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Edition 27 Volume 3 - July 21, 2005

The EU crisis and the Middle East
Powerful conservative trends  - Roberto Aliboni

The constitution's rejection concerns less external policies toward MENA than internal ones.

With Turkey, Europe may thwart al-Qaeda  - Soner Cagaptay

Unless Europe takes the right steps, it risks having a population crystallized along Christian-Muslim lines.

Is the EU truly in crisis?  - Ahmet O. Evin

The issue of Turkish membership could be turned into a positive challenge.

A failure of confidence  - an interview withCharles Shamas

A lot of Europe's malaise comes from the lack of a coherent EU common foreign and security policy.


Powerful conservative trends
 Roberto Aliboni

The disruption of the European constitution's ratification process unveiled a wider political crisis in the European Union. This crisis stems from factors as diverse as the decline of the transatlantic link--despite its enduring strategic value in EU eyes--and European ambiguities in responding to pressures deriving from globalization. More generally, there is a dwindling sense of the role the EU plays with respect to both daily life and destiny.

How would the failure to endorse the constitution affect EU policies toward the Middle East and North Africa?

First of all, the whole of EU foreign policy would be broadly affected because the constitution is largely intended to improve the institutions and instruments of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. In fact, it is expected to provide two fundamental institutional inputs: a manageable decision-making institutional mechanism in a now-crowded membership; and a significant upgrading of institutions and instruments dealing precisely with foreign policy. Its rebuff would be a serious blow to EU foreign policy capabilities, in particular at a time when bold decisions and interventions are required, especially in neighboring areas like the Balkans, the Black Sea, North Africa and the Levant, as well as in the more or less greater Middle East.

No doubt, EU policies toward Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, regional economic and political reforms, the Mediterranean, Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council would fade. The inclusion of Turkey in the Union--indirectly linked to the Arab-Muslim world--would also be affected.

Second, the European Constitution is being rejected by European people either because it fails to provide convincing responses to the major factors of crisis mentioned above or because it provides responses that are out of tune with deep trends in European public opinion. When it comes to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), political aspects are probably even more significant than institutional ones. In fact, among the complex reasons that have led people to reject the constitution, relations with Islam and immigration play a crucial role. There is no doubt that the liberal perspective underlying the constitution, with its refusal to include the notion of EU "Christian roots" and its broad trend toward further liberalization and inclusiveness with respect to people and countries, sounds frightening or unconvincing to many Europeans.

In this respect, what the constitution's rejection would entail for EU policymakers concerns less external policies toward MENA than internal ones. European people are asking for more security with respect to legal and illegal immigration, mostly Arab and Muslim, in Europe. The rationalist approach toward inter-civilizational issues adopted by the constitution fails to convince many Europeans. The attitude of the newly-elected Catholic pope, ostensibly very much engaged against the egalitarian simplifications brought about by secular rationalist approaches, shows how powerful conservative trends in today's Europe are.

The mainstream message coming from European conservatism stresses the necessity of limiting Muslim influence, if not presence. Certainly it is squarely against multiculturalism. More than that, it says that Muslims have to integrate European customs much more than Europeans have to recognize Muslim customs. Leaving aside the most extreme xenophobic groups, the large majority of Europeans ask for a more regulatory approach toward immigration, be it integrationist (the left) or exclusivist (the right).

If a tighter regulatory policy is to be established, an integrationist approach would definitely be more desirable and far-sighted than an exclusivist one. Several factors, though, suggest that the balance tilts toward exclusivist policies. First, there is strong disagreement among EU members about immigration as well as related issues, such as citizenship, asylum, and so forth. The constitution is liberal in its overall approach, yet it does not point to a clear immigration policy. A liberal constitution that does not specify policies because of inter-governmental disagreement creates a need for reassurance. In this sense, it may easily foster a conservative EU response to immigration and civilizational dialogue with MENA.

The July 7 terrorist attack in London is certainly going to reinforce conservative tendencies in the EU. Europe will focus its policies toward the Arab and Islamic world on what the EU calls optimistically "justice, freedom and security space" and the Americans will focus, more prosaically, on "homeland security"--meaning immigration and terrorism, with strong linkages between the two. The London attack, seemingly carried out by Muslim British citizens of Pakistani origin in connection with people in Arab-Muslim areas, easily confirmed to Europeans that the threat derives primarily from within, and has first of all to be tackled domestically, with foreign policies playing a complementary role with respect to domestic ones.

