Friday, February 18, 2011
From Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and now Bahrain, Libya and Yemen we watch pictures and videos of a real revolution that is taking in the Arab world and it was about time too.
The region has been ruled by totalitarian regimes for decades, plagued by corruption and lacking of any progress, freedom, prosperity and jobs. Many of the region's citizens were migrating to Europe, and this situation seemed to be unchangeable. Our leaders did business with the leaders of the region and perhaps even supported them. Possibly this political balance suited them and favored many in Europe and the wider region, but not the people living in it.
Suddenly we witness an uprising in the Arab world. And while the European media feast on the news that come from those countries and the European public are watching with fascination, our leaders remain observant. Could such mass uprising ever happen in Europe, or are they unsettled by the change of the status in those countries? For the moment they seem to just observing for the outcome.
Europe itself is gripped by an ongoing crisis. Most European countries suffer still from the recession and we witnessed two Euro-zone countries receiving a bail out from the IMF. Many more EU and non EU European countries have already received similar loans. People in Italy are protesting against their ruling elite demanding the resignation of PM Berlusconi. In Greece, Iceland,Ireland and many eastern European states we saw protests over the economic crisis, the cuts, the IMF loans and the oppression of the working force.
In Belgium too the people are protesting over the failure of their leaders to agree and form a government. So Europe at the moment is not a very different place to be than the Arab World. What fascinates us though is that in North Africa people have actually managed to oust their leaders and their governments.
The similarities between Europe and North Africa are much more that we would like to believe. We also have well established political elites that rule us since the WW2. The fact that we do not have them in the form of juntas or regimes like the one in Libya, I guess comes down to the history of decolonization in North Africa and the US influence. When the European powers left the region, they helped those regimes to be established and their dominance lasted until now.
Europe always meddled with the affairs of this region. The question is, who is behind all this, and why now? Recessions came and went in the past but the Arabs did not protest as passionately. Hopefully the developments are for the best of the people of those countries and they will get the freedom and democracy that they are fighting for.
It is inspirational what is happening right now in the southern coast of the Mediterranean and beyond.When it was the last time that we saw people seizing power? But there is no doubt that these developments will have an impact to Europe too. So far we only see a rise of illegal immigrants from the region coming to our continent, but perhaps in the future we will be affected in other ways too.
Recently the British PM David Cameron stated that multiculturalism has failed in Europe, echoing the German Chancellor's Merkel similar remarks about a year ago. The remarks came soon after protests of the far right in Britain against the spread of Islam in the UK. In fact all three main European Powers' leaders (Cameron, Merkel, Sarkozy) made the same remarks.
If Europe is turning against its multiculturalism agenda then what next for Europe's Muslims? Perhaps the riots and democratization of the Arab world is coming on the right scheduled time. For decades the region was dipped in poverty, deprivation and the trend of emigration into Europe.
Now with the establishment of new political elites will this reality continue, or will we see a total change in the region and its economy among other things? Stabilizing democracy in Europe's neighbors, may cap emigration into Europe from the region. It is not by chance that we see a constant change in the Euro-Mediterranean area in all aspects from social to financial, foreign to energy, immigration to employment policies.
We are living in exciting and challenging times, perhaps even more than when the Berlin wall fell and Europe reunited. The changes that will follow will perhaps not only affect Europe, but North Africa, Middle East and all the near regions.The question is who will be the winners of such political and social shake up in the region and who will benefit from this.
Europe can not remain an observer in the events but if it get's involved, its engagement must be constructive for the region, or it will bring us in a further class with the Arab nations. We do have a terrible history of meddling and making things worse after all.