The Awakening Euromed Consciousness

Satellite caption of the Mediterranean Sea.
Image via Wikipedia

As protests inspired by Tunisia move across the Middle East, with protests in Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, its hard to imagine that a few years ago these protests would not have been tolerated, let alone successful as we have seen in Tunisia.

Since getting involved in the Anna Lindh Foundation I have met many people from these countries bordering the Mediterranean. Some of these people, while proud of their countries and their heritage, were not happy with their Governments. Whether it be lack of Women’s Rights or controls on internet access, these people wanted more. They wanted freedom and they wanted a say in how their lives were run.

This is what is amazing about these protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen. The people have seen what can be done. They have seen that change can be brought about with revolution.

This is a hard lesson for the ruling elites in these countries who are quite used to not being challenged. They are now facing the challenge that will cement their memory in the national consciousness of these countries. Either a memory of a Government that will not listen to its people and put down the protests, or of a Government willing to change, it meet the protester’s demands, either in part or full.

In the title I made use of the phrase “Euromed Consciousness”. I used this because while these countries share a common Arab and Muslim Heritage, it is through their contacts across the Mediterranean that these people have realised that more is possible. That freedom is available. These people do not want to leave their countries. They want them to be modern societies with the rights, freedoms and technology available to those across that small sea.

Whether or not the European mindset have contributed to these protests, these protests prove the effectiveness of modern technology in organising people against their governments. Facebook, twitter, mobile phones and the internet in general has galvanised people and have ensured mass turn outs in Liberty Square in Cairo and other cities across Egypt, Tunisia and the Middle East.

As these protests become successful, expect more to happen in other sates where the Government have left their people behind.

ALF statement on Terror Attack in Alexandria

The Anna Lindh Foundation have issued the following declaration in response to the terror attack a Christian Church in Alexandria, Egypt.

The Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures, which has its international headquarters in Alexandria (Egypt), expresses its deep sadness and pain about the terror attack which affected this city on the night of 31st December. The President of the Foundation, André Azoulay, and all of his team, wish to express their solidarity with the victims, their families and the Egyptian people.

In response to this act of violence, the Anna Lindh Foundation will intensify its efforts in favour of dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean region by involving and engaging in this mission all those who share the need to eradicate the culture of hatred, and to build societies based on mutual respect between people of different origins, traditions and beliefs. Committed against a Coptic church in Alexandria, the attack aimed to provoke sectarian tension between the different religious communities that have lived together in peace in Egypt for centuries. This crime, carried out against civilians who were practising their faith together, demands the mobilisation of all those who promote the right to practise freely religious beliefs. The Anna Lindh Foundation condemns any pretention to exploit religions and take religions hostage for the sake of fuelling violent behaviour and terrorism, whilst they carry a message of peace and fraternity for the immense majority of believers.

The Anna Lindh Foundation has had the opportunity to consistently observe in Alexandria how the coexistence between Muslims and Christians, which is part of the daily life in Egypt, is a major asset for peaceful relations between the different religious communities that exist in Middle Eastern societies, from where they originated. In view of the brutal attack that the Alexandrian people suffered, the Anna Lindh Foundation feels closer than ever to the Egyptian people and its institutions, and sets out to preserve the diverse heritage which is essential to building a Euro-Mediterranean space of peace and freedom.

Now more then ever the work of the Anna Lindh Foundation is important across the Mediterranean.

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Rethinking Dialogue: International Policy Debate

British Council
Image via Wikipedia

I got this in the email account today and could be of interest to UK Readers.

It is our pleasure to announce ‘Rethinking Dialogue’, an international event aimed at reassessing approaches to building cross-cultural relations within the UK and across societies in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Tuesday, 7th December 2010 (Registration from 9.30)

One Birdcage Walk, Westminster, London

www.rethinkingdialogue.org

‘Rethinking Dialogue’ begins with the UK launch of the Anna Lindh Report 2010, a pioneering study based on the very first Gallup Public Opinion Poll on the evolution of perceptions and values between people in Europe and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region.

The panel debate, which will be chaired by the BBC’s Bridget Kendall, will feature leading commentators on international affairs, including André Azoulay, President of the Anna Lindh Foundation and Counselor to the King of Morocco, and Martin Davidson CMG, Chief Executive of the British Council.