A particular casualty of the conservative trend unveiled by the European Constitution's rejection might be the inclusion of Turkey in the EU. Despite the fact that Turkey has taken remarkable steps forward in democratizing its regime in tune with EU requests, it was abundantly targeted in the French and Dutch referendum campaigns. Turkey's EU membership was also a factor in the debate about "Christian roots" that characterized preparation of the text of the constitution.

Thus the prevailing trend in Europe is apparently a strongly conservative one that complicates problems without solving them. At the end of the day, what is probably lacking in Europe is a leadership able to assert "secular rationalist approaches" that might guide Europeans out of their fear and blindness.- Published 21/7/2005 (c) bitterlemons-international.org


Roberto Aliboni is vice president of the Italian International Affairs Institute-IAI, Rome, and head of the Institute's Program for the Mediterranean and the Middle East.


With Turkey, Europe may thwart al-Qaeda
 Soner Cagaptay

In the aftermath of the recent bombings in London, Turkey's European Union accession, lately thrown into doubt, has become an issue of cosmic importance for Europe. Here is why.

The appalling crimes in London and the subsequent revelation that the bombers were a cell of British Muslims of Pakistani origin indicate that what happened in Madrid on March 3, 2004, was not an isolated incident. Rather, there is a pattern emerging whereby al-Qaeda is using terror acts by radical Muslims in Europe to create resentment against the larger Muslim community in the EU--the second largest and fastest growing religious group inside the union. Moreover, the firebombing of mosques and harassment of British Muslims in the aftermath of the London attacks--episodes also witnessed after the slaying of Dutch film director Theo Van Gogh by North African Islamists--indicate that Europeans are prone to extracting justice from local Muslims in response to al-Qaeda's crimes.

With every additional al-Qaeda attack, Europeans will only become angrier and will continue seeking vengeance. This will further alienate Muslims living in the EU--already a poorly integrated and marginalized community in most European countries. Therefore, what looms on the horizon for Europe is a home-grown Islamist insurgency compounded by acts of violence against local Muslims.

Unless Europe takes the right steps, it risks having a population crystallized along Christian-Muslim lines. This would be an al-Qaeda victory. Fighting terror effectively is one way of preventing this scenario. Making those Muslims living in EU countries, especially those committed to European values, feel welcome on the continent is another. Here is where Turkey comes in. If the EU treats Turkey's EU accession with fairness, European Muslims will feel that they are indeed welcome.

That attitude has not been the case lately. Even though the EU recently invited Turkey to accession negotiations, and despite the fact that all previous accession talks have resulted in EU membership offers, upcoming European leaders from Angela Merkel in Germany to Nicholas Sarkozy in France are saying Turkey will never become an EU member.

These attitudes are raising the membership bar higher for Turkey than for other applicant states despite the fact that Ankara has already done at least as much as some of the EU's new Eastern European members to qualify for accession. Recently, the EU said that Ankara will have to go through separate rounds of negotiations for each of the 35 "chapters" to be addressed in the accession talks, while other candidate countries have addressed all chapters in a single round of talks.

How will Turkey's skewed accession process affect EU-Muslim relations? Once Ankara begins negotiations, a new discipline of "comparative accession talks" will emerge in Turkey, leading to a perception that the EU is treating Turkey unfairly due to its religion.

This feeling will drive a wedge between the EU and Ankara. In the post-September 11 world, Turkey sits precariously on a fence between the West and the Muslim countries. The Iraq war in particular has created feelings of solidarity between Ankara and its Muslim neighbors. If Turkey receives a cold shoulder from Europe at a time when US-Turkish relations are in the doldrums, the Turks may well turn toward the East.

Even worse, if Muslims in Europe perceive the European Union as discriminating against Turkey, they will conclude that there is no place for them on the continent, regardless of how European they become.

It will take years for a majority of Europeans to wake up to the wisdom of letting Ankara into the Union and see that Turkey provides Europe with an opportunity to bridge the chasm that al-Qaeda wants to expand. Until then, populist politicians will try to squash Ankara's membership prospects in hopes of cashing in on public resistance to the idea of a Muslim EU country. In doing so they will miss the point that Turks are the "western Muslims" best suited for EU membership, having two centuries of westernization, 80 years of secular government, six decades of multi-party democracy, a tradition of tolerant Islam, and Ataturk's legacy of equality between men and women solidly under their belt.

