Advertisements

The West Mediterranean, a basin for the mixing of cultures

The West Mediterranean, a basin for the mixing of cultures and fruitful dialogue between different civilisations.

Following a Meeting of the 5+5 in Marseille 23 and 24 June 2019, this contribution was my intervention as member of Algeria’s delegation headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs before the various foreign representations and the President of the French Republic as part of The 5+5 Dialogue.  A sub-regional forum for the ten Western Mediterranean countries that take part since its creation, five from the north of the Mediterranean (Spain, France, Italy, Malta and Portugal) and five from the southern shore (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia), all working in the hope for concrete results for the benefit of both sides of the Mediterranean western basin.

The Algerian delegation delighted with Marseille, the seat of different cultures and venue for this final meeting where in a few months, we have carried out an important work showing the vitality of civil society in the western Mediterranean. It was not that obvious at the outset.  From April to June 2019, civil society in the western Mediterranean on both sides worked together to bring concrete solutions to the region “through the implementation of concrete projects for human, economic and sustainable development. We hope that all of these reflections and proposals for initiatives will be shared today with leaders at this summit in Marseille to determine which ones will be implemented as a priority, the means and mechanisms to be implemented to forge strong links in all areas around the Mediterranean in order to boost cooperation, based on the conviction that civil society must be fully involved in the definition of a new “positive” agenda. I recall that recently with renowned experts from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya and 15 European personalities during 2015 and 2016, we produced under my direction and that of my friend Camille Sari two books (1050 pages), one on political institutions, the other economic in all its diversity entitled “The Maghreb in the face of geostrategic issues published by Harmattan Editions, following on from my contributions on this subject at the level of The French Institute of International Relations between 2011 and 2013 on Europe-Maghreb relations.

The ideas are not new but unfortunately have not been realized. I recall that during a meeting almost similar at the UNESCO in 1993 at the initiative of Pierre Moussa with Mr. Thom Bekki then Vice-President of South Africa on the theme – Africa-Maghreb as part of the strategy Euro-Mediterranean, I had advocated in my speech the creation of both a Euro-Mediterranean university as a place of fertilization of cultures, against intolerance, and a Euro-Mediterranean bank and stock exchange with financial instruments adapted to the situation for the realization of concrete projects by promoting decentralized networks of economic, social and cultural actors, involving international financial institutions and traditional banks.  I reiterate these proposals for this summit of 5+5 in addition to the creation of an economic and social council at the level of the Western Mediterranean (5+5) whose vocation is to bring together the different segments of civil society, experience if successful could be extended to a global civil society bringing together the different regions of our planet in order to combat insecurity, migration and thus promote a balanced and global solidarity space.

It is in this context that I would like to welcome the initiative of His Excellency the President of the French Republic, Mr Emmanuel Macron, to whom Algeria has given its support from the outset. This initiative, it seems to me, is part of the new transformation of the world, ecological challenges, the breakthrough of digital and artificial intelligence to witness between 2025/2030/2040 a fourth global economic revolution based on knowledge, which will influence all international relations, recalling the conclusions of COP 21 and COP 22, which calls on all humanity for a solidarity future. The 21st century will have three strategic actors forging dialectical links: states that must adapt to globalization (the centralized bureaucratic Hegelian state is outdated, the North African states have unfortunately copied the French Jacobin system, a blocking factor for reforms as shown by my friend Jacques Attali, the international institutions that need to be renovated with the massive entry of emerging countries including China, and civil society which will play an increasingly important role more predominant, non-antinomic with the other two players but complementary. The common hope is that this important meeting will be able to turn the Mediterranean basin into a lake of peace, tolerance and shared prosperity based on a win/win partnership far from any spirit of domination, through tolerance and dialogue cultures of which I am deeply attached.

Algeria is a strategic player in the Mediterranean and Africa since it played an essential role in the various meetings in preparation for the 5+5 meeting where it proposed concrete projects with a regional impact, favouring economic interests and the stability of the region, taking into account the transformation of the world. Algeria, endowed with the issue of Energy Transition, proposed projects from civil society, where the work of the Forum in Algiers organized in the form of four thematic sessions, namely: Renewable Energy and Energy efficiency; Electrical interconnections, Natural Gas as the engine of an energy transition and the digital transformation of the energy sector.  It is that energy will be at the heart of the sovereignty of states and their security policies and their economic dynamics alter the balance of power on a global scale and affect political recompositions within countries as regional spaces. The energy transition refers to other subjects than technical, posing the societal problem. It can be viewed as the passage of human civilization built primarily fossil, polluting, abundant, and inexpensive energy, to a civilization where energy is renewable, scarce, expensive, and less polluting with the objective of eventually replacing energies stocks (oil, coal, gas, uranium) with flows of energies (wind, solar). This raises the problem of a new model of growth and consumption: all economic sectors and households are concerned. The important potentials of all forms of energy in the Mediterranean, that of wind or sun, or of fossil fuels present in its subsoil, can make this area contacts between millennia-old civilizations, which have always been subject to political tensions, a new energy region of the world, at the gates of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Crossroads of three continents, fragile from an environmental point of view, the Mediterranean basin is also a region that provides energy, such as those of the wind or the sun, or fossil fuels present in its subsoil. The energy mix of tomorrow will be electrically dominant, as the electricity market is expected to increase by almost 80% by 2040. Solar thermal for export, combined with photovoltaic for internal consumption needs, is expected to be the most important resource for electricity generation. Hybridization with gas should already allow it to be competitive. Electric highways in continuous current to cross the Mediterranean could be used to meet the growing needs of Europe’s Mediterranean coast and superconductivity completed by liquid hydrogen cooling will be the most medium-term solution to meet the needs of Northern Europe.