Places for the event are limited, so please register as soon as possible by writing to the British Council’s Louise Phillips at: rsvp(dot)events(at)britishcouncil(dot)org

The ‘Rethinking Dialogue’ event is organised by the British Council and the Anna Lindh Foundation, in association with Gallup Europe, the European Commission and the Foreign Press Association in London.

It looks like an interesting event.

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Where does Europe End? – The future challenges of EU Enlargement.

Where does Europe End, is one of the often asked questions when talking about the enlargement of the European Union.  With the current negotiations with Turkey progressing (albeit slowly) the next challenge will be where next? Will the accession of Turkey see Syria (Middle East) or Armenia (Western Asia) applying for membership?

That is of course dependent on Turkey being integrated into the EU’s structures as that itself will involve reform of the institutions. Turkey if its joins will be the second largest EU member state in terms of population, second only to that of Germany. This will mean that voting weights and seats in the European Parliament will have to be moved around to satisfy the older member states. The accession, or possible accession of, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Iceland, Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, do not present the same challenges to the EU institutions and can easily be absorbed into the institutions, though maybe not all at once.

But after Turkey will the EU expand beyond the Balkans? Will the Ukraine or Belarus (both with large populations) apply to join? Belarus may be a long way off, but Ukraine may apply before negotiations with Turkey finish. Will the Europe Union start looking beyond Europe for members? Will Morocco reapply? Could Cape Verde, due to its close ties to the EU and proximity to the Canary Islands, apply?

These are the challenges that face the EU after it deals with the issue of Turkish accession. That is dependent of course on there being an appetite for the further expansion of the European Union. Older Member States seem reluctant to expand the EU further. Opposition to Turkish accession seems to be strongest in the likes of Germany and France. There is a quasi racism to this opposition, but also there is a weariness of expansion. This is evidenced by the fears of the “Plombier polonaise”, Polish Plumber, in France after the accession of Poland and the other Central and Eastern European States in 2004.

Beyond France the limits on the immigration of workers from Bulgaria and Romania after accession in most EU member states shows the unwillingness of member states to completely open up to new members of the union.  This shows the reluctance of member states to fully open up to new members. This in the future translate could translate to the end of enlargement of the European Union after the accession of the current candidate states.

The accession of more states from Eastern Europe and the Balkans will mean a further move of power away from Western Europe. Upon the accession of the Balkans, they will be a formidable Eastern European bloc within the EU. This will again see more changes being made to the institutions of the EU. Again the interplay here with Turkey on its accession with other member states and would it be more Eastern or Western in its outlook is what has most political leaders worried.

Another issue at stake is the feelings of ordinary European Citizens. While citizens of applicant states get a say in whether or not a country joins the EU, normally through referenda,  the citizens of countries already members have no say. There is growing resentment to this situation and this in turn fuels far rights groups as they promise referenda on future EU enlargement, often though this has been offered by not so far right groups in ordinary to entice voters back!

EU enlargement is turning into a minefield and the EU, member states and applicant states must be cautious on how they approach it.

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20 Reasons to Vote Yes to Lisbon

I got sent this list the other day, but due to events I am only posting it now. They are under a few caetgories and are linked!

Democracy:
I’m voting YES because Lisbon will give more power to the MEPs that I elect. (Articles 14 and 294)- More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

I’m voting YES because I like the idea that when all of our governments meet and discuss things that affect me, they should do it in the open (Article 16.8)- More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

I’m voting YES because the citizens’ Initiative means that the things that I care about are put on the agenda- and I don’t have to wait for the politicians to act (Article 11.4) – More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

I’m voting YES because the chair of the council having 2 ½ year rather than a 6 month term is just common sense as far as I can see (Article 15.5)- More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

I’m voting YES because I believe that the European Union should be a community built on values, as well as an economic trading block. And the promotion of democracy and human rights are pretty good values. (Article 3)- More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

The Charter of Fundamental Rights gives me rights on a European level, as well as having them in the Irish constitution. And I like rights. Vote YES (Article 6)- More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2 – More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

