– La Syrie se prépare pour les rassemblements de la « Journée de la dignité »(Syria braces for ‘day of dignity’ rallies)
25/03/2011 – Al Jazeera

Les autorités syriennes se préparent pour de nouvelles manifestations après une semaine de troubles et une répression sévère qui a fait des dizaines de morts. Malgré plusieurs propositions de réforme du régime d’Assad, dont la fin possible de l’Etat d’urgence et l’établissement de partis politiques, les militants appellent à des rassemblements dans les mosquées après les prières de ce vendredi 25 mars 2011.

– Libye: L’Otan s’apprête à reprendre le commandement de la zone d’exclusion aérienne (Libya: Nato to take command of no-fly zone)
25/03/2011 – BBC news

Des responsables de l’OTAN ont accepté d’assumer le commandement de la zone d’exclusion aérienne à partir des États-Unis, un transfert qui pourrait intervenir dès ce week-end. Les vingt-huit membres de l’OTAN ont accepté ce changement, y compris la Turquie, qui s’était opposé à la coalition contre les forces de Kadhafi. Selon la direction de l’OTAN, le mandat ne comprend que le maintien de la zone d’exclusion aérienne et non des frappes aériennes qui restent du ressort des États-Unis, de la France et du Royaume-Uni.

– De plus en plus isolé, le président Saleh compte ses jours à la tête du pays
23/03/2011 – France 24

Lâché par une partie de l’armée, les tribus majoritaires, ses ambassadeurs et la communauté internationale, le président yéménite Ali Abdallah Saleh ne dispose plus que du soutien de sa garde républicaine et d’une poignée de fidèles. Il est plus isolé que jamais et a fait approuver l’instauration de l’état d’urgence par le Parlement : un vote aussitôt contesté par l’opposition.

– Un groupe Salafiste proclame la victoire de la religion lors du référendum égyptien (Prominent Egypt Salafi proclaims victory for religion in referendum)
22/03/2011 – Al Masry al youm

Les Frères musulmans et certains groupes salafistes avaient demandé à leurs partisans avant le référendum de soutenir les changements, qui laissent intacte une partie de la Constitution et y laissent l’islam comme la source principale de législation. Plus de 77 pour cent des électeurs ont voté en faveur des amendements proposés, mais certains groupes auraient voulu plus de changements. L’adoption des modifications a été largement perçue comme étant dans l’intérêt des Frères Musulmans, car celles-ci exigent que les élections parlementaires se tiennent dans six mois. Des groupes d’opposition informels se sont plaints que des élections anticipées ne leur donneraient pas suffisamment de temps pour s’organiser. Après que les résultats ont été rendus publics, certaines personnes ont exprimé leur inquiétude que l’avenir de la démocratie en Egypte serait en danger si les groupes religieux continuent à s’engager dans la politique selon des lignes sectaires.

– Le silence sur la loi « Nakba » encourage le racisme (Silence over Nakba Law encourages racism)
25/03/2011 – Haaretz

Le Parlement israélien a adopté une loi controversée pénalisant les organismes qui commémorent la « Nakba », l’exode des Palestiniens ayant accompagné la création d’Israël le 15 mai 1948. La nouvelle loi prévoit des amendes pour les organismes financés par des fonds publics qui marqueraient la commémoration de la « Nakba » ou qui soutiennent à cette occasion des activités qualifiées de « contraires aux principes de l’Etat » israélien. L’auteur considère que cette loi vise avant tout la minorité arabe israélienne, ce qui contredit les v

 

 

– Syria braces for ‘day of dignity’ rallies
25/03/2011 – Al Jazeera

Syrian authorities prepared for more protests following a week of demonstrations that left dozens dead. Despite several proposals of reform from the Assad regime, including a possible end to emergency law and the institution of political parties, activists are calling for rallies at mosques after Friday prayers.

– Libya: Nato to take command of no-fly zone
25/03/2011 – BBC news

NATO officials agreed to assume command of the Libya no-fly zone from the United States, a handover that could come as soon as this weekend. All twenty-eight NATO members agreed to the shift, including Turkey, which had opposed coalition targeting of Libyan ground forces. According to NATO leadership, the mandate included only maintenance of the no-fly zone and not airstrikes on loyalist ground assets, which continue to be the charge of the United States, France, and the UK. Further talks are scheduled over the weekend to consider whether NATO should take on this expanded role. A decision is expected by Monday March 28, 2011.

– Increasingly isolated, President Saleh’s days as head of the country are counted (De plus en plus isolé, le président Saleh compte ses jours à la tête du pays)
23/03/2011 – France 24

Dropped by a part of the army, the majority tribes, ambassadors and the international community, the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has only the support of his Republican Guard and a handful of followers. He is more isolated than ever and made approve the establishment of the state of emergency by the Parliament, a vote that was immediately contested by the opposition.

– Prominent Egypt Salafi proclaims victory for religion in referendum
22/03/2011 – Al Masry al youm

The Muslim Brotherhood and some Salafi groups had urged supporters before the referendum to support the changes, which leave untouched a part of the Constitution that names Islam as the primary source of legislation. More than 77 percent of voters voted in favor of the proposed amendments, but some groups wanted more changes made. Passing the amendments was widely perceived to be in the interests of the Brotherhood because they necessitate that parliamentary elections be held in six months. Informal opposition groups have complained that an early election will not give them sufficient time to organize. After the results have become public, some people expressed their concern that the future of democracy in Egypt will be at risk if religious groups continue to engage in politics along sectarian lines.

– Silence over Nakba Law encourages racism
25/03/2011 – Haaretz

The Israeli parliament passed a controversial law that penalizes organizations that commemorate the « Nakba », the Palestinian exodus that accompanied the creation of Israel May 15, 1948. The new law creates fines for organizations funded by public funds which would mark the commemoration of the « Nakba » or who support on this occasion activities deemed « contrary to the principles of the state » of Israel. The author believes that this legislation is primarily directed at Israel’s Arab minority, which contradicts the fundamental values ??of democracy and reflects a growing racism in Israel.

 

 

 

In 2007, Peter Mandelson, then EU Trade Commissioner, gave a speech at the Jeddah Economic Forum, in which he underlined the importance of setting up the first ever region-to-region Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the European Union (EU) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to provide for greater economic diversification of the Gulf countries. Two characteristics of the Gulf countries are their lack of economic diversity and huge and fast-growing young population; as Mandelson says, “put those two facts together and you have a huge economic and human development challenge”.

