Thursday, October 20, 2011 - 00:00

At a conference held by the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, representatives of the Arab spring criticised the EU's decades of support and co-operation with repressive regimes and they encouraged Europeans to build a north-south 'equal partnership'.


The two-day meeting was organised by the Global Progressive Forum (GPF) as part of the long-term programme "Listening to the Progressive Mediterranean" and it intends to build a long-term network with progressive groups on both shores of the Mediterranean.


S&D vice-president Véronique de Keyser said: "We were surprised by the Arab burst of freedom. We in Europe felt powerless to push for democracy and you made it real. It was extraordinary.


"These changes achieved by Arab people made us reconsider our policies and admit our shortcomings.


"We now have to find a way to better support the democratic transitions - including with effective and flexible use of EU funding. Part of these efforts should go to help political parties get organized."


Leader of the European Socialist Party and co-chair of the GPF Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said to the participants: "It is a privilege to welcome all those who have been pushing for democracy across the region. We can listen and learn from you and your bravery. The EU in the past made mistakes in the alliances it made. It is time for a new progressive direction.
"Democracy is about principles. You have shown that you have lived by yours. But democracy is also about quality jobs, security in healthcare and education. That is what you must strive for".

Representatives from Jordan, Algeria, Bahrein, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen, along with the Arab diaspora in Europe, debated with S&D Euro MPs, including Hannes Swoboda, Maria Badia, Edit Herczog, Pervenche Bères, Proinsias de Rossa and Saïd El Khadraoui.


Listen to the Progressive Mediterranean