I don’t always like the TD’s- but I definitely like them having more say about European legislation (Article 12 and Protocol 1 Article 4). Vote YES – More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

Crime:

I’m voting YES because I can’t believe that human trafficking still happens, and I want to use my vote to stop it (Articles 79, 83 & 87) – More info: http://short.ie/9v298u

I’m voting YES because I’ve seen the effects of drug smuggling on this country, and I know that stopping the smugglers is the best way to deal with it. (Article 83) – More info: http://short.ie/9v298u

Energy and Climate Change:

I’m voting YES because anyone with half a brain can see that countries HAVE TO work together if we are serious about fighting climate change (Article 191) – More info: http://short.ie/wxbofu

I’m voting YES because I think that if we negotiate our gas deals together, we get a better price- and heating my house doesn’t cost so much (article 194) – More info: http://short.ie/wxbofu

I’m voting YES because I want to support Irish Universities and Innovation- and the new European Research area will do just that (Articles 179 and 180) – More info: http://short.ie/wxbofu

EU In the World:

I’m voting YES because I was proud to see the EU saving lives on our peacekeeping mission in Chad- and if another crisis occurs, I’ll be proud to see them do it again (Articles 42, 43 and 214) – More info: http://short.ie/p4ibj2

I’m voting YES because the Palestinian ambassador to the EU said that a more “politically effective” EU would support peace in her country. And I am for peace in the Middle East (Article 18) – More info: http://short.ie/p4ibj2

I’m voting YES because the new High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy will be a voice for peace and justice in the world (Article 18). Vote YES – More info: http://short.ie/p4ibj2

General:

I know that for a small state like ours, having our own Commissioner is really important. Vote YES. (December Council Decision) – More info: http://short.ie/voteyes

I’m voting YES because giving sport a legal basis in the EU matters, as it means more funding for local sports teams and facilities. (Article 165) Vote Yes. – More info: http://short.ie/voteyes

Cóir want me to vote NO. As do Sinn Féin, UKIP, and a whole load of other crazy people. I know they don’t care about the same things I do. Vote YES – More info: http://short.ie/voteyes

I’m not conveniently ignoring the fact that the legally binding guarantees are legally binding. Vote YES – More info: http://short.ie/voteyes

I suffer from a terrible bullshit allergy. Vote YES (article 5 what the EU can/cannot do) – More info: http://short.ie/voteyes

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Monday Links – 10/08/09

Blue Lake Jetty
Image by Chris Gin via Flickr

Well its Monday, its been a hectic week at home for me, no travelling at least, so I have a few things for you to check out.

Tommy, of TrustTommy, had an excellent article in the Times of all places! Fair play!

Irish Web Awards Nominations are open!

Easkey, Co Sligo [pop. 250] went gay for a day!

Some cool cards on CurlyDena’s blog

Gamma has a video of Billy Connolly on Catholicism and Sarah Palin

“Are we European or becoming European?” asks The European Citizen

Joe has a fantastic post on Global Nomads and organising a wedding as one

Bock asks what has Irish Independence given us

Sara points out that I am a geek over a post on Dailyshite

Carmel has an excellent post on the LGBT Community in Israel since the recent killings in Tel Aviv

The North could have ended up in France?? What??

South Koreas Military is a bit odd, what are practising for?

Have a nice day!

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ALF Training: Culture, Identity and Dialogue

Bloggers discussing during the training. Picture by Carmel Vaisman of absolutecarmel.com
Bloggers discussing during the training. Picture by Carmel Vaisman of absolutecarmel.com

I arrived back in Cork today after spending Monday to Wednesday at the Anna Lindh Foundation Blogger Training for Intercultural Dialogue in Luxembourg. It was a fantastic event with 18 bloggers from 17 countries from across the Euromed region, It was an amazing experience.

Not only did I learn about places I didnt know much about (Magreb and Middle East) but I also learned alot about myself and how I and others perceive me. It really opened my mind on issues about identity and culture and how I perceive other cultures. The course which was packed into two days was so interesting, exciting and tiring. It has inspired me a lot and we have plans to keep working on this issue. For me this will be both online and offline as I try to pass on the knolwedge and ideas I have gained to some of the groups I work with.

