"Who Would We Be?" Angela Merkel and David Cameron on Liberal Values and the Riots in Egypt

By Oroz, Adrian | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, April 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

"Who Would We Be?" Angela Merkel and David Cameron on Liberal Values and the Riots in Egypt


Oroz, Adrian, Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


The speeches Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered at the Munich Security Conference focused on the identity of the liberal Western societies a topical issue considering the current riots in Egypt.

Comparing the Middle Eastern and East German democracy uprisings

In her speech, Chancellor Angela Merkel took a trip down memory lane to the events of 1989/90 in Europe. Ms. Merkel contributed some very personal experiences when she started out talking about her perception of the end of the GDR dictatorship to finally arrive at the European Union's and the Western world's appropriate response to democratic developments in the Arab world. "Who would we be if we did not say we stand on the side of these people?" Ms. Merkel asked rhetorically. She admitted that values on the one hand and security and stability on the other hand tended to have conflict potential. Human rights, however, must never be ignored. On the contrary: These principles must be focused on whatever type of cooperation is maintained, she stressed. Thus, she argued, here was no doubt that now the Egyptians had to implement the freedoms considered universal in the Western world.

Danger of Islamic extremism

Mr. Cameron stressed the "very strong" joint declaration issued by the EU member states on Friday: "Our position is clear: we want to see the transition to a more broadly based government with the proper building blocks of a free and democratic society."

In his speech, Mr. Cameron shed light on the threat posed by Islamist extremism - differentiating it clearly from Islam - and led over to the current situation in Northern Africa. To his mind it would be wrong to ignore the dangers posed by the political ideology of Islamist extremism; instead these problems had to be tackled openly, directly and without ill-advised sympathy for the extremists. What was needed today was a much more active, muscular liberalism, he argued.

Cameron emphasized that both with respect to our own societies and to countries around the world we should not make the mistake of considering Islam and democracy two incompatible issues. …

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