After the mixed results of the Barcelona Agreement and the Union for the Mediterranean, let us hope that this summit can lead to concrete results for the benefit of the people of the region. I am convinced only the culture of tolerance will allow our space, in the face of the new challenges of globalization, to meet the challenges of the 21st century in the face of fierce competition, including the breakthrough of emerging countries, the rise of global terrorism threat, the rise of protectionism detrimental to the growth of the world economy, existing a dialectical link between security and development, to the dangers of populism.  Finally, co-development in the Mediterranean via the continent Africa issue of the 21st century can, as I pointed out recently in interviews with AFRICAPRESSE.PARIS and the American Herald Tribune, curb ensure security and avoid destabilization that would have geostrategic repercussions for the entire Mediterranean and African region.

I wanted to stress during this meeting on behalf of Algeria, that a strategic player at the regional level will contribute to the success, based on a win-win partnership, of this enormous undertaking, an old dream, forging our common Mediterranean consciousness.  I quote the conclusion of my speech: “Mr. President of the French Republic, you, who are the age of my son, hope that all together leaders of the 5+5 and civil societies of our region, supported by international institutions, will realize this old dream that I defend with the many Maghreb and European friends, for more than 30 years the Mediterranean, a place of mixing of cultures, tolerance and fruitful dialogue between different civilizations, our common destiny being to do business together.”

Finally, as I pointed out in an interview with Jeune Afrique, Paris on June 24, 2019, far from any vision of disaster, Algeria’s future holds immense hope as at the end of my interview, and I quote: “Our youth and the National People’s Army have shown unwavering maturity. But it is imperative to move beyond the current status-quo before the end of 2019 with transparent elections, as a longer transition period could inevitably lead the country to an economic and social drift. And as in economics, lost time is never caught back, the productive dialogue with concessions on both sides for Algeria being its benefit, accompanied by a profound restructuring of parties and civil society based on new networks, is the only way out of the current crisis.”

ademmebtoul@gmail.com

Advertisements
The cries Algeria’s youth for a profound change must be heard

The cries Algeria’s youth for a profound change must be heard

Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul, Economist, Expert international. © DR at AP.P

In this long plea where he begins by paying homage to the Algerian youth, Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul analyses the handicaps, both political and economic, which overwhelm Algeria despite its immense potential. Then projecting himself into the perspective, he evokes the scenarios of the future and pleads with a lot of arguments and a great conviction, for “an indispensable global reform” (…) by flattening the differences through dialogue and consultation. 

So, here is this contribution from PR Abderrahmane Mebtoul, Economist, International Expert as posted on AFRICAPRESSE. PARIS on March 5, 2019, in French.

The strong mobilization of 22 February and 1st March implies a good analysis of the aspirations of civil society. Certainly not the rentier living in the salons, but the one that we saw on the street, the youth who does not want to be recovered.

The lesson given to the leader of the Workers’ Party, which was booed, should serve as lessons. At a time when the world is experiencing political, social and economic upheavals, where Algeria is being challenged by some 70% of its population claiming genuine democratic reforms – a condition of harmonious and sustainable development in the face of the relentless globalization – we must pay a great homage to our youth who have not experienced the drama of the years 1990-1999, and yet want a change.

Let us salute its political maturity and peaceful marches without violence, where political parties in all tendencies have played no role in mobilizing. Let us also salute our security forces who have managed in a modern way these events which must be meditated profoundly by the parties of power and their satellites – weakly representative, not to say non-representative – as well as by any of the opposition, which was off-track.

A partisan system disconnected from the society

According to some sources, the number of political parties is approaching sixty, often with unnatural alliances, whereas in democratic countries these alliances are made by ideological affinity and a clear programme.

Also, except for ten of them, the others show a formal and ostentatious presence in the elections… Furnishing the emptiness, powerless almost always to act on the course of things and to articulate clearly the concerns and aspirations of the real society.

Because of the internal crises that periodically shake them, the discredit that strikes the majority of them, the defiance of them and the partisan activism, the current political formations today have a low capacity to carry out a work of mobilization and efficient management, to contribute significantly to the political socialising, and thus to make an effective contribution to the work of national recovery.

As proof, the last parliamentary elections, both 2012 and 2017: considering the null and official data of the Ministry of the Interior, the 3/4 of the Algerian population are not represented by the elected officials.

The discredit which strikes political groups, both from the power and from the opposition, must give way to credible, non-artificially created formations, subject therefore to the possibility of an objective assessment of the status and role which must be theirs in a society that aspires to join the ranks of democratic societies. These formations will have to be more capable of mobilizing society than in the years to come, reforms – long deferred to guarantee a fictitious, transient social peace – will be very painful.

An atomized civil society with an informal dominant

Civil society in Algeria is shattered. Contrary to the accepted and illusory ideas of past years, in a context of social disintegration and “satellite TV” youth, most official religious brotherhoods have less and less impact.

