Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/us/middle East : Treat Islamist Parties like Any Other, Experts Urge

Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/us/middle East : Treat Islamist Parties like Any Other, Experts Urge

Article excerpt

Outlining how the EU and US should re-design their policies toward the Arab world, in response to the pro-democracy uprisings of 2011, transatlantic policy experts and officials cautioned against excluding Islamist political parties. 'We should be more concerned with democracy than Islamists,' said Alvaro de Vasconcelos, Director of the EU Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), which organised the conference in Washington on 27/28 October. The west must not contribute to a bi-polarization between liberal and Islamist voices, he said, as a consensus had to be forged in these countries foranew constitutions to be adopted. Marina Ottaway, Senior Associate at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned of 'the rise of illiberal democracy' in Egypt supported by people who want to keep the Islamists out of power and the military in.

Silvio Gonzato, Head of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Secretariat, said Parliament had forged partnerships with Islamist parties both in Egypt and Tunisia. 'The lesson of Hamas has been learned,' he said, referring to how the Palestinian Islamist party was ostracized after it won elections in 2006. Gonzato said the Parliament had a big part to play in helping to implant democracy in the region by convincing their fellow parliamentarians there that 'their role is to keep executives accountable, to show citizens it matters how they vote.' He said the EP was well-placed to 'promote a culture of dialogue and compromise' as this was how the EP operated given thatano one party has a majority of seats. …

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