Social democratic parties from the Mediterranean gathered in Madrid on 5 June 2012 at a meeting of the Mediterranean Committee of the Socialist International, to debate the huge transformation process that the region is undergoing, the means to ensure peace, stability and progress, and how to define a Euro-Mediterranean relationship as an engine of progressive change.
Since the last meeting of this Committee, the region has seen a series of historic events led by the peoples of several Arab countries that, under the common name of the Arab Spring, represent a profound change in the lives of millions of citizens, and the most important geopolitical event of the last quarter of a century.
After decades of repression and injustice, a wave of hope and dignity has swept the Arab world, initiating a new era for the societies involved, and for the whole of the Mediterranean region and the world. The legitimate aspirations that have sustained and sustain the different processes of change should not be thwarted.
The Socialist International and this Committee in particular are deeply committed to the democratic actors who are participating in the revolutions and movements for change in each of these countries, and will continue to give full support in order to advance in democratic, fair, inclusive and durable transitions. In this regard, this Committee assumes as its own the declarations of the SI Special Committee on the Arab World.
In the past year and a half, the reality of the region has been dramatically transformed. In four countries – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen – the uprising of society has led to four dictators being overthrown; other countries, such as Morocco and Jordan, have initiated new processes of reforms in response to the demands of their citizens; in other areas of the region, several peoples, such as Syrians, Bahrainis and Palestinians, still struggle for their rights, in some cases under intolerable levels of violence.
Aware of the huge variety of circumstances that cross the region and the particularity of each country and each transition, this Committee establishes the following set of common principles and objectives that will guide its work in relation to the support for democratic processes already underway and those to come:
a) commitment to free and fair democratic elections;
b) respect for fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens;
c) defence of a clear separation of powers in the resulting political systems, and full development of the open and transparent rule of law;
d) defence of pluralistic and inclusive societies, respect for minorities and religious freedom and the development of secular states;
e) strong support for gender equality, empowerment of women and their full participation in social, economic and political life;
f) support for self-organisation of civil society, with special attention to the participation of youth and women;
g) the unity of socialist and progressive forces and the development of strong and inclusive political parties;
h) promoting equal opportunities and fair redistribution systems in the development of welfare states that will provide essential services to all citizens and particularly the most disadvantaged.
As the main framework and tool for the success of our work, this Committee will continue to promote all the mechanisms available for Euro-Mediterranean dialogue. This new phase opens a huge window of opportunity for the Euro-Mediterranean process, of which the socialists in the region have historically been promoters and advocates.
The EU has a crucial role to play in providing financial and political support to emerging democracies. The consolidation of these processes of transition will depend heavily on the economic viability of the new societies and in the new governments’ ability to generate wealth and distribute it fairly among their citizens.
Learning from past mistakes, it is necessary to establish a new relationship between north and south of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, based on mutual understanding and mutual respect, where democratic values prevail over any other interest and contribute to balanced and shared development throughout the region.
The wave of change that runs through the Arab world makes the need for definite steps in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even more urgent. This new regional context must be seen by all parties as a great opportunity for peace.
The Mediterranean Committee renews its support for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace based on two states with two capitals in Jerusalem, living in peace and security, with boundaries defined according those existing in 1967 – with the exchange of territories to be agreed between the parties – and which coexist with full respect for all the rights of their citizens. Peace is the best guarantee of security for Israel, as sovereignty, development and democracy are for Palestine.
Therefore, we reiterate our firm commitment to the recognition by the international community of Palestinian statehood and its admission to the United Nations, in accordance with the right of its people to self-determination, freedom, justice and dignity.
The Mediterranean Committee urges all parties to redouble efforts to promote dialogue and the resumption of direct negotiations, and to refrain from committing any act that endangers the viability of the two-state solution. In this regard, we express our strong condemnation of the illegal Israeli policy of settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which constitutes a serious obstacle to peace.
The Committee also stresses the importance of consolidating the reconciliation of the Palestinian people as a main pillar of a viable Palestinian state, and supports the determination of President Abbas to hold elections this year.
The committee urges Morocco and the Polisario Front to continue to negotiate a peaceful and lasting solution to the Western Saharan conflict under the auspices of the United Nations and reiterates its support for the rights of the Sahrawi people to self-determination as expressed by the SI Council in Athens last year. The Socialist International will continue to work with all actors in favour of democracy and human rights.
Regarding the Cyprus issue, our Committee continues to find the current status quo on the island unacceptable and expresses its great disappointment at the failure to date of the UN-led talks to deliver a solution. The resolution of the Cyprus issue will have an important positive impact on regional peace and stability as well as economic development. We therefore urge the parties concerned to intensify their efforts for reaching a just solution and unification of the island.
This Committee, dismayed by the tragic situation prevailing in Syria, wants to show its complete solidarity with the innocent victims of the brutal repression that the Assad regime perpetrates against its own people. We renew our unwavering commitment to the Syrian citizens struggling for freedom and democracy, and our support for the efforts of United Nations and the Arab League, in particular the Kofi Annan plan.
The Socialist International, concerned about the possibility that the conflict precipitates into a civil war, urges members of the Security Council of the United Nations, and particularly Russia and China, to adopt the necessary measures to ensure: protection and safety of the Syrian people; full and free access to humanitarian aid; the independent investigation of serious human rights violations against civilians and the request that Bashar al-Assad and other officials answer for them before the International Criminal Court; the start of a process of peaceful transition to democracy through a national and inclusive dialogue by the Syrian people themselves, supporting the joint and coordinated action of all democratic opposition.
Also during the debate of this session, the Committee has paid special attention to the situation in the Sahel, both in the security dimension of the region, including the problem of terrorism, and in relation to the serious food crisis that several countries suffer and which, according to the UN, affects more than 15 million people, with more than one million children suffering from severe malnutrition. The Committee urges the international community to act decisively with measures to mitigate the consequences of severe drought, and the consequences of several ongoing armed conflicts upon the population.
Mediterranean socialists today renew our commitment to further strengthen our cooperation and work together with a common strategy in pursuit of shared goals such as democratic development, social progress and justice throughout the region. We express our full support and solidarity with our sister parties which will soon have to face elections, and in particular to PASOK, in a crucial election for the future not only of Greece but for the whole EU, and thus the Mediterranean.
On the occasion of the meeting of the Mediterranean Committee of the Socialist International in Madrid on Tuesday 5 June, the first official meeting of the Contact Group on the situation in Western Sahara, established by the Council of the Socialist International.
This meeting, chaired by Elena Valenciano, Chair of the Committee, was attended by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) of Morocco, the Polisario Front of Western Sahara and the National Liberation Front (FLN) of Algeria, in the presence of the Secretary General of the Socialist International, and agreed, “to accompany the process of negotiation between the parties under the auspices of the United Nations; to contribute to help the parties in their search for shared and mutually acceptable solutions for a peaceful future, based on our democratic and socialist commitment and in accordance with international law; and to launch their own initiatives which contribute to the resolution of the conflict.”