Four years on, Mr Mandelson’s message could not have been more appropriate. It was the lack of employment opportunities and of basic democratic freedoms that had pushed Mohammed Bouazizi to immolate himself on 17 December 2010 in Tunisia, triggering the outbreak of demonstrations throughout the Arab World. Immediately, popular protests broke out in Tunisia and soon reached other countries of the region, all led by young men and women in the name of democracy. The countries of the Gulf have not been spared. Demonstrations have taken place in Bahrain, Oman and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia. High rates of unemployment are part and parcel of the frustration of these young populations, alongside a severe lack of most social and political freedoms.

One solution should thus concentrate on the achievement of economic growth and development for greater prosperity of the young population. In the case of Gulf economies, excessively dependent upon its oil and gas markets, one objective must be greater economic diversification. The integration of Gulf economies through the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council has set these countries on the right track. The GGC should aspire to achieve levels of integration reached over past decades by the European Union: in the European scenario, regional integration and cooperation has proven a successful – and unprecedented – experiment in providing economic prosperity and stability for its citizens.

Nonetheless, regional economic integration alone is not enough. This process must be coupled with greater economic integration with foreign markets, offering greater investment variety and economic diversification – provided parallel efforts are made to ensure necessary investments in people and appropriate wealth redistribution. It is in this context that the EU has a major role to play. In other parts of the world in which the EU has established FTAs, results have been mind-blowing (with Mexico and Chile for example). Trade liberalization, through the removal of trade barriers, has become a trademark of EU contribution to economic diversification, prosperity and poverty reduction on the international scene.

The EU and GCC enjoy close economic cooperation since the signing of the EU-GCC Cooperation Agreement in 1988 and the three-year Joint Action Programme launched in 2010. But, as the Gulf’s main economic partner, and in light of the extraordinary turn of events in the region, the EU can make an unprecedented contribution to the short-term prosperity of the region by breaking the deadlock which has left economic relations between the two regions so frustratingly short of a full-fledged FTA.

The moment is ripe for the EU to do what it does best: economic integration. The waves of frustrated youths protesting in Bahrain, Oman and other parts of the Gulf should outweigh the minor obstacles to finalizing FTA negotiations. It is a risk the EU must take, in the name of prosperity, stability…and democracy.

 

Andrew Bower

 

 

En 2007,  Peter Mandelson, alors commissaire européen au commerce, prononçait undiscours au Forum économique de Djeddah dans lequel il soulignait l’importance de mettre en place le premier Accord de Libre Echange (ALE) inter-régional entre l’Union européenne (UE) et le Conseil de Coopération du Golfe (CCG) afin de permettre une plus grande diversification de l’économie des pays du Golfe. Deux caractéristiques des pays du Golfe sont le manque de diversité économique et l’énorme et rapide croissance de la jeune tranche de la population ; comme l’indique Mandelson : « mettez ces deux réalités ensemble et vous obtenez un défi énorme de développement économique et humain ».

Quatre ans plus tard, le message de M. Mandelson ne pouvait pas avoir été plus approprié. Ce sont en partie le manque de possibilités d’emploi et des libertés démocratiques fondamentales qui ont poussé Mohammed Bouazizi à s’immoler le 17 Décembre 2010 en Tunisie, déclenchant la vague de manifestations à travers le monde arabe. Immédiatement, des manifestations populaires ont éclaté en Tunisie et ont rapidement atteint  d’autres pays de la région ; toutes été animées par de jeunes hommes et femmes au nom de la démocratie. Sans surprise, les pays du Golfe n’ont pas été épargnés. Des manifestations ont eu lieu à Bahreïn, Oman et, dans une moindre mesure, en Arabie saoudite. Les taux élevés de chômage font partie intégrante de la frustration de ces populations jeunes, aux côtés d’un grave manque de libertés sociales et politiques.

Une solution doit donc porter sur une meilleure croissance économique et le développement de la prospérité des populations jeunes. Dans le cas des économies du Golfe excessivement dépendantes des ressources pétrolières et gazières, il est urgent de promouvoir une plus grande diversification économique. L’intégration des économies du Golfe à travers le Conseil de Coopération du Golfe a mis ces pays sur la bonne voie. Le GGC doit aspirer à atteindre des niveaux d’intégration similaires à ceux atteints par l’Union européenne au cours de ces dernières décennies. Dans le cas européen, l’intégration économique régionale s’est avérée être une expérience réussie – et sans précédent –  de prospérité et stabilité économique pour ses citoyens.

Néanmoins, l’intégration économique régionale au sein du CCG ne suffit pas. Ce processus doit aller de pair avec une plus grande coopération économique avec les marchés étrangers, offrant une plus grande variété d’investissements et diversification économique – à condition que ceci s’accompagne d’efforts pour assurer les investissements humains nécessaires  et la redistribution appropriée des richesses. C’est dans ce contexte que l’UE a un rôle majeur à jouer. Dans d’autres régions du monde dans lequel l’UE a établi des accords bilatéraux, les résultats ont été époustouflants (avec le Mexique et le Chili par exemple). La libéralisation du commerce, par la suppression des obstacles aux relations économiques, est devenue une marque de la contribution de l’UE à la diversification économique, la prospérité et la réduction de la pauvreté sur la scène internationale.

L’UE et le CCG coopèrent étroitement depuis la signature de l’Accord de Coopération UE-CCG de 1988 et le lancement du programme d’action sur trois ans en 2010. Mais, l’UE étant  le principal partenaire économique de la région du Golfe, et au vu de la tournure extraordinaire des événements dans la région, l’UE se doit d’apporter une contribution à court-terme à la prospérité et stabilité économique de la région en relançant une bonne fois pour toute les négociations pour un véritable accord de libre-échange.

Le moment est venu pour l’UE de faire ce qu’elle fait de mieux: l’intégration économique. Les messages envoyés par les jeunes manifestants à Bahreïn, Oman et dans d’autres parties du Golfe doivent impérativement contrebalancer les obstacles mineurs à la finalisation des négociations d’ALE. C’est un risque que l’UE doit prendre, au nom de la prospérité, la stabilité…et la démocratie.

