FORTY or fifty high-powered people were at separate meetings in Barcelona and Palma last weekend to discuss different aspects of the same basic problem, but with little to show for their efforts. The Euromed meeting in Barcelona brought together representatives of the European Union, led by Tony Blair, and of governments of African and other countries from Morocco to Syria bordering the Mediterranean, to discuss co-operation in various fields. The Alliance for Civilisations meeting on Majorca comprised present and past politicians, academics and other international figures; its agenda was to look at ways of increasing understanding and lessening tensions between the Muslim and the Western worlds. At the heart of both meetings was the need for change to take place in order to reduce the threat of terrorism which threatens governments, institutions and ordinary people in both Muslim and Western countries. The meeting in Majorca was the more successful because it was non-governmental and its purpose was only to put up ideas for later development; it did not have to take decisions. The Barcelona meeting, on the other hand, was a failure; only two leaders of the ten non–EU “partners” chose to turn up and the final communique was a masterpiece of bland aspirations. The EU representatives had hoped that the meeting would be able to reach an agreed statement on counter-terrorism measures. It was a vain hope because the Arab countries present insisted that the term terrorism should not cover the rights of people under foreign occupation to resistance. For which, read the Israel and the Palestinian problem. Potentially the Euromed association is a useful one and could be helpful in various areas such as trade agreements, migration problems, sustainable development and security partnerships. But like so many other forms of international co–operation at the moment it is blighted by the Anglo/American invasion of Iraq and the lack of progress with a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. However, the Alliance for Civilisations should be able to make better progress in the short term; it cannot make treaties or commit governments but it can generate ideas which might break through the wall of suspicion and hostility that bedevils better understanding at the moment.


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