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Security and economy, the geopolitics of a changing Middle
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
Opportunities and challenges
The events of the last few weeks are a watershed for Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. And, indeed, for the whole of the Middle East and North Africa. The uncertain geopolitical scenarios pose great challenges and opportunities for our security, and for our economies as well. In the near future, beyond our frontiers we could face either safe and prosperous democracies or new forms of threat: failed states, extremism, massive and illegal migration�.The outcome will mostly depend on the choices made by the Arab peoples. But we can help them in their efforts towards modernisation. We can help them establish lasting democracies and develop prosperous economies, without imposing pre-packaged models.
The end of the status quo in the Middle East
For years, Italy has stressed the challenges to security in the Mediterranean area and the need to deepen cooperation. But I do not want, on this occasion, to enter into the debate on whether these rebellions were predictable. Most of the time, a revolution looks impossible ex-ante. Although, ex-post, to most commentators it looks inevitable. I just want to stress that we are being forced to rapidly confront the end of the status quo in the Middle East. Under this huge pressure, we should turn to our fundamental values and lean on the pillars that have always soundly upheld them. We should look at our basic principles and interests to reconsider our actions.
Italy: consistent with its humanistic heritage
Our principles stem from our humanistic heritage: a heritage that affirms the human being as the measure of all things. Regimes which disregard the right to life can never be acceptable to us. So, when people took to the street, our message to all of our southern neighbours was clear. We called for dialogue, deploring the use of force against civilians. Our subsequent reactions were in line with our values. When, in Libya, our set of core principles was offended by the brutal and disproportionate repression,we did not hesitate to condemn the authorities. We have supported the international sanctions against Gaddafi and his regime. And more: we have stated that we would consider allowing our military bases to be used if the Security Council were to pass a resolution to enforce a no-fly zone.
We need to play a long-term stabilizing role
The end of the status quo in the region obliges us to do more. We need to play a long-term stabilizing role, by offering new, and concrete, opportunities for cooperation and integration. The situation, and the times, are ripe for this. The prospect of modernization is no longer out of reach for this complex region. The principles of democracy and liberty, born many centuries ago in the Mediterranean civilization, are now proclaimed and upheld in the cities of Cairo and Tunis as well as in remote Libyan villages. The revolts have proved that the concept of civil and political rights was not unknown to the Arab peoples. Never have young generations participated more in public life. Never have they been more opposed to an artificial existence of social exclusion.
These people want to live a better life. Their struggle is inspired by their suffering and their aspirations to prosperity, freedom and security. We should not allow ourselves to be worried more about security in the Middle East than we are about prosperity and freedom. Let us be frank: freedom and security are not opposites. Without security, freedom is precarious. Without freedom, security may be oppressive. Both are held hostage by poverty and underdevelopment. We need to find the right balance. If we want to overcome the current difficulties, we need to increase economic prosperity in the Mediterranean by implementing numerous projects. Especially if we want to restore hope to the Arab-Israeli peace process.
A new Marshall Plan is needed
Moreover, the uprisings tell us that a wider and more ambitious vision is needed. The unrest was sparked by many and various causes: economic and social pressures, disillusionment with anti-corruption efforts and generation mobility all played a major role. That is why we need a fresh start. We need to embark on a new course, as I have proposed to my European colleagues. An ambitious initiative, therefore, to save the southern shores of the Mediterranean from the trap of disruption and resentment, by building on a new model of development, integration and the free movement of people, capital and goods.
I have called for a new Marshall Plan, because we need a comprehensive set of measures. Such measures should consist of more open trade of goods and services; more visas; more investments in strategic infrastructure; more access to technology and credit; more student and cultural exchanges. Our goal must also be to prevent despair and poverty from unleashing floods of illegal migrants. Thousands of them have already landed on the shores of Italy. And many more could come if North Africa explodes. Sixty-five years ago the first Marshall Plan saved Europe from communism; today a similar initiative could save the Mediterranean from political unrest, economic disruption and social dislocation.
Turkey can act as a successful example
We should work together on this strategy with the United States and Turkey, whose contribution is crucial to the stabilization of the region. Most notably, Turkey can act as a successful example of blending institutional secularism and freedom of religion; democracy and Islam; free market and cultural heritage. A paradigm of flourishing modernisation, Turkey is also a powerful economic actor in the Mediterranean. If Ankara were already a member of the European Union, the EU could have more active leverage at this historic moment. It is not, but Italy and Turkey can still work together with strong determination to win these great challenges and seize these extraordinary opportunities. That is the most effective way to deliver security and prosperity for our citizens.
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