You are on page 1of 3

focus: north africa

Europe’s Dilemma
The continent is struggling to deal with Arab strife toward democracy, the loss of
lucrative business deals in North Africa, and the flow of immigrants to its shores.

By Menelaos Tzafalias Athens

o make sense of Europe’s in the streets. French Prime Minis- Muammar Gaddafi, European powers
stance towards events un- ter Francois Fillon later confirmed finally decided to act. French President
folding in North Africa, one that his government had authorized a Nicolas Sarkozy was the first Western
could attempt an analogy shipment of tear gas grenades to Tu- leader to eagerly jump at the chance
with the fall of Communism in 1989 nisia as late as January 12. Two days to redeem himself, possibly in order to
or the Bosnia and Kosovo crises. An- later, Ben Ali fled. gain back his flailing popularity. Alli-
other image that comes to mind is that The revolt spread in full and fiery ot-Marie was forced to resign and was
of a French foreign minister enjoy- bloom across the southern coast of the replaced by Alain Juppe: ironically, a
ing a Christmas break in Tunisia that Mediterranean Sea. In Egypt, Pres- politician who in the recent past was
was paid for by an insider from oust- ident Hosni Mubarak was forced to convicted of misusing public funds –
ed President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s step down after more than 30 years in one of the main reasons why people in
inner circle, who had close business power, while his allies in Europe (nev- North Africa had taken to the streets.
links with some members of the French er mind America) dithered as to which French jets were the first to bomb
minister’s family. side of history would prove the correct pro-Gaddafi forces, in a United Na-
That minister was Michèle Alliot- one to pick. Luckily for them, mass tions-mandated and NATO-concert-
Marie, who took no notice of the tu- protests in Morocco and Algeria led to ed effort to stop the killing of inno-
mult while on holiday and went so far minor reforms but not regime change. cent civilians and enforce a no-fly
as to publicly and proudly offer mili- There were beatings and deaths. zone. As a by-product, rebel groups
tary assistance to Ben Ali, while un- When trouble spread to Libya and started to gain international recogni-

armed protesters were being killed encircled prodigal despot Colonel tion as a possible government-in-wait-

22 TRENDS | May 2011 May 2011 | TRENDS 23

focus: north africa

A possible “biblical exodus” of migrants

has yet to materialize. The real danger is
that people trying to flee the conflict in
North Africa might in fact be blockaded
because of the significant military pres-
ence in the area, he said. Developments
in Libya constitute the last piece of the
North Africa puzzle and may offer some
explanation as to the awkward way Euro-
pean powers are reacting in the face of his-
torical change in the region. “I am broadly
supportive of the intervention. It seems to
be a humanitarian intervention, sometimes
known as a liberal intervention. Saving
lives, not changing governments,” Dav-
id Davis, a member of Parliament in the
UK told TRENDS. “Clearly there will be
other national interests involved, but in my
view these are largely irrelevant concerns
when preventing mass murder by a cruel
dictator,” he said.
When it comes to European coun-
tries’ ‘‘national interests’’, two issues
succinctly emerge. The first is that of
security. The other is that of business.
Democratic European governments have

found that supporting despotic regimes

is the best way to prevent radical Islam-
ist forces from gaining power and to sty-
Another image that comes to mind is that of a mie the outreach of terrorism to Europe.
When looking for a local political part-
French minister enjoying a Christmas break in Tunisia ner, Western powers also tend to confuse
the granting of favours as a more desir-
ing. At the time TRENDS went to press, like Interior Minister Roberto Maroni. able qualification than competency or
Gaddafi was still clutching on to power The Italian island of Lampedusa, just popular support. “Fighting terrorism is
despite NATO strikes, the flight of key off the coast of Tunisia, is being over- a separate issue,” said John Brady Kies-
government officials and the earlier loss run by migrants, mostly Tunisians seek- ling, a former US diplomat who served
of support from allies, among them It- ing a better future in Europe. “We are in in Greece, Armenia, Morocco and Isra-
aly’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi a friendly country to resolve the prob- el. He finds it hard to justify the policy of
who, not only was an ally, but had per- lem,” Berlusconi said when visiting Tu- intervention in Libya in terms of fighting
sonal business links to Gaddafi. nisia in early April to get the new gov- terrorism in the wider region.
Berlusconi did not decide to stand up ernment to clamp down on migrants. The With regard to its business links, Eu-
for human rights and allow the bombing latest report by the United Nations’ High rope is the dominant economic force in
of Libya by NATO forces just to avoid Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is North Africa. And profits are handsome.
scrutiny, but it did help. Moreover, since more interesting than Berlusconi’s fears. Prior to the unrest, more than 20 percent
he was fighting for his domestic politi- Asylum figures in 2010 actually fell “to of the oil imported by Austria, Ireland
cal survival, just like Sarkozy, Berlusco- almost half their 2001 levels.” Niels W. and Italy was Libyan crude, according to
ni made sure to throw into the mix the Frenzen, a professor at the University of the International Energy Agency, the en-
migrant question, which is of high im- Southern California (USC) and an ex- ergy advisor to industrialized countries.
portance to Italian voters – and certain- pert on maritime immigration enforce- Italy, of course takes center stage. Ital-
ly to his conservative government allies, ment, agreed with the report’s findings. ian oil company Eni SpA in 2007 signed

