Cooperation between MENA and Europe from Liberal Political and Economic Perspectives

Cooperation between MENA and Europe from Liberal Political and Economic Perspectives

 The two day regional seminar of the Arab Liberal Federation (ALF) entitled "Cooperation between MENA and Europe from Liberal Political and Economic Perspectives" was held from April 13 until 15, 2018 in Amman, Jordan. The seminar was organized in cooperation with the Free Thought Forum (FTF), VVD International and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF).

Representatives of ALF members and its youth organization, the Arab Youth Union for Freedom and Democracy (AYUFD), plus international guests from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), affiliated sister parties and Liberal International (LI) participated in the seminar.

In the opening session, Saed Karajah, President of FTF, said that the liberal movement in the Arab world is surrounded by many risks and difficulties including the decline of  freedom and security and the absence of the concept democracy. He is looking forward that liberals would have a new spirit in the seminar to set new strategies to disseminate the liberal thought and to determine the concepts of liberalism in the context of the Arab culture and civilization and to transform them to practical solutions for the problems in the Arab World.

Dr. Mahmoud Al Alaily, President of ALF, talked about the external challenges facing the liberal movement such as the growing of the populist trend in Europe and in the Arab region. Concerning the internal challenges, he said that there is no democracy without democrats and we have to apply democracy internally in our parties and organizations. We have to focus on hopes and ambitions more than fears and challenges and to live in the future and to speak the language of the time and the modern technology.

Dr. Iyad Ishtaya, President of AYUFD, spoke about the future plans of the youth organization of ALF including the formation of political position papers and tackling urgent Arab issues such as the Syrian crisis and fighting terrorism. 

Dr. René Klaff, Head, Regional Office, FNF MENA, said that without the support of VVD International this event would not be possible at this time. He expressed his gratitude to the presence of the European and international representatives of liberalism from Sweden, Holland and UK / South Africa. It is important that we stand together to become visible and audible in our joint endeavors for all the principles that we stand for; rule of law, civil and human rights, a life in dignity and social and economic welfare through market based economy.

It is necessary that we do not only discuss these issues but also with respect to the cooperation possibilities between Europe and MENA. He added that we hope this seminar will be a starting point and gives meaning and life for a stronger platform for the politics of freedom in the region. The liberal platform in MENA works closely and trustfully together with liberals in Europe and on international scope. Only together we are strong and only together we have a chance for our region for a better and more dignified life for every citizen and finally becomes a reality

Anika Snel, International Officer, VVD International, said that the tangible results of ALF report on "Inter Arab Trade" which was published and presented during the conference in November 2017 in Tunis, fits to the ambition to continue working on the professionalization of the Network. She expressed her interest that the seminar will come up with liberal solutions for the diverse challenges of the region.  

The Secretary General of Liberal International, Gordon Machey, said that Africa is very harsh to the liberal ideology and theories and liberal political parties but it did not stop liberals from being successful. He spoke about the professionalism and success of the African Liberal Network (ALN) and its cooperation with the liberal international partners including FNF and Liberal Democrats of UK to support establishing liberal parties in Africa. He emphasized that from LI perspective, we need a professional strong Arab liberal network and strong liberal voice from the region within the international liberal family. LI will support the efforts of ALF to fulfil the objectives of liberals in this region.

 

Dr. Yusuf Mansur, Former State Minister for Economic Affairs, Jordan, gave a presentation on "Economic Cooperation Agreements between MENA and Europe: Challenges and Opportunities". He spoke about freedom of employment movement as a  base for freedom of trade, Euro - Mediterranean Partnership Agreements, importance of Arab European trade, the comprehensive European Neighborhood Policy, EU commercial exchange with the Arab world, components of trade between Arabs and Europe and the Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Union. He added that free trade should not harm the national economy, relations between Europe and MENA were affected by migration, there is a deficiency between the political process and inclusion in the Arab countries, developed and successful countries respect the human and individual rights. Good education, health care and providing job opportunities lead to the development and success of nations. He also talked about protection politics, rules of origin and importance of linking the policies of trade, industry and investment.

Ahmed Abdelwahab Ahmed, Head of Economic Research, Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies (ECPPS), gave a presentation and discussed with the participants the perspectives of future economic cooperation between MENA and Europe. He tackled several points among them, challenges facing the private sector including informal sector and competition with public sector, promoting trade and investment, economic empowerment of woman, incubators and education, property rights, and innovation, creativity, political stability, transparency and fighting corruption as basic elements to develop open and competitive economic systems.