A seminar presentation on the EU's internal discourse on democracy promotion in the Middle East was delivered by a Maltese citizen, Dr. Michelle Pace, Senior Research Fellow and RCUK fellow at the University of Birmingham's Political Science and International Studies Department as part of the activities of her ESRC, (Economic and Social Research Council), research project on Paradoxes and Contradictions in EU Democracy Promotion Efforts in the Middle East (www.eumena.bham.ac.uk).
The presentation, which was held at DAAD, (German Academic Exchange Service) in Cairo, the largest city in the Arab World, on 11 October 2009, was based on Dr Pace's two weeks of intensive interviews with EU Officials in Brussels at the European Commission, Council of the EU, EU Parliament and Permanent Representative Offices of key member states of the EU, during March and April earlier this year. The seminar comes at a time when, according to Dr Pace, EU Officials feel that the Middle East Peace Process seems to provide a much more daunting challenge: at the same time there have been hardly any positive steps forward in the direction of political liberalisation in the Middle East region.
Dr. Pace underscored that the EU lacks a concrete strategy, methodology and vision when it comes to democracy promotion in the Middle East. However, the presentation also illustrated that the EU has been successful in keeping the status quo by way of stability and security in the region, to a certain extent. Dr. Pace noted that since the EU enlargement of 2004, the EU's policy towards the Middle East has been hindered by some of the Central and Eastern European countries, which have other issues on their agenda. According to Dr. Pace's study, the EU should reach out more to the people of the Middle East and a real dialogue should be established between the EU and the Arab World.
Mr. Kristian Bonnici, Charge d'Affaires a.i., at the Embassy of Malta in Cairo, who was invited to this seminar by the erudite Maltese Senior Research Fellow, made an intervention during the interesting discussion that followed and informed Dr. Pace and the participants that Malta has played a determining role in constructing a dialogue between the EU and the Arab World. Mr. Bonnici cited as an example the fact that Malta has been the Special Rapporteur at the UN for the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People since the 1970s to date. The Maltese Charge d'Affaires a.i. also added that thanks to the efforts of Malta, most notably its MFA, an office is to be established in Malta to facilitate the much sought after dialogue between the EU and Arab World.
Mr. Bonnici noted that this office - ‘European Commission – League of Arab States Liaison Office’, which Malta has been chosen to host, will be officially opened on Wednesday 14 October. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, as well as Amre Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, will attend the opening ceremony. Both will have meetings with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister & Foreign Affairs of Malta Minister Dr Tonio Borg and the Foreign and European Affairs Standing Committee of the Maltese Parliament. Mr. Bonnici also mentioned that experts from the European Commission and the Arab League, along with Maltese experts will work at the liaison office, which is aimed at coordinating dialogue between the EU and the Arab League.