SP Senator Kox in Council of Europe: a helping hand for the Arab revolt

11 March 2011

SP Senator Kox in Council of Europe: a helping hand for the Arab revolt

'Europe has an appallingly bad track record in the Arab world. For years our governments have, through their dubious diplomacy and their cynical support for dictatorial regimes, forced people there to pay the price for something our governments called “stability”. In reality this consisted of oppression, corruption and abuse of human rights. It is now time to offer something better than that.’ So said SP Senator Tiny Kox today in Paris, where the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was debating his proposal for cooperation between the Council of Europe and the burgeoning democracies of North Africa and the Middle East.

According to Senator Kox the Council of Europe must make its extensive knowledge and expertise immediately available to the movements for democracy in North Africa and the Middle East. In particular the organisation, within which forty-seven European countries co-operate, could assist in the organisation of free and fair elections, the rewriting of constitutions and the construction of states and judicial systems based in the rule of law. Adaptation of the media and of police services could also benefit from help from the Council of Europe, with its experience of the reform process in Southern and Eastern Europe. All of this could be put to use in doing whatever can be done to help the Arab world to reshape authoritarian regimes into democratic states.

‘To start with, Europe must approach this in a modest fashion,’ said Kox. ‘Much of what was wrong in the Arab world has long been supported by our governments. I’m in complete agreement with Andreas Gross, Chair of the European Social Democrats, when he said today that we can only aid democratisation in the Arab world if we understand that we have ourselves in Europe undermined democratic values. With too great an interest in money, trade and arms sales and too little attention to fundamental matters such as human rights and democracy, we have done the Arab world a disservice. Council of Europe Secretary-General Jagland also shares my opinion that a certain modesty would become Europe. But, and here I am once again in agreement with Mr Jagland, the Council of Europe has also something serious to offer the democracy movement in North Africa and the Middle East. He cited in particular the organisation of democratic elections, the reform of constitutions, and cooperation between new parliaments in the Arab world on the one hand and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the other. Lastly, it was good to hear that UN Secretary- General Ban Ki Moon recognises the specific role of the Council of Europe, as well as those of the UN, the Arab League and the European Union.'

Kox proposes that, if requested, observers for the coming elections should be provided to the new governments of Tunisia and Egypt. Egypt will later this month hold a referendum on amendments to its constitution and wants by the end of 2011 to have elected a president and a parliament. Tunisia will on 24th July elect an assembly which will establish a new constitution. In addition, the SP Senator wants to see countries which are steering a course for democracy given the opportunity to establish close relations with the Council of Europe. The parliaments of Morocco and Palestine have in the meantime asked to be considered for special cooperation arrangements with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Moroccan request is currently under negotiation, while that of the Palestinians will shortly come under discussion, when Kox, acting on behalf of the Council of Europe, will visit the Palestinian territories to hold talks with the Palestinian President, government and parliament.

Senator Kox’s proposals, which he put forward in Paris today in his capacity as president of the Parliamentary Assembly’s United European Left political group, won the support of the other political groups as well as that of Dominique Baudis, vice-president of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Baudis, who was participating in the discussions in Paris, pointed out that set against the many bad things for which Europe was responsible in North Africa and the Middle East, it should be noted how many people who now lead the democracy movement there had previously received political asylum in one or another European country. He also stressed that one of the effects of the current wave of democratisation in the Arab world could be a fresh start for Israeli-Palestinian relations. “Israel has lost its friend Mubarak and will have to come to terms with this,” he noted. “So the Arab revolt could well contribute to a solution to this conflict.”

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