 

Andrew Bower

 

 

European Parliament resolution of 24 March 2011 on European Union relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (2010/2233(INI))

The European Parliament,

–    having regard to the cooperation agreement of 25 February 1989 between the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),

–    having regard to its resolution of 24 April 2008 on the free trade agreement between the EC and the Gulf Cooperation Council[1],

–    having regard to its resolution of 13 July 1990 on the significance of the free trade agreement to be concluded between the EEC and the Gulf Cooperation Council,

–    having regard to the Report on Implementation of the European Security Strategy: Providing Security in a Changing World, approved by the Council in December 2008,

–    having regard to the EU’s strategic partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East, approved by the Council in June 2004,

–    having regard to the joint communiqué of the 20th EU-GCC Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting of 14 June 2010, held in Luxembourg,

–    having regard to its report of 10 May 2010 on the Union for the Mediterranean,

–    having regard to the joint communiqué of the 19th EU-GCC Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting of 29 April 2009, held in Muscat,

–    having regard to the Joint Action Programme (2010-2013) for implementation of the EU-GCC Cooperation Agreement of 1989,

–    having regard to the Commission communication to Parliament and the Council on strengthening cooperation with third countries in the field of higher education (COM(2001)0385),

–    having regard to its resolution on reforms in the Arab world: what strategy should the European Union adopt?[2],

–    having regard to the Economic Agreement between the GCC member states, adopted on 31 December 2001 in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, and to the GCC’s Doha declaration on the launch of the customs union for the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf, of 21 December 2002,

–    having regard to Articles 207 and 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Council must request Parliament’s consent prior to the conclusion of any international agreement that covers fields to which the ordinary legislative procedure applies,

–    having regard to its annual human rights reports,

–    having regard to the Declaration of the UN General Assembly on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1998 (also known as the ‘Declaration on Human Rights Defenders’),

–    having regard to the declarations by the High Representative of 10, 15 and 17 March 2011 and the Council conclusions of 21 March 2011 on Bahrain and underlining in this context its full support for the freedom of expression and the right of citizens to peacefully demonstrate,

–    having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–    having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on International Trade and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (A7-0042/2011),

A.  whereas current EU-GCC relations require constant reviewing and updating in view of the recent important and rapidly unfolding developments on the ground, at the heart of which needs to be the pursuit of human rights and democracy,

B.  whereas demonstrators have expressed legitimate democratic aspirations in several GCC States; whereas the violent reaction by the authorities to protests in Bahrain resulted in deaths, injuries, and imprisonments; whereas Saudi, UAE and Kuwaiti troops have arrived in the country under the banner of the GCC to participate in the repression of demonstrators,

C.  whereas the Gulf region has to be seen today in terms of the emergence of a new global economic hub comprising the member states of the GCC, noting that the EU is the second largest trade partner of the GCC and that the GCC is the fifth largest export market for the EU,

D.  whereas its geopolitical environment makes the Gulf a focus of security challenges that have global and regional implications (the Middle East peace process, Iran’s nuclear programme, the stabilisation of Iraq, Yemen and Darfur, terrorism and piracy); whereas the GCC is still the only stable regional organisation based on multilateralism and cooperation,

E.   whereas the Gulf states’ sovereign wealth funds account for more than one third of the world total, and, whereas, in the response to the financial crisis, those funds helped to rescue the global and European financial systems,

F.   whereas the Gulf is a region of crucial importance to the EU and, in a multipolar and interdependent world, such partnerships represent a way of meeting political and security challenges,

G.  whereas the process of structural economic liberalisation and diversification initiated in several GCC member states is producing new internal dynamics, both politically (with constitutional reforms, political participation and a strengthening of institutions) and socially (a voluntary sector is emerging, employers’ associations are developing and women are gaining access to posts with responsibility), and this should be encouraged and supported,

H.  whereas the living and working conditions of migrant workers, particularly female domestic workers, are precarious and deplorable, despite the key role they play in several areas of economic activity in the GCC member states and the fact that they constitute 40% of their population and some 80% of the population in certain emirates,

I.    whereas all six GCC member states are hereditary monarchies with limited political representation, particularly for women, and in the majority of cases no elected parliament,

J.    whereas the scale of investment by GCC member states and of the common challenges facing them in the EU’s southern neighbourhood call for cooperative synergies between Europe, the Mediterranean and the Gulf,

K.  whereas the GCC member states’ geo-economic shift of focus towards Asia – in response to the rising demand for oil on Asian markets (in China, India, Singapore, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea) – is currently producing a diversification of commercial and economic relations, backed up by free trade agreements and the development of political dialogue,

L.   whereas the GCC member states play a key role in the global arena and thus have interests in common with the EU in relation to international stability and global economic governance,

M.  having regard to the growing influence of the GCC member states in the Arab and Muslim world and the important role they can play in intercultural dialogue,

N.  whereas the negotiations on a free trade agreement between the EU and the GCC, which were opened 20 years ago, are the longest-running non-concluded trade negotiations that the EU has undertaken,

O.  whereas the EU must take a clear stand and maintain a lasting commitment in the Gulf region, thus guaranteeing itself greater visibility and a strategic presence in the area,

P.   whereas political clauses, and especially the human rights clause, are an integral part of all trade agreements concluded between the Union and third parties,

Q.  whereas the Union’s presence in the Gulf region is limited and the perception of Europe there is commonly conflated with that of certain EU Member States whose ties with the region are more extensive and older,

R.  whereas the EU possesses expertise in the fields of institutional capacity building, education and research, the development of renewable energy and the environment, technical and regulatory support, and political and diplomatic dialogue on neighbourhood stability and global security issues,

1.   Emphasises that concluding the free trade agreement between the EU and the GCC remains a priority, that failure to conclude it would not be in either party’s interests, and that such an agreement will constitute mutual recognition of the credibility of two entities that have chosen the path of multilateralism and integration;

2.   Considers that, given the limited presence of the Union in the Gulf region, as part of the new EU external relations apparatus a policy of integrated communication should contribute to the development of targeted and effective information on the EU in the Gulf countries;

3.   Believes that the EU needs to develop a strategy for the region aimed at strengthening its ties with the GCC, supporting the regional integration process, and encouraging bilateral relations with the GCC member states;

4.   Stresses that the objective is a strategic partnership with the GCC and its member states commensurate with the respective roles of the two entities on the international stage; highlights the importance, to that end, of introducing periodic summit meetings of heads of state and government, independently of the progress of ongoing negotiations;

5.   Also highlights the importance of an equal partnership in cooperation and dialogue, bearing in mind the differences between the two entities, and the potential for developing cooperation and dialogue in various sectors;

6.   Calls for the European External Action Service (EEAS) to devote more human resources to the region and for new EU diplomatic missions to be opened in the GCC member states, thereby helping to raise the profile of the EU, to facilitate political dialogue and to make the Union’s efforts more effective; stresses that these resources should stem principally from a reallocation of staff within the EEAS; calls on those EU Member States with diplomatic representations there to act in line with EU policy; stresses that tailored bilateral approaches to GCC member states minded to engage in closer cooperation with the EU can only complement and strengthen the multilateral framework; calls, therefore, on the European and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to examine the prospects which such bilateral cooperation would open up;

