Europe should provide long-term assistance for the democratic and economic development of the southern Mediterranean's post-dictatorship governments, argues German Green politician Joschka Fischer, a former foreign minister and vice-chancellor.
This commentary was authored by Joschka Fischer, a key figure in the German Green Party for almost 20 years and Germany's foreign minister and vice-chancellor from 1998 to 2005.
"When the democratic revolt in Tunisia successfully ousted the old regime, the world reacted with amazement. Democracy from below in the Arab world?
After the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's 30 year-old regime in Egypt, the heartland of the Middle East, amazement has turned into certainty. The Middle East has awakened and begun to enter the globalised world of the twenty-first century. Up to now, the region (excluding Israel and Turkey) had more or less missed out on the epochal process of worldwide modernisation.
Whether the Arab and wider Islamic world's democratic awakening will actually prevail or produce only change at the top of authoritarian regimes, whether it will lead to a stable order or sustained chaos and radicalisation, still remains unclear. One thing, however, is already clear: the era when this vast region slept while others modernised has ended.
The grassroots revolt will, of course, continue. Virtually no country in the region will escape it, though when and where the next eruption will occur remains uncertain. Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia are all candidates, with the latter probably posing the most difficulties.
Israel, too, would be well advised to prepare for epochal change in the region and try to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians and Syria as quickly as possible. There is, however, little indication that Israel's government has the vision required for such an undertaking.
The problems are the same almost everywhere (with the exception of Israel and Turkey): political suppression, economic underdevelopment and grinding poverty (except in the smaller oil states), a lack of education, high unemployment and huge demographic pressures, owing to a very young and rapidly growing population."
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(Published in partnership with Project Syndicate.)