On the other hand, the confusion that currently prevails in the national association movement makes it difficult to devise a strategy to take into account and mobilize it. Its diversity, the politico-ideological currents that pass through it and its complex relationship to society and the State add to this confusion and make imperative an urgent reflection for its restructuring, its current state reflecting the major fractures have occurred in the national political system. Thus, it will soon be divided into four fundamentally different civil societies: three at the level of the real sphere and one dominant in the informal sphere.

The most important segment of this civil society, the privileged and often unique interlocutor of the public authorities, is constituted by appendages of power, located on the periphery of the parties in power and whose officials are sometimes deputies, senators, living in large part of the transfer of the rentier annuity. In fact, those who pride themselves on mobilizing millions of voters live in air-conditioned lounges, disconnected from society.

The second segment is that of a civil society frankly rooted in the Islamist movement, with there also appendages of legal Islamic parties.

The third segment is that of a civil society claiming the democratic movement. Poorly structured, despite the relatively large number of associations that comprise it, and undermined by contradictions in relation, among others, with the question of leadership. For these first three civil societies, their impact on the turnout in the last local and legislative elections, despite their accession, was relatively low.

We finally have an informal, unorganized, totally atomized civil society. It is by far the most active and important, as well as we saw on February 22nd and the 1st March 2019, with precise codifications forming a dense mesh.

Without the intelligent integration of this informal sphere – not by authoritarian bureaucratic measures, but by the involvement of society itself – it will not be necessary to rely on a real dynamism of civil society. Because when a state wants to impose its own rules disconnected from social practices, the society has its own rules that allow it to function with its own organizations.

Three scenarios for Algeria from 2019 to 2025

The dynamism of the partisan system and of civil society in order to make it an effective instrument of the framing of forces and a powerful lever of their mobilization is likely to succeed only if the movement that composes it, is not in the service of ambitions personal unmentionable and sometimes dubious.

We can foresee the different scenarios possible depending on the state of the power relations at the internal level, considering the evolution of the strategy of the actors at the external level.

The first scenario: failure of the reform process.

The conditions of failure are real and combined in the legal and economic environment in case of lack of visibility and coherence in the economic and social approach. Risk accentuated by the annuitants at the internal level and certain segments of external actors maintaining informal relations and who are not interested in deepening the reforms (loss of contracts in case of transparent tender notices).

On the other hand, the ambiguity of legal texts allows for the legal blockade of reforms, while the multiplicity of speakers allows for the confusion of prerogatives. Other parameters contributing to the risk of failure: the fragility of internal private investment capacity, stabilization plans that have made forced savings to the detriment of the average layers that have impoverished; the mistrust generated by internal and external investors through continual changes in legislation, while the stability must be rigorous; populist speeches on account settlements on the sensitive subject of taxation, and finally the high pressure of a fraction of the internal and external actors linked to the interests of the annuity, that to preserve protectionist postures because the liberalisation Destroyed a fraction of the annuity.

The second scenario is the status quo.

It would lead to the regression for both social and physical, the world being in perpetual motion. This hypothesis will prepare the conditions of failure by imputing the current social conditions (poverty and unemployment) to reforms, which, except macroeconomic stabilization, are timid in Algeria (microeconomic and institutional reforms, Issues of future years), or to technical bodies while petrol is the absence of political will (neutralization of power relations).

This status quo will participate in a programmed failure and would be suicidal for the future of the economy and Algerian society. This is maintained by the confusion of some concepts assimilating false reforms to the sale of national heritage.

Thus, according to the proponents of this analysis, the reforms would be dictated by the major global oil companies, the IMF and the World Bank. A posture reminding us of the Times of the Inquisition against those who advocated the market economy and the establishment of democracy.

The third scenario is the success of solidarity-specific political and economic reforms as contained in the legal, economic and political environment of Algeria, thanks to a youth increasingly aware of the country’s future issues.

The rupture of the previous system, in view of historical experiences, only occurred through violent but short-lived revolutions. Successful experiences have shown that the gradualist pathway inserting the Conservatives into a reformist dynamic has involved a profound redevelopment of the structures of power and new people acquired in the reforms with cultural demystification, the devastating rumours in the opinion are only the translation of the weakness of the communication system, especially in Algeria where the oral route is predominant.

There is, therefore, therefore, an urgent need for close cooperation between the supporters of the reforms, the political parties, the associations and, in general, all civil society, the administration, public and private enterprises, the collectives of Workers, trade unions, flattening differences through dialogue and consultation.

The goal will be to make the strategic objective emerge through a symbiosis of individual interests and collective interest, showing that the medium-term winners of the reforms will be more numerous than the short-term losers.

The support of external actors for their interests in order to avoid the negative effects of the Destabilisation, but above all the mobilisation of the favorable internal actors because no country can make the reforms in our place, the fate of Algeria is in the hands of Algerian and Algerian.

Algeria, an indispensable actor for Euro-Mediterranean and African stability, can lead to a process of inseparable reforms of a profound democratisation of its society. In the business world, feelings do not exist, only reforms will allow economic growth and the reduction of the nagging problems of unemployment and poverty. Any obstacle to these reforms only decreases the rate of growth, increases the country’s insecurity and, Over there, contributes to social and political destabilization. Time being money, any delay in the process of reforms could result in more important social costs that could be supported by the most disadvantaged.

A strategic vision to surpass a multifaceted crisis

It is time to have foresight in the medium and long term, in order to correct the mistakes of the past, like navigating on sight by ignoring the aspirations of society.