7.   Draws attention to the social and political developments that have taken place in recent years in most GCC member states; encourages all these states to sustain their efforts and to do more to promote human rights, to combat discrimination of all kinds, including discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and religion; invites the GCC member states to safeguard and promote the rights of minorities – including religious minorities – gender equality, the right to work – including for migrant workers – and freedom of conscience, expression and opinion, calls for continuous dialogue between the EU and the GCC on these issues; invites the GCC member states to interact more positively with civil society and to support the emergence of local structures and associations; calls in particular on the GCC member states to:

–    ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, with special regard to the freedom of speech and of assembly and the right to demonstrate peacefully, and to listen to and take into account the legitimate demands of protesters as well as to ensure their security,

–    adopt measures to facilitate women’s access to the labour market and to education by tackling all forms of discrimination based on gender and other customs or legal provisions, including all those relating to personal status,

–    abolish the sponsorship system imposed on migrant workers, where it is still enforced, and to pursue labour law reforms in order to ensure that workers, including migrant and domestic workers, enjoy full legal and social protection,

–    create synergies with the EU and its Member States in support of an International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention for domestic workers’ rights;

–    combat all forms of impunity, guarantee the independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair and speedy trial and strengthen the role of justice system professionals,

–    take steps to ensure that all human rights standards are widely publicised and are used in training for law enforcement officials, lawyers and members of the judiciary;

8.   Calls on all Member States in the Gulf Cooperation Council to recognise a continuing popular movement for democratic reform within the wider region, and calls for the full engagement with emerging civil society groups to promote a process of genuine peaceful democratic transition, within their own countries, with partners in the region and with the full support of the European Union;

9.   Expresses its deep concern at the violent response of and the use of force against protesters by Bahraini authorities and at the participation of foreign troops under the GCC banner in the repression of demonstrators; whereas this stands in stark contrast to the GCC’s support for the protection of the citizens demanding freedom and democracy in Libya; calls for an immediate end to violence against peaceful protesters and for a political dialogue that can lead to further necessary political reforms in the country;

10. Invites the GCC governments to work together and in a spirit of cooperation to tackle human rights concerns in the region, especially in relation to gender equality, the situation of the ‘Bidun’ group of stateless persons, restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, including trade union rights, and the need to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair and speedy trial; calls for the proposed strengthening of the political dialogue with the GCC to include technical and political dialogue on human rights;

11. Calls on the GCC member states to withdraw any reservations they may still have with regard to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and to ratify the optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; also stresses the importance of ratifying and implementing the UN Migrant Workers Convention and ILO Conventions 97 and 143;

12. Encourages the EU to examine and propose, together with the GCC, solutions for removing the obstacles to the full and effective exercise of the fundamental right of religious freedom, both individually and collectively and in both public and private spheres, for members of minority religions in the region;

13. Stresses the importance of intercultural and inter-faith dialogue; recalls that the European Union and the GCC have made a joint commitment to promote and protect the values of tolerance, moderation and coexistence;

14. Encourages the governments and the existing parliamentary assemblies of the GCC to take immediate steps to ratify without reservation the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as to cooperate with the thematic mechanisms of the UN Commission on Human Rights and invite them to visit, in particular the special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers;

15. Restates the EU’s opposition to the death penalty and Parliament’s call for a global moratorium on it; deplores, in this regard, the continuing retention of the death penalty by all GCC member states; invites them to adopt a moratorium on executions; calls in particular on states practising executions and punishments involving methods such as decapitation, stoning, crucifixion, flagellation or amputation to cease these practices;

16. Notes the three-year Joint Action Programme adopted by the EU-GCC Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting on 14 June 2010 and intended to strengthen cooperation in many strategic areas of mutual interest, including by setting up a network linking researchers, academics and businessmen; finds it regrettable, however, that it does not contain a section providing for open, regular and constructive political dialogue;

17. Considers that the implementation of this Joint Action Programme should be accompanied by a precise and detailed funding scheme and carried out by staff specifically assigned to this task both in Brussels and the GCC member states; stresses the importance of ensuring the visibility of this programme and the dissemination of a wide range of information accessible to the administrations and institutions concerned; requests that an evaluation of the results be carried out at the end of the three-year period and that, should the results prove satisfactory, an EU-GCC cooperation agency be envisaged;

18. Calls on the EU to focus its cooperation programmes with the GCC member states more on civil society organisations and to support the empowerment of women and youth;

19. Expresses its profound concern at seeing the Gulf region caught up in an arms race; asks the EU to initiate a strategic dialogue with the GCC member states on regional security issues of common interest (the Middle East peace process, Iran’s nuclear programme, the stabilisation of Iraq, Yemen and Darfur, terrorism and piracy) and, ultimately, to contribute to building a regional security structure in the Middle East in partnership with the Gulf states;

20. Recalls that the GCC member states are important regional players; emphasises that it is in the common interest of the EU and the GCC to promote peace and stability in the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, and globally; urges the partners to strengthen cooperation on this matter of common interest;

21. Takes note of the declaration by the GCC of 7 March 2011 in Abu Dhabi, which states that « the Ministerial council demands that the Security Council takes the steps necessary to protect civilians, including a no-fly zone in Libya », which declaration has contributed to the decision of the Arab League and then the United Nations Security Council to pronounce themselves in favour of such a zone;

22. Reiterates its support for the Arab peace initiative put forward by one of the GCC member states and approved by all the states of the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference; calls on the GCC member states to continue their mediation efforts and support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; calls on the EU and the GCC to step up joint efforts to bring about a negotiated end to the occupation of the Palestinian Territories, while continuing to provide full support for a two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict; stresses the joint interest of the EU and the GCC in working together to establish a just and lasting regional peace in the Middle East; suggests in this regard more regular cooperation between the Quartet and the Arab League monitoring committee; recalls that the EU is the largest donor of aid to the Palestinian people; recognises the GCC member states’ support for Palestinian refugees and their contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA); calls on the GCC member states to contribute more to strengthening Palestinian institutions and to economic development, within the context of the Palestinian Authority’s government programme, and to consider paying their financial contributions through existing international aid mechanisms, where appropriate;

23. Welcomes the fact that GCC integration is continuing (through a customs union, a common market and, ultimately, a single currency); encourages the Commission to propose to the GCC Secretariat that the two bodies jointly draw up a framework for cooperation, under which the Commission can share its experience in the areas of institutional consolidation, administrative capacity building and developing machinery for regulation and the settlement of disputes; emphasises that such an approach can help to inspire processes of ownership;

