whole programme "more transparent and visible".
- Further developments in Mediterranean cooperation could, in a foreseeable future, include Libya, according to Alison Pargeter, a research fellow at the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College, London. She commended the recent efforts by Muammar Khadafi - partly driven by the country's economic problems - to reintegrate Libya in the international community. In the opinion of most of its neighbours - including Italy - the country does not represent a serious military threat anymore, and Tripoli's leader has plainly abandoned his role as a major sponsor of international terrorism. Although some problems with the United States and Britain may remain as a result of the Lockerbie affair, the 11 September attacks have encouraged behind-the-scenes contacts between Western countries and Libya. In the near future, Ms Pargeter suggested engaging Libya increasingly in the various regional cooperation initiatives, in particular the Barcelona process.
MIGRATION, MEDIA AND CIVIL SOCIETY
- Several speakers stressed that an overall rethinking of Western - and in particular European - strategies should include more purposeful policies in areas of so-called "soft security". In this regard, the problems of migration and of media and civil society appear particularly pressing.
- According to Catherine Wihtol de Wenden, a researcher from CERI in Paris, EU countries need to address the gap between the progressive harmonisation of migration policies at continental level and the exercise - especially after September 11 - of national sovereignty based on border controls. She nonetheless encouraged European countries to avoid any "closing" of their national borders because, as proven by a close analysis of the experiences in the last few years, selectively open borders bring about a better integration of migrants. Closed borders, on the contrary, generate only a partial integration of clandestine foreigners.
- In a region where democracy is far from established or secure, civil society and the media are not developed and structured as in most Western countries. According to Andrew Puddephatt of the London based NGO Article 19, in much of the Middle East and North Africa, civil associations and organisations are not independent from government or strong enough to play a role in "building the culture of democracy". Similarly, both the broadcast media and the press are, at various degrees, either censored or under direct state control. With specific regard to the broadcast media, representing most peoples' major source of information, Mr Puddephatt indicated that "the overwhelming trend was one of governmental control of the broadcast media throughout the Middle East and North Africa". Whereas on the Northern side of the Mediterranean, state owned media is balanced by a substantial private broadcasting. The only exception being Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi, who as Prime Minister directly controls the state owned RAI, and who is also the owner of the major private broadcast group Mediaset.
- An interesting analysis of the situation of the media in Lebanon was offered by Joelle Touma, Beirut correspondent of the French newspaper Libération, who explained that the self-imposed anti-Israeli bias of much of the Arab media is not accompanied by objective criticisms of Arab regimes. This is compensated by the availability of Western media and particularly of the independent satellite TV al-Jazeera, which, although generally pro-Arab, can be critical of Arab countries and even allow Israeli citizens to appear on its programmes, something that is forbidden by law to all media in Lebanon.
- The Barcelona process could offer some help in this area, according to Mr Puddephatt, by encouraging the "development of a healthy private media sector to balance the state controlled media and to encourage the development of PSB" (Public Service broadcasting - state owned but independently managed and controlled).
|© NATO Parliamentary Assembly