Europe faces a serious decision on Turkey. It can either thwart al-Qaeda's tactics by moving ahead with Turkish accession, or it can help al-Qaeda accomplish its goal of dividing Europe. Turkey's EU accession is not a mere technical issue--it is a political choice that the EU must make. For Europe's sake, better sooner than later.- Published 21/7/2005 (c) bitterlemons-international.org


Soner Cagaptay is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Hale Arifagaoglu is a research assistant at the Institute and Cansin Ersoz was a research intern at the Institute in 2009-2010.


Is the EU truly in crisis?
 Ahmet O. Evin

Following the rejection by the French and Dutch voters of the constitutional treaty, Europe was thrown into a state of confusion and doubt, although the results of both referenda, predicted earlier, were hardly surprising. Without the new constitution, its proponents argued, further European Union enlargement would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve; pessimistic observers went so far as to suggest that Europe might not be governable, or even viable, without the streamlined decision-making procedures foreseen in the constitution. As a result, prospects for Turkey's full membership are also claimed to have faded, despite protestations to the contrary from the Commission.

Two interrelated questions emerge from these gloomy scenarios. First, is there a good reason to be alarmed about the state of the EU? And second, will Turkey lose its chance for full membership in the wake of the current loss of confidence in Europe?

To begin with the first: the so-called crisis has less to do with the EU itself than with the domestic politics of some of its member states that have been suffering from economic underperformance. The French and Dutch referenda reflect an increased emphasis on national priorities rather than dissatisfaction with the way in which the EU itself is governed.

Contrary to the perceived state of EU over-reach, enlargement has helped the Union's economy, as reflected by the substantially higher rates of growth of the 10 new members. Nor has the EU lost its attraction for candidate countries as well as future hopefuls in its neighborhood.

What is perceived to be the EU crisis appears to reflect crises of leadership in many of the member states, where the leaders (responsible for decisions taken on an intergovernmental basis) fail to inform their national constituencies about the EU and to share a vision of how that entity would be capable of enhancing collective interests. On the other hand, short-term populist considerations on the national political level, such as resisting globalization for the sake of protecting domestic labor markets, carry the danger of serious economic crises that would threaten the very basis of the post-war European success story.

Parochialism of national politics also seems to get in the way of obtaining a clear perspective on Turkey's membership. A persistent lack of familiarity, compounded by the alien image of the Turk and the resulting inability to imagine Turkey as part of Europe (although Turkey is a member of all European institutions except the EU), is often camouflaged behind the more objective-sounding arguments (such as the country's size, level of economic development, costs to the EU of its integration) that are commonly made against Turkish membership, even as accession negotiations are scheduled to begin. The fact that only six percent of the French and three percent of the Dutch "no" voters cited Turkish membership as the reason for their vote is also obscured in the arguments against Turkish integration.

In view of the strong arguments for Turkey's membership that emphasize its contribution to European security and stability, those who are against Turkey's membership are proposing an ingenious alternative: to anchor Turkey in Europe by means of a privileged partnership. This offer is rejected by both the Turkish government and the enlargement commissioner, who pointed out recently that Turkey was already a "privileged partner".

The issue of Turkish membership, however, could be turned into a positive challenge if approached from a fresh perspective rather than from entrenched positions. A federal Europe governed from Brussels is not in the cards; this is also the lesson to be taken from the French and Dutch voters' reactions. Variable geometry best describes the way in which the Union is now organized, and even the way EU-15 was organized before 2004. Not all members are in the Euro-zone, not all of them have signed the Schengen agreement, but none of them are described as privileged partners. "Ever closer union of the peoples of Europe", as expressed in the Treaty of the European Union, is achieved by means of shared values, shared institutions, rule of law, rights and obligations, and not by centralization of the means of government.

Consistent with its dynamic nature, an enlarged Europe can best maintain coherence by means of this variable geometry. A coherent definition of variable geometry, in turn, would help to reconcile the legal definition of the Union with its de facto arrangement, and would allow the EU to proceed with the agreed program of enlargement that has been such an essential part of its success story.- Published 21/7/2005 (c) bitterlemons-international.org


Ahmet O. Evin is founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Sabanci University. He is a professor of political science at Sabanci and is a member of the board of directors of Istanbul Policy Center.


