by David PRICE
In January 1989 before giving his speech to the European Parliament, the President of the European Commission, Mr Jacques Delors, turned at first to an unusual group in his audience: representatives of the PLO sitting next to those of Israel. He greeted them as a “symbol that fills us with hope”.
However, it is rather the peoples of the Near East who, weary with war are now turning towards us Europeans in order to draw new inspiration of hope. More precisely they turn to the reconciling force of our ever-broadening Community of nations in the European Union. Having expelled the demons of war through reconciliation, the Community brought peace and security to the Old Continent. For centuries before, it was continually torn apart by bloody conflicts, greed and revenge. It now offers them this symbol of hope. …
At the side of the representative of the PLO was sitting Mr André Chouraqui. This translator of the Bible and the Koran, former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, was also the leader of an Israeli group pleading in the interests of peace for a confederation of States of the Near East closely tied economically and politically to the European Community.
Today a new possibility exists for Europeans, Israelis and Arabs to coordinate their efforts to assure peace in the eastern Mediterranean. Peace can be forged if the principal actors have the courage to act in specific areas where common practical interests would bear fruit. Six European countries took this approach in May 1950 to bring a decisive end to two thousand years of bloody history of murderous wars.
“World peace can only be safeguarded by measures commensurate with the dangers that threatens it.” Thus starts the famous Declaration of Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Affairs Minister. He elucidated a system of justice and impartiality that was completely original in international relations. It brought about the European Community, the core of today’s European Union.
What was the basis of this new “method” for which Europe was the first experiment? By submitting their production of vital raw materials, coal and steel, to common rules under the supervision of an impartial High Authority, France, Germany and other countries rendered all future war impossible. They laid the foundation for mutual security, not nationalist aggression. This psychological breakthrough made possible the creation of a common market and other developments that benefited from a European spirit under the democratic rule of law.
To come to grips with present day problems, Israel and its Arab neighbours need to show similar amounts of clear and in-depth thinking and courage. Problems there will not pass the rest of us by. A new conflict in the Near East is likely to prove catastrophic for the whole world, including Europeans.
The States of the Near East, the Mashrek, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the neighbouring countries, as well as a new Palestinian State, could today follow this proven method. The source of their mutual cooperation and benefits should be centred, not on coal and steel, but on Water. In the Near East, water is life.
Symbolic, yes, but above all, mutual commitment on the most vital raw material of all...
Over more than half a century, various engineering schemes tried to arrive at the most rational use of the precious resources of Jordan River basin. In 1955, for example, the United Nations Johnston Plan devised a scheme that in practical terms ignored political borders. Its main preoccupation was to attain the optimal use of the Jordan waters for, and in the interests of all the populations.
Its goal was to facilitate the return of thousands of homeless refugees by encouraging stability and economic prosperity.
Technically these projects also considered how the precious winter rain waters could be stored and transferred, as required, across borders according to seasonal needs. Furthermore, seawater from the Mediterranean Sea could be used to replenish the level of the Dead Sea, which is dropping through evaporation. What would be especially beneficial is that huge amounts of electricity could be generated for all, because the Dead Sea lies far below sea level.
In fact, in 1956 Israel and its Arab neighbours reached agreement on the technical aspects of the UN Johnston proposals. It stopped there.
The politicians refused to commit themselves to such a project, which beyond its practical aspects had large political implications. To make the desert bloom again using such beneficial plans, countries that regarded each other as enemies would have to bury their hostility. Thus a major chance for peace and prosperity was lost. Since then, this folly can be counted in the dead, wounded and bereaved in wars every decade and continuous destructive conflict
By drawing on the proven experimental results of the European Community of Coal and Steel, a Community in the Near East would create the means to facilitate diplomatic recognition between neighbouring States. It would assure common needs and benefit all peoples set on peaceful, democratic development. Basing themselves on the impartial principles that only they would decide together, and submitting the whole basin’s resources to an impartial High Authority under international law, the States of the region could eliminate the present wastage and water losses. The Community’s High Authority could organize, for example, desalination works and initiate common agricultural projects using the latest scientific research results. On either side of the Jordan basin, the inhabitants could equally benefit from the best technological innovations.
Technical and engineering developments would facilitate the return of thousands of refugees. Thus the creative genius of the peoples in the Region would be freed to focus on works of peace and rising prosperity. The Europeans have shown it works, even among former hereditary enemies. Freedom of circulation and establishment of citizens of member states could be progressively realized in a balanced way, both for the populations and for economic sectors.
The Mediterranean is the geographic link between the countries of the Mashrek and the European Union. Thanks to the powers provided in the Treaties, the European Commission has every reason to use all its means to create in the region a sister Community which is equally devoted to peace and works of peace.
Pooling resources and practical interests under the democratic Community rule of law could not only to benefit the peoples of the region but help encourage other initiatives and action for world peace and development.
DAVID PRICE. © 1989, 2005.
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