WHAT FOLLOWS SPRING?
10 10 2011
The Lamb for his Life, the Butcher for his Livelihood
Diplomacy always allows for a little romanticism. As developments, formations and processes are defined, the recipe always includes a pinch of romanticism, as though prepared by a conscientious cook. This is what is also happening with the Arab Spring. However this time things may not go well.
Some meals have to be eaten warm, lest they should lose their flavour. Some processes are only good and likeable in the beginning. However once time has passed liking gives way to anxiety and pessimism. Time is ticking for the Arab Spring. Will it be followed by a summer of fun and smiles or a harsh winter which will catch all unawares? A rushed response will not bring any benefit, yet a realistic response will probably make everyone unhappy.
For example, the Saddam Hussein period in Iraq was a very bad time. Those were in every sense the dark years of poverty, misery, suffering and want. However Iraq did not become a land of wonders during the first years after Hussein. Indeed, compared to the Hussein period, it was a less secure country. Iraq passed through this intermediary period with great sacrifices and is today in a comparatively better condition. Yet there is still a long and costly route to be navigated.
A similar situation applies to those North African and Middle Eastern countries which have been through the Arab Spring. The sections of society who asked for change in these countries demanded a great transformation. In this context, the determinant issues were economic recovery, increase in living standards, better quality of life, income equality and equality of opportunities.
Perhaps without globalisation, the people in these countries would not have demanded more rights. There would not have been possibility of comparison with other countries. Perhaps without the global crisis the peoples of these countries would not have been hurt to the degree of rising up and the system would have continued to function.
In any case the uprising began and spread. In a significant number of countries there have been regime and administration changes. It will also happen in a number of other countries. However, the major problem in these countries is not essentially the toppling of the old regime so much as the establishment of the new regime.
In every country which featured in the chain reaction starting from Tunisia, the people were promised full democracy. They were also offered welfare and wealth. The IMF, the EU, the World Bank and European countries have pledged full and continuous support to everyone in this process. They unconditionally put on the table economic and social development. However, each of these tasks is harder than the other, especially for EU countries which are experiencing crisis and fighting stagnation.
Perhaps these countries which view the lands of the Middle East and North Africa as former colonies are acting with certain historical reflexes of hegemony. Or perhaps they have started competing in terms of altruism and solidarity. It does not matter what the motivation is. For Europe is today trying to salvage the funds and credit it extended to bankrupt Greece. European administrators are very tense and nervous.
The problems that need to be tackled in North Africa and the Middle East are high unemployment, budget deficits, high inflation and a lack of investment. The problems do not feature which oil fields French companies can get on the cheap. According to the International Monetary Fund, unemployment in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia is at 11 percent and this figure has not altered in the past 20 years. Youth unemployment averages out at over 40 percent. The International Finance Institute has stated that Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Syria may experience stagnation this year.
Should in the coming months the EU economy be further troubled and leads to a fall in consumption, a deeper recession and a greater Greek Crisis, everything in North Africa and the Middle East may become disastrous. Many EU countries view the process in North Africa and the Middle East as an opportunity for new work and profit. They think that transacting business in these countries will contribute to their own economy. As they say in Turkish “the lamb for his life, the butcher for his livelihood.”
For many European governments the faith in democracy or political philosophy of their counterparts in North Africa and the Middle East do not matter. Had this been the opposite, the most ruthless tyrants of this unfortunate geography would not have become close friends with European leaders. The most bloody regimes would not have been supported by Europeans. In Europe business is business and there is no reason to be sentimental over it. It does not matter that the hand signing the contract is bloody but whether it has money or not is what matters.
As refugees from North Africa escaped their countries with the most rudimentary means and drowned in open sea while trying to make it to Europe to save their lives and suffered hungered at the doors of Europe, the EU leaders who did not want to let them in were posing to cameras in their countries, pledging support. Just as they hugged the dictators of those countries before.
Today EU countries need every euro they have. In this tough period the EU has to keep its own economic stability intact rather than developing those countries it views as former colonies.
For this reason summer may not follow spring. There is a very sharp juncture up ahead for North African and Middle Eastern countries. If in traversing it the new regimes put too much trust in EU countries, many may not get to see what comes next.