Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the Opening of the Kronberg Talks in Rabat

17.05.2011 - Speech

- Translation of advanced text -

Foreign Minister, my distinguished colleague Taïb, Ms Mohn, Mr Thielen, Commissioner Oettinger, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you to the Moroccan Foreign Ministry and the Bertelsmann Foundation for organizing our Kronberg Talks.

The developments in the Maghreb, in North Africa and throughout the Arab world are historic. Their significance resonates far beyond the region, and new potential for close cooperation with Europe is emerging. The region’s influence in global politics will grow.

Unfortunately the great hope with which I look to the Arab world is also tinged with great concern.

Many governments in the region have failed to recognize the signs of the times, and have responded with brutal violence to the deeply human yearning for freedom.

In Libya, Colonel Qaddafi must finally stop waging war against his own people and clear the way for a new beginning.

The EU has imposed sanctions against Syria in order for President Assad to immediately cease attacking peaceful demonstrators and introduce fundamental political reforms.

In Yemen, all sides should avoid escalation and agree to the Gulf Cooperation Council’s proposal for peaceful transformation.

We call upon the Government of Bahrain to respect human rights, and we hope that they will enter into genuine dialogue with the opposition.

All of these crises can only be solved politically. There will be no returning to the past.

The people will only accept solutions that lead to greater openness, increase democracy, strengthen the rule of law and improve the protection of human rights.

We intend to support all governments that are pursuing a path of democratic transformation. This holds especially true for Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. Germany has heard the call for freedom and stands on the side of those who seek democracy. The region’s democratic awakening is above all the achievement of brave men and women in North Africa and the Middle East. It is the force of their courage and imagination that has wrought these changes. They themselves will forge the path to a freer and better future.

It’s up to Europe as a neighbour to support this transformation, which is also in our own fundamental interest. I have worked to ensure that the European Union offer a genuine transformation partnership to countries in the region that are willing to undertake reforms.

We want to support the region on its path to democracy and a market economy. Germany has already pioneered its own transformation programmes. We are supporting the Egyptian and Tunisian people as they develop an independent judiciary, independent political parties and free media. These are the cornerstones of a free and democratic society as well as the preconditions for free and fair elections.

We are expanding our cooperation with both countries in the area of higher education. With the support of chambers of commerce, German companies are creating jobs in the region, which is especially important at this time. Democratic transformation can only succeed when people experience not only more freedom but also more opportunities to prosper.

Bilateral support is important. But even greater momentum can come from European support. The new Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean which we are currently considering would be a step in the right direction.

The European Neighbourhood Policy needs to be reconfigured to provide targeted support for democratic change. We Europeans must summon the courage to challenge traditional views.

What we need is not formalized meetings as part of an Association Agreement, but rather a clear and open conversation about political issues, human rights and freedom.

What we need is not the easing of individual trade restrictions, but rather the full opening of the European market, including to agricultural products.

What we need is not stricter border control, but rather more mobility in order to advance economic development in the southern Mediterranean region.

What we need is not individual energy projects, but rather a Euro-Mediterranean Energy Community that harnesses the strengths of a common market and lays the groundwork for our shared energy future.

Giving shape to future relations between Europe and North Africa is a shared challenge. We expect bold proposals from the European Commission in the area of European Neighbourhood Policy, which we intend to develop jointly with our partners in the southern Mediterranean region.

Morocco made an early start on the path towards greater freedom and political participation. His Majesty Mohammed VI has been a trailblazer in the region, pursuing courageous reforms since 1999. These changes are particularly evident in Morocco’s modern family law, which has fundamentally strengthened the rights of women. I encourage the Moroccan Government not to diminish its efforts towards openness, but to do everything in its power to drive the transformation forward.

This is hard work. It is therefore all the more significant that the King of Morocco wants to use the Arab Spring as an occasion to add new momentum to reforms in Morocco.

I especially welcome proposals for the separation of powers as well as the determination to re-shape the judiciary into a fully independent state authority.

I am happy that the members of the constitutional commission are here today. You bear tremendous responsibility. We are following your work with great interest and favour, and we wish you every success. The wish to take part in the political process is the common basis of the region’s reform movements. Greater political participation is the yardstick by which governments will be measured, today and tomorrow.

Many Europeans doubted that profound governmental and societal modernization was possible in Arab countries. But these weeks and months have proven that Islam and democratization do not stand in opposition to one another.

Unfortunately, in Morocco too violence has cast a shadow over the changes underway. I was deeply saddened to hear news of the reprehensible attack in Marrakech in late April.

I would like to express my condolences to the Moroccan people. My thoughts are with the families of the victims. I wish a speedy and full recovery to those who have been injured.

Terrorism, especially as perpetrated by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, poses a major threat to the region, and demands not only answers at the national level it must also be combated regionally and internationally. But even terrorism cannot destroy the yearning for freedom. However real the danger of terrorism remains, we must not allow terrorists to prevent us from tackling further reforms.

The upheaval in the Arab world can provide the impetus for closer regional cooperation. The Maghreb is a geographical term, but not yet an economic reality.

The division of the Maghreb bears an annual cost of 2% of GDP. This thus-far neglected potential must be realized.

We are pleased at the high-level contact between Morocco and Algeria in recent weeks. We hope this will continue and intensify. If the step-by-step integration of North African economies succeeds and existing borders such as that between Morocco and Algeria become permeable, the unified economic zone that could emerge would be a much more attractive partner in the globalized economy. The revitalization of politics in North Africa is accompanied by great opportunities for economic revitalization too. The other way round, reforms will only be successful if the economy thrives and young people can see a future for themselves.

Relations with Algeria hold a great deal of untapped economic potential. We must not allow past conflicts to determine the course of the future. We need to bring new impetus to solving the Western Sahara conflict.

It is my wish for the United Nations Special Envoy for Western Sahara that he will make progress towards a negotiated solution, step by step. All parties have an obligation to participate.

Closer cooperation with Germany and Europe offers many opportunities. Bilaterally and on the European level, we are already working closely to promote renewable energies. Clean and stable energy sources are vital to infrastructure and healthy growth.The combination of European know-how and Morocco’s climatic conditions – which are ideal for renewable energies – creates future-oriented training opportunities and jobs here. In the medium term, renewable energies from Morocco can become a top export to Europe. This in turn will mean more opportunities for young people in Morocco.

Germany is already supporting Morocco’s solar energy plan.We are already preparing permanent German-Moroccan cooperation in the expansion of renewable energies.One example of our cooperation is the construction of a solar-thermal power plant in Ouarzazate.The German Government is supporting this project with a low-interest loan of 80 million euro.

When such pilot projects become lucrative, they will also attract private investors to Morocco.

I am confident that German businesses will also muster the courage for more sustainable engagement in the Maghreb. A call is going out to all parties on the German side: government, political parties, businesses, unions, political foundations, civil society. In order for transformation to succeed in the long term, we must also include the powers of a temperate political Islam in dialogue.

An energy partnership with the European Union can become a role model for future Euro-Mediterranean partnerships. All of us need this close partnership. The waters of the Mediterranean will no longer separate us, as the ties between us will become closer than ever before.

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