24. Welcomes the decision by the presidents of the parliaments of the GCC member states, meeting in Abu Dhabi on 23 November 2010, to begin monitoring the activities of the GCC and its executive decisions and to establish an annual conference of the parliamentary institutions of GCC member states; welcomes the forthcoming establishment of an interparliamentary delegation for relations with the European Parliament; is convinced that far-reaching parliamentary cooperation will make a significant contribution to the development of a strategic partnership between the two groups;

Trade relations

25. Recalls its resolution of 24 April 2008 on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EC and the GCC, which was supported by 96% of its Members; notes that questions raised in the resolution, such as the need for reciprocal market access, effective protection of intellectual property rights, removal of non-tariff barriers to the provision of services, promotion of sustainable development and respect for international conventions, are still topical;

26. Deeply deplores the fact that negotiations between the EU and the GCC (EU-GCC FTA) have suffered repeated lengthy delays and deplores the GCC’s decision to suspend these negotiations in 2008; believes that it is high time to unblock these negotiations so that a definitive solution can be found which offers maximum benefits to the societies and business communities on both sides;

27. Deplores the fact that that the region has been neglected by the EU, despite its strategic importance in terms of oil supplies, trade opportunities and regional stability;

28. Notes that, after 20 years of negotiations, the FTA has still to be concluded; is aware that the human rights and illegal migration clauses have been rejected by some GCC member states;

29. Considers that, given the region’s strategic importance, the FTA should be seen not only as an instrument to enhance welfare through trade, but also as a tool to foster geopolitical stability;

30. Notes that the GCC is currently the EU’s sixth largest export market and that the EU is currently the GCC’s main trading partner; notes that, notwithstanding this already intensive level of trade, there is still scope for deepening it, as well as room for greater diversification of trade between the two parties, given the size of the EU market and efforts on the part of GCC member states to diversify their exports; notes that an FTA would also provide new opportunities for technical cooperation and assistance; takes the view that the conclusion of the EU-GCC FTA would foster closer ties and further diversification;

31. Points out that, given that the GCC member states are increasing their economic diversification with a view to reducing their dependency on oil exports, an increase in services trade and investment would help to foster the development of the GCC economies;

32. Welcomes the fact that, over the past two decades, economic relations between the EU and the GCC have been intensifying and that trade volumes between the them have increased significantly, despite the failure to conclude an FTA; takes this as a sign that an FTA would further enhance this natural growth and embed it in a more open, predictable and secure environment;

33. Notes that the bulk of the work on the FTA has already been done, and takes the view that the scope of the FTA as it stands promises great benefits for both parties; calls on both parties, therefore, to look upon this FTA as a major and important endeavour for both regions and their peoples; considers that the EU and the GCC have shared interests and needs and that the EU’s experience in regional integration can be a source of inspiration for the Gulf; considers that, in this connection, the EU can provide valuable technical assistance;

34. Stresses that, unless remedied, a lack of transparency in public procurement procedures and barriers to access for foreign investors in the services sector could jeopardise the conclusion of the agreement;

35. Is firmly of the opinion that an EU-GCC FTA would be substantially advantageous to both parties; believes that an FTA with the EU would facilitate the further economic integration of the GCC and that, following the establishment of the GCC Customs Union, it may also lend greater impetus to important projects such as the GCC common market and the completion of a GCC monetary union with a single currency; considers that the GCC could benefit from lessons learned during the formation of a single market and adoption of a single currency by the EU;

36. Strongly supports the message that the High Representative/Vice-President Catherine Ashton sent during the EU-GCC Joint Ministerial Council meeting in June 2010, and more recently on 22 September 2010, during the EU-GCC meeting held alongside the UN General Assembly ministerial meeting, indicating that the EU was ready to make a final effort to conclude these negotiations; also welcomes the reaction of the GCC, which likewise confirmed its wish to conclude the negotiations;

37. Acknowledges the sensitivities of some GCC member states on export duties, but deplores the recent decision by the GCC negotiators to revert to their 2008 position in this regard, i.e. to leave penalties for non-compliance on this issue out of the FTA; is firmly of the opinion that no current FTA can ignore the question of export duties and that WTO rules state that FTAs have to provide for the substantial liberalisation of both imports and exports;

38. Recommends that the EU devote more resources to the GCC via the instrument for cooperation with industrialised and other high-income countries, which should be made more visible and should focus on suitable programmes for training local civil servants, including in trade matters;

39. Recalls that, under the Lisbon Treaty, international trade policy is one of the EU’s foreign policy tools and that as such, for the Union, respect for democratic principles and fundamental human rights, together with the social and environmental dimensions, are absolutely essential in all its international agreements; calls, therefore, for any future free trade agreement to include an effective and enforceable human rights clause;

40. Notes that there are 15 million migrant workers in the six GCC member states and that those workers make up 40% of the total population; draws attention to the precarious situation of migrant workers in the Gulf states, which has been highlighted by the ILO, and supports its call for a minimum wage in the region in order to prevent any further deterioration in the position of domestic and migrant workers; also supports the right of all workers to form and join trade unions in order to defend their interests;

41. Emphasises the need to respect the democratic principles and fundamental rights established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; urges the GCC member states to combat discrimination against women and the exploitation of children, in particular on the labour market, and to implement the UN Conventions on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and on the Rights of the Child;

42. Considers that the ratification and full implementation by the GCC member states of the framework established by the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, the UN Convention against Corruption and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families should be a key issue in the FTA negotiations;

43. Believes that the conclusion of an FTA would greatly enhance the current relations between the EU Member States and the GCC member states, and would lend added value to the recent Joint Action Programme, in particular, by strengthening capacities and institutions, including within the GCC Secretariat; deplores the fact that the diplomatic presence of the EU in the GCC member states remains minimal and insists that following the establishment of the EEAS the EU should increase its diplomatic presence in the region, including by setting up a Union delegation in each of the six GCC member states, which would work in close cooperation with the national diplomatic services of EU Member States present in the GCC member states, to make the most of their combined expertise concerning the region; believes that a more significant diplomatic presence would greatly increase the chances of a speedy conclusion of the FTA and its subsequent implementation;

44. Proposes the establishment of a regular heads of state and government summit between the EU and the GCC; stresses that this summit could enhance the political, financial, economic, commercial and cultural ties between the EU and GCC immensely; strongly encourages the EU and the GCC’s top political decision-makers to meet on a regular basis in order to jointly define and promote common interests, thus increasing the likelihood of the FTA being concluded and signed as soon as possible; takes the view that both the EU and the GCC’s top political decision-makers should seek progress in this regard, regardless of whether the FTA is concluded and signed;

