Only Open Markets Will Help Nurture Arab Democracies, Not More Platitudes

Friday, February 25, 2011

From Prof Jean-Pierre Lehman

Sir, It is distressing to read the platitudes of Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, on how Europe proposes to help Egypt and Arab countries on finding democracy (“Europe’s downpayment on Arab democracy <>”, February 15).

Had it not been for European imperialism, machinations and interference, the Arab world may have reached its own political maturity a long time ago.
More significantly, the Arab countries do not need what Lady Ashton prescribes, namely sermons on democracy or unstrategically allocated dole-outs of cash. The sums she says she intends to transfer to the Arab world are meaningless. It is not the sums that matter, but the returns! There are two things the EU should do that will make a difference. First, open up European markets to Arab exporters of goods and services and also labour markets.

Provide visa-free travel to Arab workers and professionals. Many of the problems with Arab (and other) immigrants are in great part due to the fact that since it is so difficult to get into Europe in the first place, once you are in you stay for fear of not being able to come back. Ghettoisation then occurs.
Genuinely open labour markets with people coming in and out on the basis of employment demand would change this. Second, engage in capacity building in the Arab world, providing real and practical tools for developing a well-functioning, wealth- and welfare-enhancing, open market economy driven by rule of law. If and when the Arab world is populated by dynamic, entrepreneurial,
opportunity-oriented societies, it will have tremendous benefits for everybody. Think of what has happened in many parts of east Asia. What a fantastic difference to the region, to Europe and to the world an “Arab economic miracle” could make. It is these key priorities that should be on the European agenda for the Arab world.
Jean-Pierre Lehmann,
Evian Group at IMD,
This letter was published in the FInancial Times on February 17, 2011.
The article can be found at here