The strategic question is: shall we go towards a real salutary change by reorganizing society, due to the global geostrategic upheavals announced between 2019-2025-2030 or, thanks to the passive distribution of the annuity, shall we simply replaster, postponing the inevitable social tensions?

These are important enough reasons to seriously consider reorganizing the partisan system and civil society so that they can fulfil the function that is them in any democratic political system that reconciles modernity with our authenticity, far from administrative injunctions.

The redesign of the state, including administration, integration of the informal sphere, reforms of financial, fiscal, customs and socio-educational systems, new mechanisms of regulation and social cohesion, optimisation of the effect of public expenditure and the new management of infrastructures based on the rationalization of budget choices… and pose the problem of the future of the Algerian economy so as to reconnect it with growth and, consequently, to alleviate unemployment.

As I have often recalled, in this month of February 2019 – and this is not today – Algeria is going through a crisis of governance, which implies having a strategic vision of the future of Algeria on the 2030 horizon.

Algeria needs for its national and international credibility, geostrategic tensions at the level of the region and the inevitable budgetary tensions between 2019-2020-2025 to bring all its children into their diversity and not to divide us, requiring a minimum of economic and social consensus that could not mean unanimism, a sign of decadence of any society in order to stabilise the social body.

The reforms – beyond the natural resistance of the pensioners – by rehabilitating good governance (the fight against corruption, in concrete terms and not only by legislation) and human capital, are the basis for development. The cries of youth in these months of February and March 2019 for a profound change must be heard so that Algeria can meet the challenges of the 21st century characterized, in this constantly interdependent world, by major geostrategic upheavals in the security, economic, political, social and cultural fields.

Faced with the inevitable budgetary tensions and the geostrategic stakes of 2019-2025-2030, the success of the reforms must be based on four axes: gathering, rebasing of the state, democratisation and economic reforms accommodating economic efficiency and profound social justice.

Summit of the western Mediterranean countries

Summit of the western Mediterranean countries

Stability at the regional level and intensification of all partnership, for a lake of peace and shared prosperity.

After the mixed impacts of the Barcelona Agreement and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) activities, a summit of the western Mediterranean countries as a significant meeting will be held on 24 June 2019 in France to boost cooperation between countries of the two shores of the western Mediterranean.   The refocusing on the western Mediterranean is accompanied by the realization that the residents of this basin share not only primary common interests, particularly in the economic field but also security in order to establish a “strengthened association”. The objective being “resolutely political” to avoid a north-south fracture that could carry all the drifts and extremities, that can lead to major imbalances. For example, for this meeting, the migratory flux depends largely on the under-development of the disadvantaged regions of the southern shore of the Mediterranean and instead of feeding the misunderstanding about the idea of a “union” of the two shores.  Would it make more sense to conclude a pact of cooperation and solidarity limited to the States on both sides of the Western Mediterranean, a pact based on shared values and principles; a pact motivated by an objective of solidarity and development, in the framework of a win-win partnership?

Civil society, a significant player

We must be aware that all new international relations are no longer based mainly on personalized relations between heads of state but between decentralized networks and organizations through the involvement of the civil society which can promote cooperation, a dialogue of cultures, tolerance and symbiosis of the contributions of the east and the west.  It is dangerous to be locked up in a ghetto that would inevitably endanger life through violence. The latest events should make us think even better by avoiding this confrontation of religions because so much Islam, Christianity or Judaism have contributed actively to the flourishing of civilizations, to this tolerance by condemning any form of extremism. Future relationships between the two shores of the western Mediterranean composed of 5 + 5 countries can be enabling vectors. For, overall, southern Europe and the Maghreb cannot escape this adaptation to global mutations (the current crisis leading to profound upheavals in both geostrategic and socio-economic areas) and more globally in the whole of the Mediterranean region. For there is a need to overcome narrow chauvinistic nationalisms insofar as true nationalism in the future will be defined as the capacity to increase together with the standard of living of all populations by our contribution to global added value. The world is currently characterized by interdependence between countries. This does not mean the end of the role of the state but a separation of politics and economics which cannot be subjected to the vagaries of the economic situation, the State dedicating itself to its fundamental mission of macroeconomic regulator and macrosocial.  We firmly believe and after analysis that the intensification of cooperation between the two shores of the Mediterranean and more specifically between Europe and the Maghreb ought to be based on true co-development, with the possibility to disrupt bureaucratic behaviours of all conservative rentier annuitants and register them in a dynamic perspective profitable to the populations of the region. It is that the Mediterranean area can be a place of creation of logical networks allowing to communicate with distant cultures by promoting the symbiosis of the contributions of the east and the west. This network must promote communication links; freedom insofar as the excesses of corporate voluntarism inhibit any spirit of creativity.

It is that the Maghreb and Europe are two geographical regions presenting a millennial experience of openness on Latinity and the Arab worlds with natural links and in its whole door of culture and influences Anglo-Saxon.  It is essential for Europe to develop all the actions that can be implemented to achieve desirable balances within this set. The creation of weak regional economic spaces is a stage of structural adjustment within the globalized economy with the objective of promoting political democracy, a humanized competitive market economy, debates different ideas through social and cultural actions to combat extremism and racism the implementation of ordinary affairs. Thus, it is necessary to pay attention to the educational action because the thinking man and creator must be in future the beneficiary and the leading actor of the development process. That is why we are advocating the creation of a Euro-Maghreb university as well as a cultural center of the Mediterranean youth as a means of reciprocal fertilization of cultures for the realization of the sustained dialogue in order to avoid prejudices and conflicts sources of unnecessary tensions as well as a central Euro bank to promote trade. Algeria and France can promote the creation of these empowering structures.