45. Welcomes the fact that over the years the EU and the GCC have become major investment partners and that the GCC, together with Iraq and Yemen, ranked as the top investor in the EU in 2008; takes of the view that the conclusion of the FTA, or at least the official reopening of the negotiations, will surely open the way to further agreements which will encourage and facilitate mutual foreign direct investment (FDI) with a view to eliminating obstacles to foreign ownership and investment protection; recalls that, following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, FDI now falls within the competence of the EU and therefore provides further scope for the rapid conclusion of an EU-GCC FTA; notes that any future FTA would open up new investment opportunities for both sides whilst enhancing the possibilities for the GCC to fulfil the criteria as a candidate for an EU investment agreement within the future EU investment policy;

46. Points out that the lowering of GCC tariffs as a result of the FTA would increase the attractiveness of outward investment by transnational enterprises; is convinced that the FTA will result in an increase in services-related investments which will foster the development of the GCC and of the EU Member States;

47. Suggests the use of the euro in all types of trade between the EU and the GCC; welcomes the fact that, since its inception, the GCC has expressed its determination to create a customs and monetary union; notes that, while the former entered into force in 2009, negotiations on a common currency are currently taking place;

48. Notes that all six GCC member states currently enjoy preferential access to the EU market under the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP); stresses that all GCC member states should, in accordance with Article 15(1) of Council Regulation (EC) No 732/2008 of 22 July 2008, not only ratify but also implement all 27 ILO and UN conventions listed in Annex III to the regulation; takes the view that, given the level of economic progress in the region, the FTA would be a better tool to spread commercial benefits throughout the region;

49. Reaffirms that the EU’s primary objective in its relations with the GCC should be to conclude the FTA, which will be a major region-to-region agreement; however, until this happens, and following what some of the GCC’s major trade partners have already done, encourages the High Representative/Vice-President and the Commissioner for Trade to assess alternative approaches to future commercial relations with the GCC member states, in the form of bilateral agreements between the EU and the Gulf States that already feel prepared to enter into further commitments with the EU, taking into account the disparities between the economies of the Gulf States, the varied responses of those states to the financial crisis and their relations with other trade partners;

Energy

50. Hails the significant degree of cooperation between the EU and its Mediterranean partners on energy matters, now extended to embrace renewable energies; considers that synergies must be encouraged here between the three geographic zones on account of their converging interests, technological expertise, sources of funding and abundant resources (sun and wind); welcomes the establishment of the EU-GCC clean energy network, clean energy currently being a prime focus of interest for the GCC member states;

51. Notes that, in view of the strategic, economic, political and cultural ties between the Gulf countries and the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, and also of the growing influence of the Gulf countries on Mediterranean countries, a stronger, structured partnership between the GCC and the Union for the Mediterranean could be envisaged and that the European Union should actively endeavour to promote such a project which will benefit all parties;

52. Commends the work carried out by the EU-GCC Energy Expert Group, in particular on natural gas, energy efficiency and nuclear safety;

53. Calls on the Commission, in the light of the challenge of climate change and the growing energy consumption in both regions, to address energy efficiency as one of the main areas of development and to enhance cooperation on energy efficiency issues;

54. Acknowledges that fossil fuels currently supply most of the EU’s energy needs; notes, however, that the EU’s future oil demand will be affected by several factors, such as EU energy and climate policies, supply costs, price volatility and industrial progress (in relation to energy efficiency and electromobility, for example), which combine to create long-term uncertainties about future demand and upstream and downstream investment with regard to production capacity;

55. Calls for greater transparency in oil and gas data as regards the future demand and supply scenario, in keeping with the shared interest in predictable oil markets; welcomes, therefore, the Joint Oil Data Initiative;

56. Welcomes the Joint Ministerial Council’s determination to work towards closer cooperation on the environment and climate change;

57. Recognises that the GCC’s efforts to increase potential natural gas and liquid natural gas (LNG) reserves accord with the EU’s desire to diversify energy sources and supply routes; stresses, therefore, the importance of increasing LNG exports to the EU by establishing LNG terminals in the Southern Corridor, and of establishing pipeline links with the GCC, either directly or by connecting up with current and planned pipelines, such as AGP, Nabucco and ITGI;

58. Encourages the GCC member states to coordinate the further development of gas-to-liquid (GTL) technology with their European partners in order better to incorporate GTL into the European energy mix; stresses that the GCC could also use GTL as an alternative to the emission of flare gas into the atmosphere;

59. Emphasises that the EU has opportunities to invest in GCC energy production capacity, using the latest technologies in terms of generation, transmission and interconnection; encourages, in this respect, future cooperation with a particular focus on the integration of electricity networks and smart grid technologies;

Industry and raw materials

60. Stresses the importance of a reliable partnership between the EU and the GCC in the use of, and access to, raw materials; favours open markets for goods and the removal of non-tariff barriers; welcomes all efforts already made in free-trade negotiations to guarantee a secure and sustainable supply of raw materials;

61. Calls for joint efforts to address the speculation and price volatility affecting raw materials, through greater transparency and closer supervision of OTC derivatives trading; welcomes, in this context, OPEC’s recent call for tighter controls on OTC trading, along with France’s efforts to address commodity speculation within the G 20;

R&D and innovation

62. Highlights the importance of deepening bilateral cooperation with the GCC on research and technology programmes, with a special focus on new knowledge-based industries in areas such as renewable energy sources, CCS, oil and gas derivatives, energy efficiency and biomass; calls for the establishment of cooperation which combines technology transfer with guarantees of a secure, sustainable supply of raw materials;

63. Calls for the European Research Council (ERC) and the European Institute of Technology (EIT) to step up their collaboration with the GCC in order to foster, and press ahead with, scientific dialogue and cooperation between regions in this field as well;

Education

64. Notes that the GCC member states have made education a national priority and have extensive requirements in terms of human resources (there are not enough teachers), course content (which has not kept pace with changing labour markets), syllabus quality (teaching methods and materials are out of date) and the use of new technologies; calls for the authorities’ efforts to address these shortcomings to be actively supported and proposes cooperation on an ambitious scale in higher, secondary and primary education to promote greater access to education for both men and women;

65. Emphasises that this cooperation should include further support for exchange programmes for students, academics and professionals; deplores the fact that the Erasmus Mundus programme remains virtually unknown in the region as a whole, mainly because of a lack of information; welcomes the initiatives taken by French, British and German universities to establish university partnerships and exchange programmes; recalls, however, that Europe continues to lag behind the United States and Asia in this area; calls on the Commission to organise information days to promote teaching and European scientific research on the spot; insists that these exchange programmes should target students, teachers, researchers and administrative staff, while ensuring balanced gender representation; believes that exchange programmes should be established for younger age groups by targeting secondary school and high school students;

