High-level Representatives from MENA and European Stakeholders Meet in Brussels

In the light of the changes in the political landscape of Europe’s southern neighborhood through the Arab Spring, high-level representatives from the MENA region and relevant European stakeholders met in Brussels on May 7-8, 2013, in order to discuss the key issues dominating the EU-MENA agenda.

The first day focused on understanding what political Islam is amid the issue of democracy and Islam and Europe's relations with the ruling Islamic parties in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.

Opening the meeting, Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee and PN member, said Islamic parties rose as the strongest political contenders for power at the 2012 elections, in particular in the three Arab countries. "They are likely to do well in future elections in other countries also," he stated. There is a strong need, he stressed, for the EU to rethink its relations with its southern neighbors and establish link and to bring democracy and Islam together. "It is a bit simplistic to speak about an Islamic winter after the Arab Spring. The ongoing constitutional processes show that we are on the right path but we cannot yet take the victory of democracy for granted," he pointed out.

Dr. Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, Egyptian Member of Parliament and spokesman of the foreign relations committee of the Freedom and Justice Party, praised the process of rethinking in Europe in its relations with its southern neighbours. "The concept of neigbhour is very important in the Arab Islamic culture," he underlined but also condemned western colonialism for creating a "inferiority complex mentality "in the Arab Muslim world and a "superiority complex" in the minds of westerners. He called for the start of "a new day, new ways of thinking" of both sides.

"The moderate voices in the Arab world and Europe can do much together," he said and added that a new term called "Muslim democrats "is emerging in his country. Dardery called on Europeans to help reforms and fix the institutions to fight corruption in Egypt adding that "we are not asking for charity but for equal partnership." Gebad El-Haddad, senior advisor, Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice party in Egypt, noted that for the first time the European Parliament has invited a Muslim Brotherhood representative although many other political parties from Egypt had been invited by the EU Parliament.

Mustapha El Khalfi, Moroccan minister of communications said that after the outbreak of the Arab Spring , Morocco chose a third path making necessary reforms without losing stability. "We have developed a very unique model in the region," he stressed.

Elhabib Choubani, minister of relations with the parliament and civil society in Morocco also spoke about the peaceful democratic changes in his country and noted that monarchy has been a facilitating factor in this process.

Concluding the first day of the conference, Edward McMillan-Scott (ALDE, UK), EP Vice-President responsible for democracy and human rights, summed up: "All the political and social actors need to show respect for and commitment to democratic values and practices. That is the only way to build institutions representative of all the population. I can assure you, on the path towards democracy and dignity, of the full support of Parliament and all the European institutions."

The second day of the conference focused on “MENA in Transition: Players, Plans and Positions”. Pursuing on the line of open dialogue across the political spectrum of some MENA countries and across the main players of the region, the panels engaged on the Social and Economic Dimensions of Transition, on the Role of Regional Powers (Turkey, Iran, Israel) and on Future Perspectives and Challenges of European-Arab Relations.

The conference was organized by Carnegie Europe, in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the European Parliament, and Egmont - The Royal Institute for International Relations.



Carnegie Europe "Europe's Southern Neighbourhood".

European Parliament Press Release (08.05.2013) "Understanding political Islam: shift to democracy needs time".

Isis europe blog (10.05.2013) "MENA: players, plans, positions".

Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) (07.05.2013) "EU Parliament debates political Islam".


Photo by thomasroenn.


To watch the opening remarks by MEP Elmar Broks and extracts of the debate on "From Dictatorship to Democratic States", please click here.

For a detailed overview of the issues discussed on the second day of the conference, please visit isis europe blog.