Cooperation between the Maghreb and European 5 + 5 countries

It is in this context that must be apprehended a realistic approach to co-partnership between the two shores of the western Mediterranean where civil society will play a significant role, considering the fast approaching Fourth World Revolution in the geostrategic, economic, social and cultural fields.  At the global level, we are witnessing the evolution of a past accumulation based on a purely material vision, characterized by rigid hierarchical organizations, a new method of accumulation based on knowledge control — technological news and networked organizations, with segmented global chains of production where investment, in comparative advantages, being realized within sub-segments of these channels. As Jean-Louis Guigou, president of the IPEMED (Institute of Economic Foresight of the Mediterranean world, in Paris), it must be made clear that, in the interest of both the French and the Algerians, and more generally the Maghreb and Europeans as well as all the south Mediterranean populations. More precisely, economically the win-win partnership at the country level two shores of the Mediterranean, presents strengths and potential for the promotion of diverse activities and this experience can be an example of this global partnership becoming the privileged axis of rebalancing of southern Europe through the amplification and tightening of links and exchanges in different forms.  Exchanges can be intensified in all fields: agriculture, industry, services, tourism, education without forgetting cooperation in the military field, where Algeria can be an active actor, as shown by its efforts towards the stabilization of the region. Moreover, let us not forget the number of residents of Maghreb origins, and whatever the number, the diaspora is an essential part of the rapprochement between our peoples because it contains essential intellectual, economic and Financial. Also, must mobilize at various stages of intervention the initiative of all the parties concerned, namely Governments, diplomatic missions, universities, entrepreneurs and civil society.

The intensification of cooperation between the two shores of the western Mediterranean will only be possible if the involved countries have a realistic approach to co-development far from the mercantile vision and the spirit of domination, having a shared vision of their becoming.  The symbiosis of the contributions of the East and the West, the dialogue of cultures and tolerance are sources of mutual enrichment. The latest events should even better make us think, avoiding this confrontation of religions because both Islam, Christianity and Judaism have contributed actively to the flourishing of civilisations, to this tolerance by condemning any form of extremism. Globalization is a blessing for humanity if we integrate social relations and not confine it solely to merchant relations by synchronizing the real sphere and the commercial sphere, economic dynamics and social dynamics. At the time of the geostrategic tensions at the level of the region, the consolidation of large ensembles, the challenges of globalization, the rapprochement between the two shores is necessary for an intensification of cooperation, to measure the weight of the history that binds us. However, let us be realistic for in practice, the implementation of sound business, like the image of a country, no longer rests as in the past on personalized relations between heads of States or ministers but instead must be the result of decentralized networks, favouring the involvement of innovative, dynamic individual and companies. Tactics must be integrated within the strategic function/objective of maximizing the social well-being of the entire Mediterranean region.

Concerning the summit of the western Mediterranean civil societies on June 24, 2019 in France, this important international meeting will bring together, the heads of States and Governments, the President of the World Bank, the presidents of the EIB, the EBRD, the Director-General of the OECD and non-State actors of civil society in all their economic, social and cultural diversity. Its political launch will have on the 15th meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the 5 + 5 dialogue on 18 January 2019 in Valletta. Five groups have been set up: Morocco will lead the economy, and innovation component, Portugal, culture, Italy, sustainable development, Malta youth and mobility, and Algeria has had the most critical component, having been made responsible for the Energy Transition.  This could mean regional cooperation projects, conventional energies, non-conventional energies, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and in general proposing the new energy consumption model 2020/2030. His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Algeria, appointed professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul, expert International, to lead the Algerian delegation, at the International Meeting on June 24, 2019, in France.

Revival of the Arab Maghreb Union

Revival of the Arab Maghreb Union

The Maghreb with 99,380,000 inhabitants with a $375.6 billion GDP in 2017 is in north-west Africa, as delimited to the north by the Mediterranean and to the south by the Sahara, in the west by the Atlantic Ocean and by Egypt in the East. A revival of the Arab Maghreb Union, despite its huge development potential and common cultural and linguistic ties, “the Maghreb is one of the least integrated regions in the world”. Studies have shown that the removal of barriers in the region could have significant economic benefits, support efforts to combat instability and help address several regional challenges including socio-economic development, combating climate change, protecting the environment and developing clean, sustainable energy.

Part 1 – Realities and perspectives

The total area of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) is 5.8 million km², representing 4.3% of the world’s area and exceeding almost 80% of the area of the European Union is mostly desert. On February 17, 2018, the AMU celebrated its 30th birthday. At the end of November 2018, its Secretary-General was requested by Algeria to arrange a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in order to revive the notion of a Maghreb together and the reactivation of its bodies. The purpose of the contribution that follows many international contributions on this subject is to draw up the balance sheet and look at prospects.

The Maghreb is confronted with the emergence of a globalised economy and society to numerous challenges.  On the one hand, the nation states have difficulties in coping with the world economy’s upheavals and on the other, to face the international institutions as a unified front.

