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Left parties from regions south and north of the Mediterranean met for the Third Mediterranean Conference of the LEFT from 31 March to 2 April in Benalmadena, Spain, spending three inspiring days analyzing and exchanging their views on the situation in this region in view of recent global developments.
Since the Second Mediterranean Conference in Istanbul in February 2015 we have witnessed a worsening of the political situations both north and south of the Mediterranean, with extended austerity against people in Europe, with wars and conflicts still prevailing in the Middle East and North Africa.
Despite an explosive and unpredictable situation, the spirit of solidarity and internationalism among the Left forces are important pillars of strength to build upon for our continuing cooperation in the future.
In America and Europe, right-wing and extreme-right populist politicians are on the march. With the election of Donald Trump to President of the USA, we have entered a new era, with repercussions on global developments, including in our regions north and south of the Mediterranean. It remains to be seen which concrete policies this will entail, and how deep will be the repercussions. But there is no doubt that increasing militarization is one of them, with risks such as new military engagements or the spreading or intensification of already existing conflicts. The European Union’s answer is not an alternative to this but focuses also on stronger military capabilities and policies.
Even the positive and inspiring changes noted at the Second Mediterranean Conference in Istanbul - which were seen at the time in Greece and Rojava, the Kurdish region of Syria - are now under threat and could be reversed completely. The social movements for democracy and social justice that defined 2011 in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in the Middle East have come to a standstill courtesy of reactionary forces who are now calling the shots.
Archaic oppressive Islamist regimes like those in Saudi Arabia and Qatar are exerting increasing power and influence. In Yemen we witness a military aggression led by Saudi-Arabia and supported militarily and politically by the US and the EU, which has led to a catastrophic humanitarian crises with millions of people in danger of starvation.
There are a great number of external powers and internal players in the politics of the Arab world, often with conflicting interests and destabilizing consequences.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have played a key role in the worsening of conflicts and security conditions in many Arab countries - notably Syria, Yemen and Libya - in line with the hegemonic aims of US expansionist politics and often acting in coordination with the USA in this part of the world. It is widely acknowledged that this role has always taken many forms: the mobilization of thousands of Islamic Jihadists coming to Syria from all parts of the world, providing unconditional funding and sophisticated weapons to the various fundamentalist Islamist groups and above all instrumentation and manipulation of the different media to the benefit of these same groups. Benefiting from the ambiguity and duplicity of the concept of "terrorism" on a global scale, the Gulf countries have always found the means to camouflage their violent interference in the conflicts of the region. They have also managed to use their massive arms purchases and oil surpluses as incentives to influence the policies of the countries of the northern Mediterranean with regard to these conflicts.
In Turkey, with Mr. Erdogan, a dictatorship is fast developing, just as President Sisi's regime in Egypt is increasing its arbitrary repression. Israel’s recent political reshuffle is an accurate reflection of how far to the right the political consensus has shifted and where the dividing lines in society now lie. The marked turn to the right of the Israeli government leaves no doubt as to its intentions to fully colonize Palestine. Right-wing forces are being strengthened in Europe as popular disenchantment with the mainstream political parties grows, including the Social Democrats. The EU is entering uncertain times, particularly post-Brexit.
However, the main challenges facing the Left center around the crisis of global capitalism and its repercussions the world over. There needs to be an alternative.
The losers in this crisis are of course the populations of the ordinary working classes. Around the Mediterranean, these are those working classes, especially young people and women who are doomed to endure a reduction of or loss of income, rising inequality, unemployment, and social insecurity. Social movements especially in southern Europe - Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and France - have been and still are fighting these attacks.
The left parties and movements have a huge role to play to respond to the call and despair of ordinary people in our regions to build a strong movement with an alternative of social and climate justice, democratic participation, peace and socialism to oppose austerity, oppression, militarization and a lack of democracy. Different from the fake solutions offered by right wing forces and fundamentalists. We need to build hope for change. “Responsible capitalism” is nonsense. The left must offer a real alternative.
With this in mind we greet the call of the European Left to hold a broad forum of progressive and left forces, including the Labour movement, in Marseille on 11 November 2017 to discuss how to build this alternative.
As was noted at the Second Mediterranean Conference there is today an even clearer relationship between political developments in our regions, including the Middle East and Northern Africa and in Europe than previously thought. The EU and its neo-liberal agenda is the link in this relationship, as a promoter - through the IMF and European companies - of neo-liberalism. The Euro-Mediterranean Union and its associated agreements along with austerity policies pursued within the EU are all contributing to a deterioration in people’s living conditions.
The EU’s handling of its refugee crisis has again underlined the interrelatedness of our regions. Imperialist intervention and war in the Southern regions - spearheaded by America and European countries - has led to conflict and civil war. The ensuing migrant crisis has encouraged a new round of xenophobia and anti-immigrant populism. The EU, eager to absolve itself of earlier imperialist intentions, is looking to fix the problem with several shady deals. We could now see the notorious ‘Turkey - EU migrant deal’ replicated in Egypt, Libya and even in certain countries south of the Sahara. Especially with Egypt, where the Sisi Regime has drastically narrowed the public space and violated all articles of liberties in the new constitution of 2014 concerning freedom of press, demonstrations, strikes and independent trade unions.