A website that the Anna Lindh Foundation is working with was also in attendence and it is a great tool for bringing together the Arabic and English speaking worlds. Meedan.net is a great site for translating news and comments on the events into the two languages. A fantastic idea and one I will keeping an eye on. It might highlight a few issues for me to blog about!

The other bloggers on the course, who will be added to the my blogroll very soon, were great fun! It was amazing to see how we all got along an dtook part in the energisers (games really) from all these countries. The Euromed evening was a great way to learn about these fasicinating cultures as well as try out food an drink from the different countries and learn about the issues in them.

So what can you expect to see changing on the blog? Well hopefully you will see more blogging about issues in the Euromed region and the work of the Anna Lindh Foundation in Ireland and in the Euromed region. Intercultural Dialogue is such a wide area in my mind that I have lots of ideas in my head on what to blog about. Also in September their will be an online campaign on Restore Trust, Rebuild Bridges that we as bloggers will be running so keep an eye out for it!

So a huge thanks to the Anna Lindh Foundation, the organisers, trainers, and of course the other bloggers for a fantastic time and I hope I have made good connections that will blossom into a great Euromed Partnership of friends!

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What has Anne Frank have to do with Gaza?

Anne FrankImage via WikipediaFor the last two days there has been a protest on Patrick St about the Israeli offensive in Gaza. At the stand they had a picture of Anne Frank wearing a keffiyeh. Why?

A friend suggested that the protestors were trying to draw a comparison between the Nazi’s who killed Jewish children (Anne Frank for example) and Israeli Defence Forces who have killed children. Maybe? But is it really the fault of the Israeli’s that Hamas place weapons and military personal, near civilian areas, near schools and near UN compounds. Hamas have done this to dare Israel to attack them, in the hope that the collateral damage will pile further pressure on Israel.

To me, using a picture of Anne Frank like this is sick, plain and simple. Anne Frank was murdered by a state policy that mandated the killing of all Jews in German Occupies Territories during the Second World War. Does Israel treat its Arab citizens like that? No. In fact Israel’s Arab citizens have the same rights as Jewish citizens. Worryingly though, Israel has banned all Arab parties in the upcoming elections which might have a bit of backlash, and is comepletely wrong.

What I thought was the funniest thing about the protest though was the slogan used by the protesters. “Help the people of Gaza, sign our petition”. Yes really, signing a petition will help these people. Come on please. No one can be so simple to think that. Israel has ignored many such petitions in the past and will continue to do so. Maybe instead of signing the petitions people should think of donating money to aid agencies in Gaza. This sort of action will help the people of Gaza when the fighting stops.

Of course, do not think that I am completely on Israel’s side here. It is because of Israel’s actions that this situation has come about. Both sides, in my opinion need their heads knocked together. Israel needs to knock down that wall, end the economic blockade and attempt to win over the hearts and minds of the Palestinians if they are to have any hope of existing peacefully within a two state solution.

But back to Anne Frank, I have visited Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and it ias hard to keep a dry eye, while visiting it, but its this how her memory should be used? No! Anne Frank was a victim of State sponsored genocide. Israel is not commiting a genocide. Israel is defending itself and until Hamas defenders see that they are defending a terrorist organisation they will continue to misrepresent Israel. Of course the Irish Media are doing enough of that themselves!

Right thats enough about Israel for this week. I promise!

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Israel–Gaza conflict

Hamas, stop dragging Israel into fighting.Image by ShadoWalker Photography via FlickrSo last night I, along with many others, found out via Twitter that Israel had launched a ground offensive in Gaza.

How this will work out for Israel is a different matter, but I am slowly changing my mind on the conflict. It is hard to see a way out of the issue for Israel without resorting to some sort of military action to protect itself?

The more I read, both anti-Israel and Pro-Israel the more I seam to agree with Israels military actions (I am very much against their Economic Blockade which is collective punishment). How long could you live in a country consistently under bombardment with reacting. You cannot always turn the other cheek.

As in all conflicts there is collateral (ie Civilian) casualties. The Israeli Defence Forces will take a lot of casualties as well due to the fact that Gaza is small area and has highly urbanised areas which always lead to high death tolls on all sides.

