Superpower on wayLearning from the EU [Archives:2004/734/Viewpoint]

May 3 2004

The European Union (EU) is now definitely a step closer to becoming a superpower, even though one can argue that is far behind the USA in this respect.
But by having 25 member countries and more than 400 million people, the EU is now the largest developed block in the world.
It was an extraordinary moment for me to witness the countdown and then the fireworks for May 1st in Brussels and in other European capitals for the joining of the 10 countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, and Estonia into the EU.
There was a sense of pride, hope, and optimism among most Europeans I met in Brussels and elsewhere.
This feeling was also somewhat driven by the actions of the current sole superpower, the USA. According to EU officials, this step is not in competition with the USA, but rather to enhance internal political and economic conditions and have a stronger position in the world.
However, the more important step is yet to be taken, and that is to approve and ratify the EU constitution, which could serve as a foundation for a truly unified Europe with one defense system and a single voice on international affairs.
“I hope that we will one day have one stance and bring to the attention of the world that we have a single voice that must be heard and respected,” one European friend told me.
On the other hand, it is also saddening to see that Arab countries are still unable to agree on holding a summit despite the fact that they have so much more in common compared what Europeans have in common with each other. We have the same language, religion, values, and culture. We also enjoy various potentials, climates, natural resources, and a strategic location. But again, there is one thing that is missing: political will.
The EU enlargement has already started sparking a lot of questions among Arab citizens who feel betrayed by their leaders who have made the Arab world the weakest while it could have been the strongest union of its kind.
Why couldn't we make it?
Why didn't our regimes think about it?
Why weren't any steps taken since the collapse of the USSR to bring an end to divisions in the Arab world?
I was quite lucky indeed to personally witness the enlargement of EU in my visit to Brussels last week, but I wished that our leaders would come and seen how Europeans succeeded to bring about such a major development despite all the odds, while we as Arab countries, were unable to hold a regular – and usually empty – annual summit that commonly witnesses insults and exchange of accusations.
I believe that the more Arab citizens see such success in other countries and regions, the more infuriated and desperate they become.
But who is to blame?
One can suggest that the blame is on the Arab regressive regimes.
But in my opinion, instead of blame and accusations, why not start working for reforms, everyone in his own ways.
We, as Yemen Times, have been quite active in promoting reform in freedoms, democracy, human rights, and enforcement of law. The government – at least in its highest levels – doesn't seem to mind our efforts, and sometimes is quite encouraged. This should be a driving force for us, as the civil society, to work hard to push for reforms that could rehabilitate our countries in an individual basis, and simultaneously work on harmonizing our relations as nations.
If we have the will, we can do it too. But it will surely require commitment and a lot of effort, patience, and time.