Driving much of the migrant crisis are climate change, wars, misery… Global warming is leading to conflicts and wars around the Mediterranean linked to competition for raw materials, like oil and gas, as well as water resources. The fertile land around the Mediterranean could be a center of peace and prosperity for its peoples. It is currently a center of pollution, turmoil, and excessive human rights violations.
Cyprus is still suffering due to the Turkish occupation, colonization and violation of international law, including UNCLOS. We strongly support the reunification and demilitarization of the island, the abolition of guarantees and rights of intervention in the country; we support the peaceful coexistence of all Cypriots in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal state.
We support negotiations in order to solve the problem as soon as possible and lead to the reunification of the island and its people who are the rightful owners of the resources.
Likewise, we demand a Mediterranean free of nuclear weapons and free from the military bases of NATO and all the foreign military bases. We call for a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East. The Israeli state must sign the non-proliferation treaty (TNP) entering the international disarmament process. We denounce the EU policy of militarization and externalization of borders, as well as the role of NATO in increasing tensions in Eastern Europe and Russia.
We demand safe and legal routes to EU for migrants and asylum-seekers, such as humanitarian visas and strengthening of family reunification. We denounce the process of the “externalization of EU border control” by making the North African states the border guards at EU in order to hold migrants out of Europe. We condemn the EU-Turkey deal and the duplication of its content in similar deals with other countries in Mediterranean.
All military operations such as EUNAVFOR Med Sophia aiming to contain migration must be terminated. Border control mechanisms such as FRONTEX must be replaced by multinational search and rescue operation in order to put an end to the ongoing tragedies in the Mediterranean.
It is clear that the Syrian conflict has clearly evolved into a lasting conflict in all respects. Under these conditions, it is no longer sufficient to address the humanitarian and social after-effects of this conflict - in this case the thorny issue of Syrian refugees - through emergency policies only. Indeed, they are now accompanied by progressive impoverishment, severe unemployment and social and political instability in the ranks of refugees and local communities. So to address this deplorable situation, major development efforts need to be imminently deployed. In order to create sufficient employment opportunities for the poor in the countries of destination as well as Syrian refugees in these countries, new policies must be envisaged for aid provided by the international community, and especially by the countries North of the Mediterranean.
The Conference expresses its concerns at the continuing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza - and of Western Sahara. UN resolutions have fallen on deaf ears.
There is a very real risk that Israel will exploit the advent of the new President in the USA, more favorable to Israeli wishes to expand settlements in the West Bank, to build more facts on the ground to reinforce Israeli colonization of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In only the first few months, Trump has already dropped a two-decades old US “official commitment” to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as part of a permanent Middle East peace agreement. All of this is paving the way for Israel to continue building settlements on Palestinian land.
We call for the recognition of the Palestinian state by the EU states, especially those where the parliament has already voted, and is looking forward to the ratification by the President; This is the case of France.
We maintain the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people to establish an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as the capital on the 4 June 1967 borders and the return of the Palestinian refugees, in accordance with UN Resolution 194, and numerous UN resolutions. We condemn the policies of de facto apartheid and of colonization through settlements, as well as the blockade of Gaza carried out by Israel, Egypt supported by the US and the EU. The EU/Israel association agreement should be suspended as long as Israel violates International law and Human Rights.
The conference supports the popular struggle against Israeli occupation and colonization and for the rebuilding of Gaza after the 2014 war. We demand the release of all Palestinian political prisoners from Israeli jails. We express our solidarity with the forces within Israel who struggle for peace and the two-state solution. We condemn the repression of BDS campaign activists.
The UN must put in place its prerogatives in order to require direct and serious negotiations between the Polisario Front and the State of Morocco.
We support the struggle of the Saharawi people to end the occupation of Western Sahara through a referendum for their self-determination, in accordance with the resolutions of the UN, and calls for the respect of human rights and the liberation of Saharawi political prisoners.
We express our solidarity with and support of the Kurdish people against Turkish repression and with the Kurdish resistance against IS in Syria, and condemn Turkish intervention in Rojava. In Turkey, we demand a stop to the persecution of HDP whose imprisoned deputies are today starting a hunger strike, and of many other political forces, law persons, academics, journalists, authors and individuals.
The conference supports the negotiations in order to establish a ceasefire between the Syrian opposition not involved in terrorism and the Syrian regime for a political solution that preserves the unity of the Syrian people and territories and for a democratic regime.
We will fight the repression, racism and xenophobia upon which right-wing principles are built, and denounce all kinds of discrimination. As imperialist powers and reactionary forces aim to create divisions between people both north and south of the Mediterranean, we wish to underline the unity of our goals and struggles.
United, we will build a new Mediterranean. We will defend the ecosystem and common goods such as water and all public services. We believe in public control of natural resources and public services built on democratic participation, equality and equal opportunity, civil and human rights, secularism, with a view to combining ecology and socialism in our model for the future.
Left parties from across the Mediterranean have built an important partnership over the years since our first meeting at the First Mediterranean conference in 2012 in Palermo. Our conferences and partnership will continue to develop to promote the cooperation between the left parties, social movements, trade unions, activists and others who wish to join us in our struggle.
We propose the following plans:
Together we will build a new Mediterranean – as alternative of social justice, democratic participation, ecology, peace and socialism.
Long live the international solidarity