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Challenges of the Arab Spring in focus at Mediterranean Forum

MONACO, 6 July 2012 – How to ensure that the democratic promise of the Arab Spring is fully realized was the overriding question at the OSCE PA's Mediterranean Forum on Friday.

Chaired by Assembly Vice-President and Head of the Monegasque Delegation Jean-Charles Gardetto, the forum included participation from Libyan delegates Mohamed Abdulaziz, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation of Libya, and Khaled Ghellali, Spokesperson for the Libyan National Democratic Alliance. This was the first time Libyan officials, guests of the host government, have appeared before the Parliamentary Assembly.

Abdulaziz noted that the Libyan experience differs in important respects from the transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, with Libya essentially "starting from scratch" in its efforts to build a state. He described the most pressing concerns his country faces, including border security, absorption of 'freedom fighters' into the national government, containing internal tensions, advancing judicial co-operation with neighbouring countries and ensuring free and fair elections.

Jean-Claude Mignon, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), compared the changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa to the changes in Eastern Europe two decades ago, noting the possibility of the Arab Spring becoming and 'Arab Autumn.' He emphasized the opportunity presented for closer co-operation between the OSCE PA and PACE to assist the region's aspiring democracies, noting that both organizations have extensive experience in these matters.

Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the OSCE and Chairman of the OSCE Contact Group with Mediterranean Partners, extended the OSCE's proposal of assistance to Mediterranean Partners to support their democratic transitions and tackle common challenges in all three dimensions. He noted that the OSCE Astana Declaration affirms that the security of the OSCE area is inextricably linked to neighbouring regions.

Francesco Amoruso, Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), stated that the PAM is fully committed to increasing co-operation with the OSCE PA on Mediterranean matters.

In the debate, delegates called for increased privileges within the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly as a way to enhance co-operation between the OSCE and countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Participants also discussed extending the Mediterranean partnership to the Palestinian Authority and Libya, opportunities for increased OSCE involvement, and threats to the security and stability of the Mediterranean area.

Members expressed concern about the volatile security situation and human rights abuse stemming from the conflict in Syria and terrorist groups in the Sahel. They further encouraged OSCE participating States to support democratic processes in the region.