CIAO DATE: 06/05

The International Spectator

Volume XXXIX, No. 3 (July - September 2004)

Editorial Note

The Opinions section of this issue of The International Spectator opens with two articles offering contrasting views of the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on relations between the West and the Arab/Muslim world.

In the first article, Pascal Boniface argues that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has the potential for being a catalyzer of the much feared "clash of civilisations" which, he maintains, could turn out to be the typical self-fulfilling prophecy. The Arabs and, more generally, the Muslims see the West's failure to address the Palestinian question as indisputable proof of its hypocrisy and hostility towards Islam. More generally, the manifestly double-standard policy of the West, but especially of the US, in dealing with regional conflicts has created deep-seated distrust and resentment in the Arab/Muslim world. To counter this trend, Boniface argues that the Palestinian question has to be put back at the top of the West's foreign policy agenda.

Mark Heller provides a rejoinder to Boniface's thesis by emphasising the deep internal divisions within the Arab/Muslim world. In particular, there is a fundamental contrast, he argues, between forces calling for transformation and modernisation which are inspired by serious self-criticism, and backward looking forces which prefer instead to blame external actors for the unsolved regional and national problems. The author therefore warns against attributing the tension between the Arab/Muslim world and the West to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US' role in it: by relieving European and Arab leaders of the need to undertake candid self-criticism, this attitude offers an additional alibi to the conservative forces in the Muslim world.

The next two articles in the first section address the question of Cyprus in the aftermath of the failed referendum on the Annan Plan to reunite the island. In the first article, Tozun Bahcheli investigates the role played by the European Union. According to the author, the EU failed to address effectively the concerns that the plan aroused among both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The Union's policy was based on the optimistic assump-tion that both sides' eagerness to join the EU would lead them to embrace the plan. However, while Turkey's support for the plan ensured the positive turnout in the Turkish-populated part of Cyprus, the EU's failure to put adequate pressure on the Greek Cypriots let misgivings prevail on the other half of the island. With the Greek Cypriots now obstructing the deepening of cooperation with the Turkish-populated part of Cyprus, the EU's room for action has narrowed. To sort out the difficulty, the author concludes, the Union should engage in an overall review of its Cyprus policy in order to regain the diplomatic initiative.

In the article that follows, Nathalie Tocci sets out from an analysis of the factors underlying the failure of the referendum on the Annan Plan. She argues that the reasons that led the Greek Cypriots to reject it were twofold: the lack of effective political pressure upon the Greek Cypriots and the latter's widespread fear that Turkey would not deliver on its commitments if the plan were adopted. While emphasising the Greek side's predominant responsibility for the rejection of the plan, the author argues that it is now in the interests of both sides to make unilateral concessions and keep the peace plan alive.

The Europe Forum opens with an article by Maria Teresa Salvemini Ristuccia discussing reform of the EU's Stability and Growth Pact. She argues that the reform proposal presented by the Commission is partial and inadequate. It is even doubtful, she adds, that changing the rules on deficit and debt ceilings is the best way to ensure monetary stability and, at the same time, economic growth. A better solution is to remove the rule that binds the EU to a balanced budget. It should be replaced, the author argues, by a "golden rule" allowing the Union to incur debt to finance public expenditures of strategic importance for relaunching growth.

Starting the Essays section, the article by François Heisbourg offers a critical view of the role played by the Franco-German duo in promoting security cooperation in Europe. He points out that the two countries have till now played a leading role in the integration process insofar as they promoted joint policies that were in the interests of the other member states of the Union or at least compatible with them. However, the successive enlargements, especially the last one, have made the Union more heterogeneous and this has progressively eroded the effectiveness of the Franco-German couple. There is, therefore, the need for a new "avant-garde" that reflects the Union's current internal diversity better. In the security field, the lead group should include, besides the Franco-German couple, at least two other large member states such as Great Britain and Poland.

The next two articles assess the new role of the European Parliament in light of the EU's new Constitutional Treaty. Andrew Duff gives an overall positive evaluation of the treaty's provisions. He argues that it considerably reinforces the legislative and budgetary roles of the European Parliament, allowing for the development of a real parliamentary democracy in the Union. In Cesare Pinelli's opinion, the new treaty provides only a partial answer to the problem of democratic deficit, the lack of transparency and the scarce efficiency of the EU's institutions. He emphasises that the unsolved tension between two contrasting conceptions - the inter-governmental and the supranational - has continued to prevent the Union from developing a more coherent institutional system.

The next article by Michele Comelli analyses the rationale of the European Union's new European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and its potential for development. He sees the ENP as part of a wider effort to make the Union's external action more coherent and comprehensive. However, he also underlines that the lack of adequate incentives for the targeted countries could weaken their commitment to taking an active part in the implementation of the ENP.

In the last article, Mustafa Aydin and Sinem Akgül Açikmese address the question of Turkey's accession to the EU, focusing on its economic and political implications for both the EU and Turkey itself. They argue that slowing down or, worse yet, stopping the accession process would almost certainly have a negative impact on the reform efforts currently being untertaken in Turkey and could even lead to their reversal. As regards the European Union, on the other hand, the authors argue that the potential costs of Turkey's entry would be largely offset by the benefits deriving from its strategic position and economic potential.