A failure of confidence
an interview with Charles Shamas

BI: What is going to happen in the near to mid-future with EU relations in the Middle East, and how will we feel it here?

Shamas: We need to understand what lessons can be drawn from the referenda of France and the Netherlands. I think the lessons that are being learned in Europe show similarities to the situation here. There is a loss of confidence among citizens of the EU in the system because it is run far too politically. The EU is built on its treaties and its rule of law, but successive developments, most notably the German and French failures to abide by the stability pact, have shown that the system could not be relied upon to consistently apply the common policies and law that it had adopted after a great deal of reflection and debate. In the case of the stability pact, Europeans saw two political heavyweights repeatedly disregarding the law. They saw the European Commission--the guardian of the community's treaty--sue them at the European Court of Justice, and then turn around and negotiate a compromise. This is one example of the failure of the EU to fulfill it own chief condition for success in the eyes of its own citizens.

The EU's diplomacy in the Middle East is similarly far too politicized. This has helped weaken the confidence of the Palestinian public in the peace process. It's not good for the EU, and it's also not good for the peace process to see that the EU, under the pressure of a few members throwing their weight around, turns its back on its legal commitments both internationally and in terms of its own law.

So, I think we are looking at a similar problem. We are looking at a failure of confidence among citizens, expressed through the rejection of a constitution in Europe and a peace process in the Middle East. Both failures are based on the lack of confidence of people in the functioning of the agreements and the law that the parties have committed themselves to, and might commit themselves to.

BI: In Europe, much has been written about the failure of politicians to properly explain the EU to the people. Is that similar to the problem we have here?

Shamas: I think there is another general source of malaise in the EU: the lack of transparency. People can't really figure out how decisions are taken, what decisions have really been taken and how they are going to be implemented.

What this does is cause the public at large to retreat into its own national systems that still enjoy its confidence. All of the member states of the EU have a pretty respectable rule of law and, compared to the EU, they are pretty transparent in their style of governance. The average person in Europe says, "I don't have confidence in this opaque, unpredictable system, and I'm not going to turn over more of my life to its control. I want to stay the way I am, and I want to protect my right to stay different from others. I don't want to give over more control to a system that still can not be relied upon to function according to the rational vision of collective interest it has codified in its law, but lets settled matters be reopened and re-determined by whoever can throw their weight around the most."

And this is exactly what the Palestinians fear. They fear a non-transparent peace process in which law is neglected and overturned at the whim of the most powerful. They have no idea how agreements will be implemented, what agreements will be reached, and how the weight of strong actors will be politically thrown around even after agreements are concluded, potentially leading them from a very bad situation into an even worse one.

BI: But unlike the EU, where citizens, as you say, have faith in their own national systems, Palestinians would seem to have very little faith in their own.

Shamas: This is an added complication. I think, to be quite frank, that the Palestinian system of governance poses another similar set of problems. It aggravates mistrust in the peace process, but also poses far deeper threats. However, even with an exemplary tradition of limited self-governance, who would expect Palestinians to feel confidence in a non-sovereign system that so clearly leaves Israel in effective control over vital areas of their lives and futures, and leaves Israel virtually free of any legal restraints? The problem of confidence starts with the excessive politicization of the peace process. Far more than Europeans, Palestinians find themselves subjected to the agendas of political heavyweights throwing their weight around at the expense of law. The Palestinian Authority is hardly a political heavyweight in the international arena, and has lost much of its weight internally. Palestinian mistrust may have been compounded by the way the PA has been observed to function and not function, but the seeds of that mistrust were planted by its commitment to a peace process that has proven to be so unregulated as to guarantee a highly disadvantageous and possibly a catastrophic outcome.

This having been said, Palestinian failings do aggravate popular mistrust in the peace process not only among Palestinians, but also among Israelis and internationally. Nevertheless, the peace process is not the product of any Palestinian national system. Its dysfunctional character only aggravates, and is aggravated by, Palestinian failings. The peace process is a bilateral undertaking supposedly being conducted in a multilateral environment governed by treaties and institutions made in international law, very much like the treaties and institutions of the EU itself. Nothing the Palestinian Authority does can neutralize the destructive effects of the excessively politicized state of that multilateral environment. The powerful actors chiefly responsible for this excessive politicization include the EU.

