Foreign Policy‘s VOICE on Europe’s Future will be decided in North Africa elaborates on mainly the potential impact of Algeria’s current political instability on not only the region but also on the European Union.
Meanwhile, today July 19, 2019, is the twenty-second Friday of street demonstrations, were it not coincidentally for the Africa Cup of football happening the same day in the evening. Street demonstrations in all towns and villages of Algeria have become by now a sort of run of the mill. They are chasing a fundamental change of regime and not some epidermic exercise.
The United States should stop treating the region
as secondary to the rest of the Middle East.
When I first came to Washington in the
1990s, people who worked on North Africa were few and far between. It was
considered a backwater; no one ever came to Washington to solve the Western
Instead, U.S. foreign-policy strivers
made their way to the Beltway to ensure the security of the Persian Gulf’s
shipping lanes, to write cheesy lines about the appropriateness of Wahhabism’s
austere creed arising from such a harsh landscape, and to chase the whitest of
white whales—peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is a narrow view of
the region that continues today, which is unfortunate because North Africa is
far more important to U.S. interests than the Middle East obsessions—old and
new—of the policy community.
A long look at the map will tell you
almost everything one needs to know about North Africa and its importance to a
core American interest—the stability and security of Europe. Of course,
the region is important to the millions of people who call it home, but their
neighbors across the Mediterranean Sea have long been and will continue to be a
focus of U.S. foreign policy. There are only 146 miles separating the Tunisian
coast and the Italian coast and 286 miles from Libya to Greece. Algeria’s
beaches are 469 miles from those of France—about the distance from Washington
to Charleston, South Carolina. Morocco and Spain are separated by a mere 9
miles. Proximity and colonial legacies have shaped the region in such a way
that at least the northern rim of the Maghreb seems to share more culturally
with Southern Europe than it does with sub-Saharan Africa. Add to this Europe’s
economic pull, a steady flow of migrants from African countries, a bevy of
extremist groups, and copious energy resources.
It would be an exaggeration to suggest
that as goes North Africa so goes Europe but not by much. The United States
still has a compelling interest in a Europe that, in the words of the late
George H.W. Bush, is “whole and free.” And among policymakers in Washington,
there is increasing concern about Europe’s vulnerability because so much of its
natural gas comes from Russia. But 11 percent comes from Algeria. That might
not sound like a lot, but some individual European countries are more
vulnerable than others. Spain, for example, gets 52 percent of its natural gas
from Algeria. The North African giant is also Italy’s second-largest gas
supplier. If Algeria descended into violence—not out of the realm of
possibility—and its gas supplies were somehow disrupted, Europe would have a
If Algeria descended into violence—not out of the
realm of possibility—and its gas supplies were somehow disrupted, Europe would
have a significant problem.
Could the continent make up the difference
from other sources? Libya has a lot of gas, but it is in the midst of a civil
war. Egypt also has tremendous amounts of gas, but it doesn’t have the capacity
yet to make up any shortfalls that Europe might experience. The Israelis would
love to sell gas to Europe, but the pipeline to Europe they envision may not be
Then there is migration, an issue that
has vexed Europe’s leaders, caught as they are between the European Union’s
liberal cosmopolitanism and a virulent nationalism that a united, democratic,
and prosperous continent was supposed to make irrelevant. Of course, migrants
arriving on European shores via North Africa did not create Europe’s right-wing
nationalist and neo-fascist parties, but they did give them a boost—and the
effect on Europe has been devastating. Setting aside developments in Austria,
Hungary, and Poland, the leaders of the Brexit campaign and the Alternative for
Germany (a far-right party) fed off Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 to
advance their ruinous and dangerous agendas. The destabilization of the United
Kingdom and the prospect of German political polarization are deeply troubling
and a strategic setback for the United States. If Washington has a true partner
in this world, it has been London. Meanwhile, a successful, democratic Germany
is a bedrock of European stability and prosperity.
For almost two decades, Washington’s
focus has been on combating al Qaeda and then the Islamic State in Afghanistan,
Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Extremism in North Africa seems to be an afterthought. It
should not be. Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia all have terrorism problems
that have affected Europe in frightening ways.
Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia all have terrorism
problems that have affected Europe in frightening ways.
In the 1990s, Algerian extremists bombed the
Paris metro and hijacked an Air France flight in an attempt to force the crew
to fly the plane into the Eiffel Tower. More recent terrorist attacks in Europe
have been homegrown affairs, but that does not mean that Europe is safe from
North African extremism. In Tunisia in 2015, extremists killed European
tourists on a beach and in a museum. That is why the French have thrown their
lot in with would-be Libyan strongman Gen. Khalifa Haftar—he promises to kill a
lot of bad guys. President Emmanuel Macron may be wrong in his assessment of
Haftar’s capabilities, and French policy may be making things worse, but his
sense of where the threat comes from is clear. Algeria and Libya are huge
countries that border Chad, Mali, and Niger, which are themselves confronting
extremist violence. The prospect of groups linking up or merging in this region
is a significant security challenge for Europeans.
Finally, it is not just North Africa’s
old colonial powers—France and Italy—that are active there. Russia has a
long-standing defense relationship with Algeria, but it has also become more
active in Libya. It should be clear by now that President Vladimir Putin wants
to weaken and divide Europe. He has already forged an arc of Russian influence
around the Mediterranean, stretching from Ankara in the north, through Damascus
and Cairo, and then heading west from there into Benghazi. The latter is in
Haftar’s territory and the part of Libya where the bulk of the country’s oil
reserves are located. Putin doesn’t need to collect allies at the expense of
the United States per se—he just needs to give Russia a base from which he can
continue to sow discord and confusion in Europe.