The Observer calls the military operation a return “the failed strategies of the past” and that “While Hamas’s offensive capacities will be blunted for a while, the likelihood, as with Hezbollah after Lebanon in 2006, is that it will quickly rebuild its military strength.”

I’m not so sure that Hamas will be able to rebuild as fast as Hezbollah have as the Economic Blockade and the destruction of the supply tunnels will limit how quickly Hamas can rearm.

I can see why a large percentage of Israeli’s are supporting the current action, but I do hope to a quick end to this as the longer it takes the more casualties on both sides.

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Gaza returns to the spotlight

encoreImage by David M* via FlickrThis post is sort of inspired by a friends status update on Facebook which says the following:

F…. thinks the EU and NATO should take unilateral action to protect the citizens of Gaza. But that’s obviously wishful thinking…

Now the issue of the people of Gaza has propped up again in the media as Hamas lets the cease-fire lapse.

There were two things I read today, one blog and one editorial, that made me nod in agreement on this issue.

Firstly the blog. Bock has an excellent post calling the Israeli air strikes that killed 200 Palestinians “Murders” and I can’t help to agree with him. As he points out

They murdered 200 people in Gaza, the most densely-populated place on the face of this planet. They bombed the hell out of a people hemmed in by the Israeli-built concrete wall. Men, women and children. They bombed their own concentration camp.

And why? Rocket attacks on Israel. But how many did they kill? One. While this is tragic does it really mean that Israel can launch air strikes that kill 200 times that? Does it not make it a bit out of balance?

On to the Editorial. Today’s Observer has an excellent editorial on this. It points out that a ground invasion could be “imminent”. The editorial also points out two of the main causes of the heightened hostilities

It is a depressingly familiar scenario, a cycle of provocation and reprisal that periodically escalates into full-blown war. There is no simple account of events leading up to the current confrontation that does justice to the amassed sense of grievance on both sides. But two specific events have played a decisive role: the decision earlier this month by Hamas to end a six-month ceasefire and elections in Israel due in February.It is a depressingly familiar scenario, a cycle of provocation and reprisal that periodically escalates into full-blown war. There is no simple account of events leading up to the current confrontation that does justice to the amassed sense of grievance on both sides. But two specific events have played a decisive role: the decision earlier this month by Hamas to end a six-month ceasefire and elections in Israel due in February.

While the cease-fire didn’t halt all attacks on Israel it did allow things to temper, but with elections around the corner Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Leader of the Kadima Party, and Binyamin Netanyahu, of Likud, trying to out do each other on being hardliners on the Palestinians. In recent comments Ms Livin, who is also the designated Acting Prime Minister, said that the rocket attacks were “unbearable” and that the Hamas administration in Gaza should be “toppled”.

The current Prime Minster was badly damaged by ground operations against militants in Lebanon in 2006. Would a new Israeli leader be damaged by a ground assault in Gaza?

Gaza has suffered hugely over the blockade, but this has helped Hamas who “”taxes” money and goods smuggled in and provides welfare services to the population. Under siege, its monopoly is secure.”taxes” money and goods smuggled in and provides welfare services to the population. Under siege, its monopoly is secure.”

There can be no negations as Israel, the EU and the US all see Hamas as a terrorist organisation, which it is, but Hamas has one the battle for the people’s Hearts and Minds in Gaza due to Israel actions and the refusal of the international community to condemn Israel.

Israel has made sacrifices. They have pulled down settlements in Gaza. But what have they gotten in return? Nothing. Of course there is the issue of the West Bank were things have, moderately, improved for Palestinians living under Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but progress under Mr Abbas cannot be used to win hearts and minds as it is nothing like the progress towards statehood that would allow Mr Abbas to claim his more moderate approach works better than the militant line taken by Hamas.

Moderates on both sides need to be backed, but how can this happen would both sides seam to be spiraling into hardliners due to actions of the otherside. But a Military offenseive against Gaza will not work as

Hamas craves confrontation because its support increases when ordinary Palestinians are collectively punished, as has happened under the blockade.

Israel would be foolish to invade Gaza, but with things heading the way they are, I would not be surprised if they do.

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