Interview with Pier Antonio Panzeri, Ep Delegation for Relations with Maghreb Countries : Crises in Tunisia and Egypt: Eu Must Shift Gears

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The civil uprisings in Tunisia and then Egypt raise a number of questions. In this interview, Italian MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D) reviews the failures of the European Neighbourhood Policy with regard to the Mediterranean countries and calls on the EU to speak with one voice on the international scene. Panzeri, chair of the Delegation for relations with Maghreb countries at the European Parliament, travelled to Tunisia, on 3 February, for three days, together with members of his delegation and an ad hoc delegation from the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The aim of this visit, co-chaired with Spanish MEP Jose Ignacio Salafranca Sanchez-Neyra (EPP), is to analyse the situation on the ground and listen to the opinions of the political forces in the presence of civil society. Furthermore, MEPs will seek to define the arena that the European Union could use in order to assist the democratic transition process.a

What conclusions must the European Union draw from the events that have taken place in Tunisia and Egypt?

The situation in Tunisia and in Egypt is continuously evolving and must be constantly monitored. Several reasons explain these uprisings and it is useful to highlight them. Firstly, there is the impact of the economic and financial crisis on Tunisian society. The migratory issue has also played a part. Moreover, we are talking about regimes that have not seen any change for ten, twenty, thirty years and these events were clearly to be expected. Europeans must be aware of what is happening. These crises require that the EU shifts gears and, in particular, necessitate a full review of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The concept of an old colonial policy - a mentality that returns from time to time - must also be highlighted.

Could you specify the reasons for the failure of the European partnership policy?

The old partnership policy failed because it anticipated support from the governments in place in these countries in exchange for combating terrorism and fundamentalism as well as the adoption of immigration control measures. I am insisting on this point because the Union is not seen in a positive light due to this support in Egypt and Tunisia. In order to establish a climate of confidence, the European Union must now accompany democratic transition in these countries. The new policy to be set up must make it possible to invest in social, economic and financial change. Furthermore, the cooperation that it intends to undertake with these countries must insist on the promotion of democracy and this applies to the region as a whole. …