Tallinn 27 May, NATO LAWMAKERS STRESS NEED TO SUPPORT NORTH AFRICA IN WAKE OF ARAB SPRING CHANGES
Parliamentarians from NATO countries meeting this weekend urged governments to reach out to countries in North Africa and the Middle East with support to help avoid social and economic tensions undermining the advances of the Arab Spring.
“Much of the MENA region today faces a permanent political crisis, (unless) the governments of the region fail to address deep and abiding structural problems that have limited growth and development in the past,” said a draft report by German lawmaker Uwe Karl Beckmayer.
Speaking Sunday to the Economic and Security Committee of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly, Beckmayer acknowledged the difficulties of providing economic support at a time of austerity in European nations, but his call for help to the region received widespread support.
“The question of economic transition is a major challenge for those countries,” said French Senator René Beaumont. “We have a duty to answer their aspirations and give support so their economies can become a success.”
The aftermath of the Arab Spring was a major theme running through the annual Spring Session of the NATO PA, being held this year in the Estonian capital. Members stressed the role parliamentarians can play in exchanging experiences with counterparts in the region.
In a draft report presented Saturday, Ulla Schmidt from the German Bundestag said Western nations should not shy away from ties with the Islamic based parties which have risen to prominence in Tunisia and Egypt since authoritarian regimes were overthrown in early 2011.
“Political Islam is a reality in the Arab world and therefore the dialogue with political parties that emphasize Islamic values must be intensified,” says the draft report. “Our relations with the new North African leaders should be based on what they actually do and not on the image that they may have,” Schmidt added during a debate Saturday in the Assembly’s Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security.
Several speakers stressed the need to ensure that backing for countries in the region was not seen as meddling or imposing Western ideas. They added however, that aid must be linked to good governance, democracy and the upholding of basic values, including women’s rights.
The need for NATO to continue support for Libya, despite the end of Alliance’s military actions last year was repeatedly underscored. “NATO may be out physically, but NATO is not out reputationally,” British Member of Parliament Sir John Stanley told the Assembly’s Defence and Security Committee. “If Libya falls apart … there will be those who say ‘Libya is a NATO failure’, so I would urge individual countries to do their utmost to ensure the transitional government in Libya achieves success.”
Lawmakers expressed frustration at the international community’s inability to end the violence in Syria. “What is happening in Syria is unbearable. We are not able to do anything there and that is unbearable,” said French Senator Xavier Pintat.