BI: Would you argue, following your analogy, that the political heavyweight here that is not following the rule of law is Israel?

Shamas: Only partly. When you are dealing with international law and a peace process in international law, the political heavyweights include Israel but are not limited to Israel. Israel's lawless abuses of power anger, but come as no political shock to the Palestinian public. The readiness of third parties like the EU, which regularly proclaims its attachment to international law, to reach political compromises with Israel that accommodate its illegal policies, shakes up Palestinian confidence in a much more fundamental sense. It's one thing to be angry. It's another thing to lose the hope for eventual justice and security. Focusing on giving the Palestinian public a political horizon is no more credible a solution in such circumstances than offering the European public a political horizon, when the problem at hand clearly arises from their own system's excessive politicization, to the detriment of its rule of law.

BI: Recently we saw two potential future leaders of Germany and France, Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy respectively, both of whom seem united in their opposition to Turkey's accession to the Union. Are we going to see an EU that will draw up its drawbridges even more, and what consequences will that have for this region?

Shamas: A lot of Europe's malaise regarding expansion results from the failures of the EU's common foreign and security policy, or rather its lack of coherence. That is an area where the member states throw their weight around with the least legal discipline. Turkey was an exceptional success that now may turn into a failure as political sentiment in Europe is moving toward a more inward-looking set of preoccupations. The idea that the EU can ambitiously and confidently integrate beyond the last ten has been shaken, along with confidence in its ability to conduct foreign policy effectively.

The ability of the EU's institutions, their institutional rule of law and their institutional coherence to sustain the added challenges of increased diversity has come under doubt. But the issue of Turkey is also complicated by a lot of local feeling against non-European immigrants or migrants. This is a kind of xenophobia that I think tends to emerge in all political societies when confidence in the robustness of their own institutions and their own political life is shaken.

BI: But do you think this form of xenophobia will have consequences, for example, for the EU-Med agreements?

Shamas: I think not. I think the EU has moved to a fallback position that gives stronger emphasis to what is happening on its periphery, even if expansion plans are cut back. The EU will still have to rev up the level of effort that it puts into achieving security, stability and prosperity on its periphery, especially among neighboring countries that will not be candidates for accession.

The EU's new "Neighbourhood Policy" is a very ambitious effort in this direction. Whether it succeeds or not is a matter of whether the excessive politicization that flaws the institutional life of the Union can be repaired--the same flaws that breed the lack of confidence in European citizens. For many in the EU the idea behind the Neighbourhood Policy is the following: "Let's put off the question of accession. We might decide to look at Turkey in a few years. We might decide to look at Ukraine. However, we are not of one mind about either. But we do know one thing: with or without Turkey and the Ukraine, the neighborhood that includes them, and that includes the Middle East and North Africa, poses real potential threats to our own security and stability."

As a result of the last expansion, the EU also has to find ways to maintain cross-border relationships so as not to put in place very hard borders that disturb and disrupt relations that have existed for the past 50-60 years between the new eastern members and the non-members to their east and south.

BI: So you are saying the EU will become more active rather than less?

Shamas: The EU believes it has to achieve a level of involvement that is much more active at exporting a broader set of the EU's political values then it ever attempted to do in the past. It has to bring this neighborhood closer to it institutionally in terms of approximation of laws and policies.

And here is where it risks stumbling again. If the EU fails to do this for the same reasons that it has lost its own citizens' confidence--the institutional failures, the hyper-politicization that has denied it coherence and consistency in the application of its policies and the implementation of the law--the EU is going to turn inward. It will want to build very hard borders and is going to become extremely xenophobic.

The fullest consequences of the poisonous lessons now being taught in this region are, I fear, yet to be felt, here and in Europe. The unreliability and readiness of great powers to make unimaginable exceptions to the most fundamental rules embraced by all civilized nations leaves us in an excessively politicized world. The loss of popular confidence in the rules underlying the state-based order, and the consequences of that loss of confidence, are not likely to be confined to Palestinians. Similarly, the consequences of a further loss of popular confidence in the project of building a single Europe will not be confined to Europeans.- Published 21/7/2005 (c) bitterlemons-international.org


Charles Shamas is the senior partner of the Mattin Group, a Ramallah-based legal and human rights policy research center.




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