66. Welcomes the Al-Jisr project on EU-GCC Public Diplomacy and Outreach Activities which, with the Commission’s support, has proven to be immensely beneficial; encourages, in this connection, the High Representative/Vice-President’s staff to consider expanding public diplomacy activities in a region where the EU is still not clearly understood and mechanisms to overcome this deficit are limited; stresses the importance of developing a better communication strategy, including the need to explain EU policies and positions in Arabic, with a view to reaching a wider audience in the region;

67. Emphasises that the lack of cooperation programmes between the EU and the GCC in the field of the media is resulting in an information deficit; calls on the Commission to put forward measures to involve the GCC member states in closer cooperation in this area in order to raise the profile of the Union in the region and promote mutual understanding;

68. Considers it essential to remedy shortcomings in Europe with regard to research into and study of the Gulf states; encourages the establishment in universities of contemporary study programmes devoted to this part of the Arab world; believes that study programmes on the European Union should also be offered in universities in the region;

°

°      °

69. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the President of the Council of the European Union, the President of the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/ High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the GCC Secretariat and the governments and parliaments of the GCC member states.

 

 



[1]      OJ C 259 E, 29.10.2009, p. 83.

[2]      OJ C 76 E, 10.5.2007, p. 100.

 

The UN Security Council voted on Thursday, March 17, 2011 resolution 1973. This implies the possibility of air strikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery and the imposition of a no-fly zone. While the French authorities on Thursday announced an imminent offensive, American and British officials have, meanwhile, suggested that military action would not begin until Sunday or Monday. The resolution paves the way for « all necessary measures », with the exception of the ground invasion, to defend the Libyan civilians under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Qatar and the UAE have engaged to support the effort but it will be moral caution more than actual reinforcement.

The decision came as the forces of Qaddafi became more and more pressing near the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. But the decision has probably been most influenced by the consequences of the Libyan troubles on oil prices and real or imaginary risks of a massive influx of refugees in Europe. Despite the laudable goals highlighted by France and the United Kingdom, it seems clear that what makes the military intervention needed is the defense of Western interests and not the protection of Libyan civilians. How the vote on the resolution was called diplomatic victory by the French media also shows how this vote was regarded as a domestic policy issue by France.

Yet, in front of the madness of Gaddafi, many intellectuals were in favor of military intervention in the name of the protection of civilians. Because it must be said that the massacre that is taking place in Libya can not leave us indifferent and questions on how to put an end thereto. But won’t an intervention be counterproductive and lead to terrible consequences in the long-term? Can a nation that depends on an opportunistic foreign intervention become free?

Many voices in the Belgian and European civil societies have also opposed the resolution arguing that never a military intervention led to the liberation of a people and that all were motivated by economic and geostrategic interests. (See in particular the sites of PTB andCNAPD)

Having supported and sold weapons to the Libyan dictator, the Western powers now turn their jackets and instrumentalize the emotion caused by the Libyan deads to protect their own interests.
Nothing new. In the words of Charles de Gaulle, in international relations, there is no friends, only interests.

Iman Bahri

 

 

Le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU a voté jeudi 17 mars 2011 la résolution 1973. Celle-ci implique la possibilité de frappes aériennes contre les chars et l’artillerie lourde libyens et l’imposition d’une zone d’exclusion aérienne. Alors que les autorités françaises ont annoncé dès jeudi une offensive imminente, des responsables américains et britanniques ont, quant à eux, suggéré que l’action militaire ne commencerait pas avant dimanche ou lundi. La résolution ouvre la voie à « toutes les mesures nécessaires », exception faite de l’invasion au sol, pour défendre les civils libyens en vertu du chapitre VII de la Charte des Nations Unies. Le Qatar et les Emirats Arabes Unis se sont engagés à soutenir l’effort mais serviront plus de caution morale que de renfort réel.

La décision est intervenue alors que les forces de Kadhafi se faisaient de plus en plus pressantes aux abords du bastion rebelle de Benghazi. Mais la décision a probablement surtout été influencée par les conséquences des troubles libyens sur les prix du pétrole et les risques réels ou imaginaires d’un afflux massif de réfugiés en Europe. En dépit des objectifs louables affichés par la France et le Royaume-Uni, il semble évident que ce qui rend l’intervention militaire nécessaire tient plus de la défense des intérêts occidentaux que de la protection des civils libyens. La manière dont le vote de la résolution a été qualifié de victoire diplomatique par les médias français montre également à quel point ce vote a été considéré comme un enjeu de politique interne par la France.

Pourtant, devant la folie meurtrière de Kadhafi, nombreux sont les intellectuels de tous bords qui se sont prononcés en faveur de l’intervention militaire au nom de la défense des populations civiles. Parce qu’il faut bien dire que le massacre qui se déroule actuellement en Libye ne peut pas laisser indifférent et nous interroge sur les moyens à mettre en œuvre pour y mettre fin. Mais l’intervention ne risque-t-elle pas d’être contre-productive et de provoquer des conséquences terribles sur le long-terme dans le pays et dans toute la région ? Un peuple qui dépend d’une intervention étrangère opportuniste sera-t-il vraiment libre ?

Plusieurs voix dans les sociétés civiles belge et européenne se sont d’ailleurs opposées à la résolution arguant qu’aucune intervention militaire ne menait à la libération d’un peuple et que toutes étaient motivées par des intérêts économiques et géostratégiques. (Voir notamment le site du PTB et le CNAPD)

Après avoir soutenu et vendu des armes au dictateur libyen, les puissances occidentales retournent aujourd’hui leur veste et instrumentalisent l’émotion provoquée par les morts libyens pour sauvegarder leurs intérêts.
Rien de bien neuf. Comme le disait Charles de Gaulles, dans les relations internationales, il n’y a pas d’ami, seulement des intérêts.

Iman Bahri

 

 

– Une main de fer dans un gant de velours ? (Bahrain’s regime talks softly while bringing the big guns in)
15/03/2011 – The Guardian

Depuis le début du soulèvement au Bahreïn, le régime a appliqué une stratégie qui associe un discours conciliant à une répression violente. Le gouvernement affirme qu’il est ouvert au dialogue avec les manifestants. Selon l’auteur, pour mobiliser la population en faveur du déploiement de troupes du Conseil de Coopération du Golfe (GCC) — et préserver sa réputation internationale, le gouvernement bahreïni semble avoir déclenché une campagne médiatique qui présente le gouvernement comme le parti de la modération et réduit les troubles à sa dimension religieuse, attisant ainsi la haine sectaire.

