BRATISLAVA. Passionate debate about the dangers of Islamism, rights of women and the assistance of Europe in the transition process to the Arab countries brought the panel dedicated to the topic of the Arab seasons at the global security forum GLOBSEC in Bratislava. Tarek Osman, the author of the book “Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak,” which predicted the Egyptian revolution shortly before it took place, outlined his view of the current Middle East developments in terms of social changes in the region. He believes that the Arab revolutions are the result of a desire for a new life project by young Arabs under the age of 30, forming currently more than two thirds of the population in the Arab countries. “Arab countries went through three phases over the last two hundred years – liberalism, nationalism and distorted capitalism. All of them failed and young people in the region have to live the consequences of these failures. This is their response,” said Osman. Libyan analyst Anas Gomati criticized the western fear of Islamism which he considers to be the result of the democratization processes and a new phenomenon in the Arab societies. In his view it is understandable that after 30-40 years of secular dictatorships the populations of the Arab countries are returning back to their root religious values.
The consequences of the developments in the Arab world for Europe were discussed by the Bulgarian minister of foreign affairs Nickolay Mladenov. He refused the imposition of the values and policies on the Arab societies and recommended to the EU to engage the Arab elites through understanding and by reaching out to those in the Middle East and North Africa who share European values. He also proposed to create a European Endowment for Democracy which would be able to share the transformation experience of Central and Eastern Europe more effectively with the Arab countries and promote democracy not only in the Europe’s immediate neighbourhood but also beyond.
The Middle East story would not be complete without an Israeli view, particularly because Israel is generally considered to be the only democracy in the region with very complicated relations with its neighbours. As Oded Eran from the Tel Aviv University explained, Israel is worried about the regional developments as well as about the fact that Europe and the United States rapidly embraced the Arab revolutions without having any consistent and clear strategy of how to address their consequences. He believes that Europe and the US could potentially use the newly discovered resources of oil and gas in the region as a leverage tool to lead the Arab countries successfully through democratization. The panellists emphasized the importance of the link between the discussion on the Arab seasons and a place where this discussion took place – Central Europe. “Central and Eastern Europe is an inspiring example for many. It is our responsibility to develop it,” concluded minister Mladenov. The GLOBSEC security forum continues tomorrow when another panel dedicated to the geopolitical aspects of the changes taking place in the Middle East will be discussed.