24 TRENDS | May 2011 May 2011 | TRENDS 25

focus: North africa

Getty/Gallo Images
The real danger is that people trying to flee the of Tunisia’s Internet and mobile telepho-
ny network. As the world came to know,
its money where its mouth is,” said Vic-
tor Pou, a former European Commission
ly.’’ The US Marshall plan helped rebuild
post-World War Two Europe, but it took
free movement of people, services, goods
and capital from the ‘‘other’’ side of the
conflict in North Africa might be blockaded the revolution in Tunisia spread quickly official who also works as a consultant years to transform the continent into a Mediterranean? All these years of arbi-
thanks to the quality and efficiency of its for Cevital, Algeria’s biggest private com- fully-fledged working economy. In the trary aid schemes and directed invest-
a $28 billion deal for production and ex- the Libyan rebels’ Provisional Transi- private telecommunications network. The pany. “Europe has acted as a magnet for case of North Africa, it is uncertain who ments have lined the pockets of those
ploration up to 2042. A quarter of Italy’s tional National Council, could help some two private operators were Orange Tuni- a lot of countries when [they] wanted to will put money forward to rebuild these who proved to be on the wrong side of
oil and ten percent of Italy’s natural gas states regain lost deals. Mustafa Abdel sia, where France Telecom had a stake, democratize themselves.’’ economies. Some Western states, such as history in the Middle East and North
come from Eni projects in the North Af- Jalil, head of the council, has said fu- and Tunisiana, a company set up with fi- But European Union membership is the US maybe wary of repeating an Iraq Africa region.
rica state. Libya, in turn, holds signifi- ture economic agreements will be direct- nancial assistance from a British bank not possible for North African countries, scenario, where money spent on recon- “What is happening now in North Af-
cant investments in Italy, such as a stake ed towards those who supported the rebels and a French bank. What the world did said Pou. Instead, Europe can put for- struction was often linked to lucrative deals rica was beyond fantasy,” said Spyros
in Unicredit bank and a share in football first, singling out Italy, France and Qatar. not come to know until much later, was ward a “new Marshall Plan” and help in to officials close to the US administration. Makridakis, Emeritus Professor of Deci-
team Juventus. In comparison, the British As for Algeria, it is a key player in that both of Tunisia’s private telecommu- the process of building democratic in- Also at a time when Europe is tightening sion Sciences at INSEAD business school
presence in Libya is small, even though the European gas market, while in Tu- nications providers were the respective stitutions, as it did with former dictator- its purse and implementing austerity meas- in France and Abu Dhabi. If the EU re-
there was much coverage of how Brit- nisia and Morocco, major European in- fiefs of Marwan Ben Mabrouka and Sa- ships Greece, Spain and Portugal and Cen- ures that have inspired home-grown pro- forms its protectionist Common Agricul-
ain’s BP came to acquire an oil explora- vestments have always been part of the kher El Materi, both sons-in-law of the tral and Eastern European countries in the tests, it is difficult to see how these coun- tural Policy, lowers tariffs and opens up
tion license, amid calls to investigate the landscape, especially in tourism, manu- ousted president. 1990s. “The European Union is only giv- tries will be generous in coughing up cash its markets to North African products, it
deal at a time when the Scottish govern- facturing and mining. European business Financing regime change is not an ing to the region 900 million euros per for North Africa. “Democracies are easy will provide long-term benefits, especial-
ment had decided to release from pris- interests did play a role in the overthrow easy or cheap task, given that both sides year,’’ said Pou. ‘‘It’s peanuts. It means when there’s enough money to go around,” ly as more Africans will find jobs local-
on a Libyan man convicted of the 1988 of the former Tunisian regime, but only of the border – where the revolt is happen- four euros per person per year. If you want said former US diplomat Kiesling. ly and will have less of an urge to immi-
Lockerbie airline bombing over Scot- by pure accident, as they sought to profit ing and where support is coming – need to really help the region, admit the prod- Another question remains: Will Eu- grate. “But which politicians think in the
land. Though, Early political support to from the modernization and privatization financial means. ‘‘Europe is not putting ucts the region is producing competitive- rope open its borders and markets to the long term?” Makridakis queried.

26 TRENDS | May 2011 May 2011 | TRENDS 27