Tripoli pavoise, à Benghazi l’inquiétude grandit
17/03/2011 – RFI

Les habitants de Benghazi redoutent de plus en plus un assaut sur la ville. Mercredi soir 16 mars 2011, Mouammar Kadhafi a annoncé « une bataille décisive » pour conquérir Misrata à 150 km à l’est de Tripoli, tandis que son fils Saïf al-Islam promettait que « tout serait terminé dans les 48 h ». Enfin, le régime libyen s’en est pris directement à Nicolas Sarkozy, en affirmant avoir financé sa campagne électorale en 2007.

– Un sondage européen révèle un décalage massif entre les gouvernements et les populations sur le conflit en Palestine et une désillusion massive au sujet d’Israël
14/03/2011 – International Solidarity Movement

Le Centre d’études Al-Jazeera, en collaboration avec le Middle East Monitor (MEMO) et le European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) de l’Université d’Exeter ont mené une étude commune en janvier 2011 pour évaluer les perceptions britanniques et européennes sur le conflit en cours Israël/Palestine. Cette dernière recherche de l’institut de sondage gouvernemental ICM et de l’unité de recherche sociale a été menée dans six grands pays européens : Grande-Bretagne, France, Espagne, Pays-Bas, Allemagne et Italie. Les conclusions révèlent un décalage massif entre les gouvernements et les populations sur le conflit en Palestine et une désillusion massive au sujet d’Israël.

– Un apartheid médiatique
17/03/2011 – Le Courrier international

L’auteur déplore et s’interroge sur la différence de couverture médiatique des révoltes arabes par les médias arabes les alors que tous les peuples de la région se battent pour les mêmes raisons. La majorité des médias arabes souvent financés par les pétrodollars deviennent muets lorsqu’il s’agit de couvrir les révoltes secouant l’Arabie saoudite et les pays du Golfe.

– Referendum constitutionnel en Egypte : le débat continue (Egypt’s constitutional referendum: The debate continues)
17/03/2011 – Al Masry-Al-Youm

À quelques jours du référendum en Égypte sur les amendements à la Constitution, de plus en plus de voix s’élèvent pour appeler à voter non, voire à annuler la consultation, jugeant que les changements proposés ne vont pas assez loin. Seule la confrérie des Frères musulmans a appelé à voter oui.

 

 

Bahrain’s regime talks softly while bringing the big guns in
15/03/2011 – The Guardian

Since the beginning of the uprising in Bahrain, the regime has pursued a strategy that combines a conciliatory speech to violent repression. The government says it is open to dialogue with the demonstrators. According to the author, to mobilize people in favor of  the deployment of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) troops – and maintain its international reputation, the Bahraini government seems to have triggered a media campaign that presents the government as the party of moderation and reduces the protest to its religious dimension, increasing sectarian hatred.

– Tripoli gloating, growing concern in Benghazi (Tripoli pavoise, à Benghazi l’inquiétude grandit)
17/03/2011 – RFI

Benghazi dwellers fear more and more an assault on the city. Wednesday March 16 2011, Muammar Gaddafi has announced a « decisive battle » to take back Misrata 150 km east of Tripoli, while his son Saif al-Islam promised that « everything would be finished within 48 hours. » Finally, the Libyan regime directly attacked Nicolas Sarkozy, claiming to have financed his election campaign in 2007.

– An European survey reveals a massive gap between governments and people on the conflict in Palestine and a massive disappointment about Israel (Un sondage européen révèle un décalage massif entre les gouvernements et les populations sur le conflit en Palestine et une désillusion massive au sujet d’Israël)
14/03/2011 – International Solidarity Movement

The research Centre Al-Jazeera, in collaboration with the Middle East Monitor (MEMO) and the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) at the University of Exeter conducted a joint study in January 2011 to assess British and European perceptions on the ongoing conflict Israel / Palestine. This latest research has been conducted in six major European countries: Britain, France, Spain, Netherlands, Germany and Italy. The findings reveal a massive discrepancy between the governments and people on the conflict in Palestine and a massive disappointment about Israel.

– A media apartheid (Un apartheid médiatique)
17/03/2011 – Le Courrier international

The author regrets and considers the difference in media coverage of Arab revolts by the Arab media, so that all peoples of the region are fighting for the same reasons. The majority of Arab media often financed by petrodollars become dumb when it comes to cover the riots that shook Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries.

Egypt’s Constitutional Referendum: The debate continues
17/03/2011 – Al-Masry Al-Youm

A few days before the referendum in Egypt on constitutional amendments, more and more voices are calling for voting no, or even to cancel the consultation, finding that the proposed changes do not go far enough. Only the Muslim Brotherhood called for a yes vote.

 

 

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, this Tuesday, March 8, 2011, we wanted to discuss the role of women in the Arab revolutions and celebrate the way they shook misconceptions about Arab women by their courage and perseverance.

Women played a crucial role alongside men in the movements that led to the overthrow of despotic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Some have brought their logistical support, others simply their presence. Real women leaders have emerged. Both in Egypt and Tunisia, women’s participation in committees of neighborhood to watch against looters was of great importance to prevent their country from sinking into chaos. Responsibility and solidarity shown by the people and especially women during the protests and after the removal of dictators have made a great impression. These women have defied and are still defying state violence to liberate themselves from oppressive regimes and defend democracy and human rights, these values yet claimed as Western and considered inappropriate in the Arab world by many voices in the West.

The images of revolutions show us a great diversity of women in the demonstrations. Some dress in Western style, while others wear the veil. The image of many Shiite women all dressed in black traditional dress, the ‘abaya, participating in protests in Bahrain has also amazed more than one. These women do not all look like their European counterparts nor they necessarily fall under the categories of the emancipated woman constructed by the West, yet one thing is certain: far from the stereotypical representations of Arab women as submissive and confined to domestic space, they fought alongside men, they invested the public space supposed to be forbidden for them and have done all of it spontaneously. At the risk of contradicting reactionaries, these revolutions show that Arab women are not conditioned upon submission and aspire to freedom.

But today, to guarantee that their involvement has not been vain and that it is not forgotten, it is essential that women participate in the transitions to ensure that new political systems take into account gender equality. To be sure of it, anyway, women have not abandoned their fight. Several Tunisian associations have launched on March 8, 2011, the national campaign « From popular revolution to egalitarian construction » in favor of a genuine equality and of the inclusion thereof in the Constitution. In Egypt, 63 associations have signed a declaration addressed to the Military Council to rebel against the absence of women in the constitutional committee, tasked with drafting a new constitution. Because a democracy that does not respect the rights of half its citizens, who has also fought for its advent, is a truncated democracy and it cannot be satisfactory. The revolutions were made with women; democracy must follow the same path.

Iman Bahri