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Second Parliamentarians’ Dialogue

Berlin, 13 December 2012

The Körber Foundation, in conjunction with the Federal Foreign Office and the British think tank Forward Thinking, once again brought together parliamentarians from the Muslim Brotherhood and from political parties close to the movement in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia with members of parliament from Britain and Germany for an informal exchange of views. The meeting centred on the current state of the political, administrative and constitutional reforms in the transformation states of North Africa, and the economic and foreign policy goals of the new governments.

Against the backdrop of the controversies caused by the Egyptian constitution the participants agreed that it was of crucial importance for the transformation states to reach a compromise between the political will of the majority and individual rights and freedoms. This conviction should of course be reflected in the constitutional texts, though first and foremost it ought to form the basis for the day-to-day business of government. In the course of the discussion some of the participants pointed out that civil society and the media played a central role in helping the various social actors to balance their interests and reach some kind of compromise. Participation by all of the special interest groups in the democratization process in the decidedly pluralist states of North Africa was absolutely essential. Much the same was true of the relationship between religion and the state. The new governments were trying to find a societal model which was capable of giving faith-based communities with their own ideas of value some leeway within the context of a democratic polity.

The participants discussed the development of social policy in Tunisia in particular and in the transformation states in general. They pointed out that an important element was the emergence of a system of transitional justice, which embodied the rule of law, but was not exacting revenge. Some people thought that the fight against corruption, which was one of the main reasons for the Arab uprisings in the first place, should be turned into a national priority. At any rate, in the area of social policy progress could be made only on the basis of a very wide social consensus.

The discussants agreed that the success or failure of the political, administrative and constitutional reforms depended to a large extent on the economic development of the various states. There was general agreement that one of the most urgent tasks facing the new governments was the creation of job opportunities for the youthful populations. Some of the participants believed that Europe could make an important contribution to improving the economic situation in North Africa by promoting significant investment and providing encouragement for the transfer of knowledge. At the same time European support for the fight against high youth unemployment in the transformation states was a way of enhancing the national security of European countries, which would be directly impacted by the consequences of an ongoing economic crisis. With regard to the foreign policy priorities of the new governments, the participants emphasized that they had come out in favour of a partnership with the European Union and United States, since they were obviously the most important supporters of the democratization process

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