For progressive change, peace and stability in the Mediterranean

5 June 2012

Socialist International member parties from the Mediterranean region convened in Madrid on 5 June 2012 for a meeting of the SI Mediterranean Committee, hosted by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE). The meeting’s discussions centred on two main themes: “Defining a Euro-Mediterranean relationship as a force for progressive change in the region” and “Securing peace and stability in the Mediterranean and the critical need for attaining Palestinian statehood”.

Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the Secretary General of the PSOE, speaking at the opening of the meeting, referred to the effects of the global financial crisis and its impact on the welfare state, and to the existing challenges to the delicate equilibrium in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. He said that this was a good time to analyse developments in the region and to reiterate the call of socialists to make peace possible and to make it lasting. Development and progress required free societies, free people and a secure space, he said, underlining that socialists stood ready to do what was required to support and consolidate democracy. He reaffirmed the PSOE position calling for the withdrawal of the Assad regime and a respect for the rights of all the Syrian people. He paid tribute to SI President George Papandreou in regard to the crisis in Greece and expressed solidarity with PASOK. He looked ahead to the forthcoming SI Congress in Cape Town as an important moment in the life of our organisation to reaffirm our values and prepare for the challenges ahead. 

The SI Secretary General, Luis Ayala, said the call for a new internationalism and a new culture of solidarity would be our strong message from the next SI Congress. We had lived with the excesses which provoked the global financial crisis, and from this part of Europe, socialists were now signalling a change of course, an economic agenda for growth with the political agenda to match. The SI continues to be a platform for the convergence of progressive values, he said, and this has been demonstrated in the high number of parties from the Arab world which had convened at the recent meetings of the SI Arab Committee, sharing a common agenda. Our Euro-Mediterranean vision of a region marked by freedom, democracy, rights and progress was the motor for change, he said, and our commitment to peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine remained firm.

Elena Valenciano, Deputy Secretary General of the PSOE and Chair of the SI Mediterranean Committee extended a warm fraternal welcome to all participants. She acknowledged Fatah for their cooperation in this initiative and looked forward to an early visit to Ramallah in support of their efforts for accord between the different political forces there and to reinstate a road map for peace and for a Palestinian state. She also extended a message of support for our Israeli comrades and their efforts at home. Commenting on the changes underway in the various countries of the Mediterranean, she underlined the need for a common strategic action by the progressive forces in the region for democracy and social justice, with political cooperation and appropriate policies for economic development and employment with full respect for gender, youth, minorities, religion and cultures. 

Introducing the first main theme of the agenda, Trinidad Jiménez, a former government minister from the PSOE, spoke about developments in the Arab World and relations with the EU. While there were challenges ahead, there were also new opportunities. New roads had been opened and there was certainly no going back. We socialist parties had to contribute and support the democratic reforms and together think how we could be helpful. For success, these emerging democracies also needed investment and economic cooperation and this could already be seen, especially in relation to Tunisia. The Mediterranean Union, which had been undermined by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, required institutional stability and she looked forward to its consolidation from now through next year. Referring to the conversations between Morocco, Algeria and the Western Sahara, she called for a new maturity and sense of responsibility, with the support of this Committee.

Participants agreed that the historic events that had led to what is commonly known as the Arab Spring constituted the most important geopolitical development of the last quarter century, initiating a new era for the peoples of the Mediterranean region. The Committee reaffirmed its full support and commitment to the democratic actors in the processes of transition and established a set of common principles and objectives to guide its work, namely: 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.

This new phase in the region was embraced as a window of opportunity to promote Euro-Mediterranean dialogue and to establish a new relationship between the north and the south shores of the Mediterranean, as well as the Middle East.

Following in-depth contributions by the Palestinian and Israeli delegations, there was consensus that the wave of change in the Arab world made more urgent the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and move decidedly towards the attainment of Palestinian statehood. The Committee renewed its call for a lasting peace based on two states with two capitals in Jerusalem and expressed strong condemnation of the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It was underlined that peace is the best guarantee of security for Israel, just as sovereignty, development and democracy are for Palestine. Participants welcomed the efforts of Fatah and President Abbas towards consolidating reconciliation among the Palestinian people and their determination to hold elections this year.

In line with the Socialist International’s commitment to support a negotiated and peaceful solution to the conflict in Western Sahara, the Committee renewed its determination to assist in this process, and during the working day was held the first official meeting of the Contact Group on the situation in Western Sahara established by the SI Council, chaired by Elena Valenciano, the Committee Chair. Participating in the meeting were representatives of the PSOE, the USFP of Morocco, the Polisario Front of Western Sahara and the FLN of Algeria, in the presence of the SI Secretary General.

Addressing various national situations in countries of the region, the Committee expressed its disappointment at the failure of the UN-led talks on the Cyprus issue and urged the parties to intensify their efforts to reach a just solution and unification. Concerning Syria, participants reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to the citizens struggling for freedom and democracy and supported the efforts of the UN, Arab League and Kofi Annan. Special attention was also paid to the situation in the Sahel, where people were suffering from a lack of security and the problem of terrorism, as well as a serious food crisis which affected more than 15 million people including one million children suffering from malnutrition. On the current situation in Egypt, where that day supporters of the Egyptian revolution were gathering to protest the acquittal of those responsible for the deaths of several hundred demonstrators, the Committee approved a special message of solidarity with them and expressing its support for the progressive and democratic forces in the country.

At the conclusion of the meeting, participants adopted a Declaration, reflecting the day’s discussions. Renewing the commitment to further strengthen cooperation between SI member parties in the region for a common strategy in pursuit of shared goals, the document expressed full support and solidarity with sister parties facing upcoming elections, and particularly with PASOK as it faced crucial elections not only for Greece, but for the whole EU and thus the Mediterranean.