Governments across the AMU’s nation-states per the current crisis are almost unable to fulfil their missions as a result of the complexity of modern societies and the emergence of the multitude of fragmented subsystems. The uncertainty feeds on the crisis of political representation, hence the need to integrate more into a larger ensemble in order to be able to respond to new global concerns is dragging on.  A centrepiece in the Euro-Mediterranean and African region, the Maghreb as the origin of the new migratory flows is fast becoming a geostrategic and economic issue for the European Union, the USA and China in the context of a competition.  Three countries of the UMA, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria have signed their “Euro-Mediterranean Association” agreements that go well beyond the simple trade liberalisation as initiated as early as the end of the years 1960 in the framework of the first Euro-Maghrebin trade agreements.  It is commonly acknowledged that the results of this association agreement are mixed. However, since then, we have a new data which is that of the Union for the Mediterranean which tends to be supplanted at present by the 5 + 5 Summit which enshrines economic cooperation and Maghreb integration as a priority.  This principle of economic integration (by the market) of the Maghreb countries, the idea came during the two conferences of ministers of the economy of the Maghreb, the first on 26 September 1964 and the second on 26 November of the same year in Tangier (Morocco).  These two conferences culminated in the establishment of the Maghreb Consultative Standing Committee (MCSC).  It is responsible for studying all problems associated with economic cooperation between the North African countries.  After three years of trials and errors, the Maghreb community issue is precise, and in 1967, the MCSC produced a report in which three types of solutions were put forward from the integrationist perspective.  These are:

  • The maximum resolution would imply the signature of a treaty establishing the Maghreb Economic Union on the model of the Treaty of Rome. It would mean the fixing of a timetable for the elimination of customs duties and quota restrictions, establishment of a standard exterior tariff, harmonisation of economic, fiscal and monetary policies and finally the establishment of joint institutions with decision-making powers;
  • The minimum solution which would make the gradual creation of an economic union a mere declaration of intent, the only legal commitments limited to the periodic participation in negotiations on tariff concessions or the choice of places of new industries;
  • The intermediate solution based on the interaction between trade liberalisation and technical harmonisation should cover a period of 5 years during which the Maghreb countries would commit: too linear reductions (10% for example per annum) of customs duties and quantitative restrictions on traded products, to the establishment of a list of industries to be approved and whose products would be guaranteed free movement and franchising on the Maghreb market, the creation of a Maghreb integration bank to finance projects of common interest and promote this simultaneous and equitable industrialisation, the possible establishment of a union of payments and finally the harmonisation of their trade policies with regard to third countries in order not to jeopardize later the establishment of a standard external tariff system.

The set of principal axes highlighted previously, were taken up at the Maghreb Summit, which was held in Zéralda (Algeria) in 1988 and the second Maghreb Summit held on 19 February 1989 in Marrakech, saw the adoption of the Treaty of the U. M. A. which defines the modalities of a Maghreb construction and its development strategy. Various sectoral committees have worked very cyclically to try to establish a free trade area gradually, assuming the free movement of products between the partners — a customs union and therefore new standard management instruments such as the unification of tariffs and the elaboration of unified policies, aiming at defining the usual rules to enable the implementation of a regulatory system economic development in the region. The objective to be achieved at these summits as a last resort was to establish a common market and a progressive and comprehensive economic unit, a prelude to the best complementarity between the five countries in the region. The declaration of the Heads of State on the establishment of the AMU, adopted at the Marrakech summit, marks for its part the will of the member countries to translate into reality the dream of the Maghreb’s generations to build a viable union. It can be seen in their declaration that it should be perceived as “a complementary community that cooperates with similar regional institutions, a community that participates in the enrichment of dialogue and putting its potential at the service of strengthening the independence of the States parties of the Union and safeguarding their achievements, working with the international community to establish a world order in which justice, dignity, freedom, human rights and where relations are imbued with sincere cooperation and mutual respect.

Professor of universities and international expert, Dr Abderrahmane Mebtoul, ademmebtoul@gmail.com

2nd edition of the International Conference of African Organisations

2nd edition of the International Conference of African Organisations

Migration crisis in Africa; challenges, issues and perspectives

This contribution is a synthesis of my intervention following the invitation of the organizers of the provisional programme of the 2nd edition of the International Conference of African Organisations and all members of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), that is held at the ‘Centre International de Conférences Abdelatif Rahal’, Algiers on 19 to 21 November 2018, bringing together several African organizations and personalities.  It will be concerning all migratory flows; responsibility of which being shared between the leaders of the north (recent flows into the USA) and between Europeans and Africains.

Africa a continent with significant potential

Some countries including Nigeria, Gabon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Algeria, Libya specialize in oil, gas and raw materials and having experienced high demand and high prices in the world markets allowing them relative financial ease.  Conversely, countries such as Benin, Malawi, Mauritius, Swaziland, Ethiopia, Togo, Mali, which are penalized in products that often experience deterioration in terms of trade, misery, famine and often internal conflicts and where the military expenditure budget in Africa is beyond human understanding to the detriment of the allocation of resources for development purposes.

The ten richest African countries in decreasing order are for the current GDP in 2017:

  • Nigeria with $581 billion,
  • South Africa with $276 billion,
  • Egypt with $264 billion,
  • Algeria with $170 billion,
  • Sudan with $124 billion,
  • Morocco with $121 billion,
  • Angola with $104 billion,
  • Ethiopia with $93 billion,
  • Kenya with $77 billion and
  • Tanzania with $52 billion.

