Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2012-05-09-Speech-3-162-000"

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"Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to apologise to the Commissioner – my dear friend. So, now is the time to give some practical responses to the Arab Spring. Europe has followed what has been happening on the opposite shore of the Mediterranean with enthusiasm. We have followed with enthusiasm, concern and a certain element of surprise what had happened and was happening during those months, and what is still happening with the difficult situations in Egypt, Libya especially, and of course Syria. Sometimes I – hesitantly – remember some of the statements by European foreign ministers who, not much more than a year ago, literally – and I remember this because it shows how far we have come – defined Gaddafi as an example of reformism for the rest of Africa, a statement made last February, and Syria as a country – and again I quote – capable of meeting its citizens’ need for modernity from its leadership. This is where we have come from. Another statement from February last year. In the end, however, with the support and empathy of Europe, the Arab Spring eventually emerged with difficulty, and it was a marvellous change. What has happened in the southern Mediterranean has been extraordinary, and is also a reason for great hope, but naturally there are a lot of difficulties ahead. What help can we give as Europeans? What can we do in practical terms to try and make these people taking steps towards democracy understand that economic development also offers prospects for a better life? We have two problems, among others. The first is that the potential for trade between the European Union and southern Mediterranean countries is definitely under-utilised. We are doing less than we could be doing. The report contains some figures, I will not quote them here, but given the geographical proximity and the fact that we all belong to a single area, Mediterranean Europe, the commercial policy figures are certainly rather unsatisfactory. The second problem is that traditionally we – especially the southern Mediterranean countries – have structured our trade relations in such a way that trade with Europe mainly benefited an elite, an oligarchy which often managed the flows from this trade in an extremely exclusive, if not selfish manner. The Arab Spring is trying to liberate political processes, and subsequently we also need to liberate the economy, in order to ensure that those who want to become producers and players in a global economic and commercial process in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, Libya and the other countries really can do so, and can have a direct dialogue with Europe. This also means trying, also through a commercial policy, to provide practical help in a social situation that is sometimes desperate. In Egypt, revenues have fallen over 35% compared with during the Mubarak era. There is little investment, tourism is a resource that has almost run dry, and therefore we need new political tools, and here I think that in our work, we have proposed a series of practical elements to meet these expectations, and we will return to these in the final summary. Meanwhile, I would like to thank the Commission heartily for the constant support it has given me as well as the shadow rapporteurs."@en1

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