On the other hand, the poorest countries are in decreasing order:

  • Burundi with a GDP per capita at $285,
  • Malawi with a GDP per capita of about $300,
  • Niger with a GDP per capita of about $364,
  • Mozambique with a GDP per capita of $382,
  • The Central African Republic, GDP per capita slightly higher than $382,
  • Madagascar, GDP per capita is about $401,
  • Somalia with a GDP per capita about $434,
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo with a GDP of about $444 per capita,
  • Liberia, with per capita GDP at about $455 and
  • Gambia with a GDP per capita at slightly higher than $473.

Security and stability of States must be based on democratic values

However, beware, we must be wary of the global GDP that veils the interprofessional (concentration of income) and interregional disparities, as for any comparisons only similar methods of calculation should be used. An example in 2014, The African continent was learning with amazement that, following a statistical review, Nigeria became the first African economy (ahead of South Africa) with a revalued GDP of $510 billion in 2013, compared to $262 billion in 2012. The GDP of South Africa was about $384 billion that same year. The magnitude of this re-evaluation of Nigeria’s GDP Following a statistical review is not an isolated case in Africa. However, these indicators are not enough to understand the situation in Africa. Also, in order to analyse blockages in Africa, the economic factors of political factors cannot be isolated. The joint African Development Bank – Global Financial Integrity (ADB – GFI) report highlights the fact that Africa has suffered from net outflows of the order and that the flight of resources out of Africa over the last thirty years – the equivalent of Africa’s current GDP – is curbing the launch of the continent. Thus, African leaders bear a heavy responsibility to their people and must promote the rule of law, good governance, therefore, the fight against corruption and tribal mentalities, the protection of human rights and the commitment resolutely in the overall reform, thus the democratisation of their society considering cultural anthropology avoiding the unconnected patterns of social realities. So is essential raises the problem of the security and stability of States which must be based on democratic values. In the region, we have seen profound changes in the Saharan geopolitics after the collapse of the Libyan regime, with consequences for the region. Also, the importance of the weight of the informal in Africa produces crippling bureaucracy, promotes corruption, varying by country, but generally exceeding 50% to 60% of the economic surface. For some countries, this sphere employs more than 70% of the workforce. According to the International Labor Office (ILO), this sector provides 72% of jobs in sub-Saharan Africa, of which 93% of new jobs are created, compared with the formal sector, which employs only about 10% of jobs on the continent. In the Maghreb per our study carried out for the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), Paris – December 2013, the informal sphere in the Maghreb, it exceeds 50% of the economic area and employs more than 30% of the working population.  The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing with the income gap reinforcing the inequities in wealth, education, health and social mobility.  A Large and young population is not a handicap for a country, provided that this population is active and that it works in the formal sector so that its work can benefit the dependent population, the very young and the very old.  Sadly though, 75% of the sub-Saharan economy is informal, and the education sectors in these countries are now affected, and the young people who come out poorly trained.

Globalisation and migratory flows

Immigration is now the entry, in each country or geographical area, of foreign persons who come for an extended stay or to settle there. The word immigration comes from the Latin in-Migrate meaning “to enter a place”.  On the margins of this phenomenon is the dual nationality and nomadism, the notion of immigrant is based on the declarations of the place of birth and nationality.

The emigrant is the person who left his place in a country for another place in another, in order to settle there temporarily or permanently. A human migration being a displacement of individuals is probably as old a phenomenon as humankind.  It is increasing in numbers by 2% per annum and measures stocks that include voluntary migration and forced migration. Internal migration to countries is also on the increase, but it is more about population displacement. Statistics show that huge migratory waves have recently declined, in favour of a trend towards immigration more related to brain drain and skills from developing countries, to the detriment of the latter. The characteristics of the current African migratory phenomenon are the diversification of the countries of provenance and destination, as well as the forms are taken by migration. It is estimated that the return of capital or remittances to the countries of origin from the host countries is at least equal if it is not much higher than the amount of financial assistance provided by the so-called “rich” countries to the poorer countries.  If today most migrants move through regular channels, the migratory phenomenon is marked by a rise in the power of forced migration, mainly caused by conflicts and climate change. According to the most optimistic predictions, emanating from many institutions of the United Nations in charge of migration issues, by 2050, the number of displaced persons could jump to a minimum of 6 million/year.  The cause being climatic disturbances, extreme weather phenomena, declining water supplies, desertification, rising sea level and degradation of farmland.  According to international experts, it can also have several causes:

  • Economic: The search for a job, greater prosperity, better working conditions. This is the primary cause of current emigration;
  • Politics: The escape of an oppressive regime;
  • Religious: The hope of a more tolerant land of welcome;
  • Climate change: The taste for a different weather environment (generally milder, warmer and sunnier) and,
  • Fiscal: The will to be in a more favourable legal and financial context. This phenomenon plays particularly for the highest strata of society and in favour of tax havens.

In the era of globalisation where migratory flows are a concrete reality, migration has been globalised, with the same outcome of urbanisation and metropolisation of the world, demographic pressure, unemployment, information, and transnationalisation of migratory networks. The categories of migrants and countries have become more complex, with the globalisation of migration being accompanied by regionalisation of migratory flows. On a global scale, migration is geographically organised where complementarities are built between departure and reception areas. These correspond to geographical proximity, historical, linguistic and cultural links, transnational networks built by migrants, and smugglers (a form of slavery) that form a formal or informal space of movement, accompanied or not by institutional facilities of passage. Migrations have more than tripled since the mid-years 1970: 77 million in 1975, 120 million in 1999, 150 million in early 2000, near 300 million in 2017. This translates the mobility factors for different reasons.  Gaps between levels of human development, political and environmental crises, producers of refugees and displaced persons, reduced transport costs, a generalisation of passport issuance, the role of the media, awareness that one can change the course of his life through international migration.

Global warming, whose responsibility lies mainly with the rich countries and some emerging countries, that could strike the brunt of Africa within 2025/2030/2040, will accentuate the exodus of its populations. These different factors accentuate the bi-polarisation of three worlds, the rich countries, the emerging countries, and the developing countries pushing them to this exodus.

The demographers consider that migration will be an essential adjustment variable by 2050, due to which 2 or 3 billion of additional individuals are expected on the planet, while the effects of climate change will probably be if not already felt and that some areas will no longer be able to feed any additional populations

Dr Abderrahmane MEBTOUL, ademmebtoul@gmail.com

Eight factors determining the price of oil

Eight factors determining the price of oil

As put by Kimberly Amadeo in her article on The Behind-the-Scenes Role of Commodities Traders,  Oil prices are controlled by traders who bid on oil futures contracts in the commodities market. That’s why oil prices change daily. It all depends on how trading went that day.

Other entities can only affect the traders’ bidding decisions. These influencers include the U.S. government and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. They don’t control the prices because traders actually set them in the markets.

The oil futures contracts are agreements to buy or sell oil at a specific date in the future for an agreed-upon price. They are executed on the floor of a commodity exchange by traders who are registered with the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Commodities have been traded for more than 100 years. The CFTC has regulated them since the 1920s in the US and by equivalent institutions in every developed and / or developing country.  It is also function of the following:

The eight factors determining the price of oil

According to the September monthly report of the International Energy Agency (IEA), in August 2018, for the first time, the bar of 100 million barrels produced per day was crossed. World oil consumption represented 97.4 million barrels per day (MBJ) in 2017 (including 57 MBJ by non-OPEC countries), equivalent to 1,127 barrels or 179,000 liters per second. Also, despite the commitments of the Paris Agreement (COP21) of December 2015 (entered into force in November 2016), global awareness for the climate does not seem to reach the oil sector. A list of eight reasons that determine the current course.

  • The first reason, as noted in international reports would be a recovery of growth for 2018, but with a slowdown forecast for 2019 and 2020. Many international experts, as well as international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, foresee a possible global crisis horizon 2020/2025 in case of acceleration of protectionist measures between the US and Europe, as well as between the US and China.  Moreover, the latest report of the IEA of October 2018 warns the countries dependent on the oil revenues, due to a change in the trajectory of growth based on a new configuration of the global energy demand (Energy efficiency, renewable energies, hydrogen inlet horizon 2030 all based on the Knowledge economy) that will impact the demand for traditional hydrocarbons.
  • The second reason is respect for the quota of each member of the OPEC as decided upon in December 2016 in Vienna with notably Saudi Arabia representing 33% of OPEC’s. It is worth noting that OPEC in its entirety represents 33% of global marketing, even though the current tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia can lead to a disagreement between unsatisfied OPEC’s members.
  • The third reason is the agreement between OPEC’s Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia; these two countries producing each more than 10 million barrels per day. Moreover, any different decisions from these two countries would impact the price of hydrocarbons downwards.
  • The fourth reason is the political situation in Saudi Arabia, the world not seeing yet evident in the action of the kingdom’s Crown prince, with the fear of internal political tensions, but above all the sale of 5% shares of the country’s largest company ARAMCO, to maintain its shares at a high level; sale that has been postponed.
  • The fifth reason is the tension in Kurdistan (this area producing about 500,000 barrels/day), declining Venezuelan production, socio-political tensions in Libya and Nigeria.
  • The sixth reason is the American president’s speech on the US having second thoughts on the agreement on Iran nuclear deal; with sanctions beginning to be applied on November 5th, 2018. This would certainly be mitigated by the European position that decided to set up a barter system to circumvent the transactions in Dollars, and the Chinese market or the Iranians can get paid in Yuan.
  • The seventh reason is the weakness of the Dollar in relation to the Euro.
  • The eighth reason is the decline or rise of US stocks, while not forgetting the Chinese stocks.

In the short term, the above eight reasons may influence the price of oil either upward or downward, with some factors being more predominant than others.  The Minister of Energy of Saudi Arabia reported on October 30th, 2018, under American pressure to raise its oil production to 12 million barrels per day against 10.7 million currently, to fill in for the Iranian production and in this case, it will be followed by Russia that does not want to lose market share.  In this hypothesis, the price of Brent should, except for a significant global crisis where the prize could fall below 60 Dollars, fluctuate between 65 and 75 Dollars, 70 Dollars a barrel, being the price of equilibrium in order not to penalise either the consumer countries or the producing ones.  The oil price went lower than $60 mainly as consequent to the massive entry of U.S. shale oil and gas with a production exceeding 10 million barrels/day.

In August 2018, according to the US Energy Information Agency (EIA), the US has even turned into the world’s leading producer of oil, in front of Russia and Saudi Arabia, with 10.9 million barrels per day and this production should even exceed 11.5 million barrels per day in 2019.