Given how energy, migration, extremism,
and Russia’s ambition coincide in North Africa to threaten European stability,
it does not seem wise for U.S. policymakers to continue to treat the region as
an afterthought. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as democracy
in the Middle East, would be nice, but given the limits of American power, it
makes more sense to devote Washington’s resources to places that matter more to
U.S. interests. And North Africa matters. If you don’t believe me, look at a
Israel’s 12-year blockade of the territory has accelerated this trend of Gaza’s crafts industries fast disappearing at a time when normal life seemed ever more difficult to bring back onto its streets. Decades in the besieged enclave, have somehow allowed stores to be reopened, students to head back to schools, and people generally resuming work. This article of Gulf News dated July 10, illustrates fairly well the particular situation of the strip today.
Gaza City, Gaza Strip: When Gazans think of better economic times, images of clay pottery, colorful glassware, bamboo furniture and ancient frame looms weaving bright rugs and mats all come to mind. For decades, these traditional crafts defined the economy of the coastal Palestinian enclave, employing thousands of people and exporting across the region. Today, the industries are almost non-existent.
While such professions have shrunk worldwide in the face of globalisation and Chinese mass production, Gazan business owners say Israel’s 12-year blockade has accelerated the trend. “We have been economically damaged. We are staying, but things are really difficult,” said Abed Abu Sido, one of Gaza’s last glassmakers, as he flipped through a glossy catalogue of his products.
At his quiet workshop, layers of dust covered the few remaining glass artifacts, requiring him to scrub them to reveal their colours. Cardboard boxes of unfinished products and materials were stacked floor-to-ceiling.
Abu Sido opened his business in the 1980s, selling many of his items to vendors in the popular marketplace of Jerusalem’s Old City. In his heyday, he said he took part in exhibitions in Europe. That changed after 2007, when the Hamas militant group overran Gaza, and Israel and Egypt responded by sealing Gaza’s borders. Abu Sido laid off his 15 workers and ceased operations the following year.
Israel says the blockade is needed to contain Hamas and prevent it from arming. But the closure, repeated rounds of fighting with Israel and a power struggle with the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have hit Gaza hard.
Economic and Governance Risks came as a no surprise assessment of today’s as well the immediate future of the MENA region. The inefficient state of most countries characterizes all of their public management and related corollaries: i.e., internal violence for some and external dependence for most. Even in the favourable assumption of relatively stable of the latter ones’ authorities, these prove powerless to achieve the objectives they have set themselves, because of the inefficiency of their administration and when these manage to achieve their objectives, it is at a high cost. Here is that Economic and Governance Risks to the MENA Region.
Exogenous factors, such as geo-economic division, climate change and technological threats all pose a particular risk to MENA, but so, too, do hazards that are more regional in nature. According to respondents in the Middle East and North Africa to the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey, the top two risks across the region for doing business are “energy price shock” and “unemployment or underemployment.” These risks are largely economic in nature and affected by the health of governance in the region. Similarly, the number five risk, (“fiscal crises”), the number seven risk (“unmanageable inflation”) and the number 10 risk (“failure of financial mechanism or institution”) follow the same pattern of being largely economic in nature and potentially governance-driven.
The top risk, “energy price shock”, comes at a time when some countries have taken steps towards diversification, but the region is still largely a hydrocarbon economy, heavily reliant on revenue from this sector. Oil prices increased substantially between 2017 and 2018, from around USD 50 to USD 75. This represents a significant fillip for the fiscal position of the region’s oil producers, with the IMF estimating that each USD 10 increase in oil prices should feed through to an improvement on the fiscal balance of three percentage points of GDP. However, vulnerabilities to swings in oil prices have not disappeared and are particularly pronounced in countries where government spending is rising. This group includes Saudi Arabia, which the IMF estimated in May 2018 had seen its fiscal breakeven price for oil — that is, the price required to balance the national budget — rise to USD 88, 26 percent above the IMF’s October 2017 estimate and also higher than the country’s medium-term oil price target of USD 70 – USD 80.
It is no surprise, then, that Saudi Arabia remains one of five countries in the region that rank “energy price shock” as the top risk to doing business in the survey, along with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.
The World Economic Forum in partnership with Marsh & McLennan Companies and Zurich Insurance Group released its Middle East and North Africa Risks Landscape Report, which uses data from the Global Risks Report 2019 and the Regional Risks for Doing Business 2018.
LONDON (Reuters) – A brown quartzite head of young king Tutankhamen sold at auction in London for more than 4.7 million pounds on Thursday, in the face of Egyptian demands for its return.
The more than 3,000-year-old sculpture, displayed at Christie’s London auction house, shows the boy king taking the form of the ancient Egyptian god Amen.
An unnamed buyer bought the head for 4,746,250 pounds ($5.97 million), including commission and in line with the estimated price before the sale, Christie’s said.
Outside, around 20 protesters stood silently and held placards that said “Egyptian history is not for sale”.
Egypt has long demanded the return of artefacts taken by archaeologists and imperial adventurers, including the Rosetta Stone kept in the British Museum – campaigns paralleled by Greece’s demands for the Parthenon sculptures, Nigeria’s for the Benin Bronzes and Ethiopia’s for the Magdala treasures.
“We are against our heritage and valuable items (being) sold like vegetables and fruit,” said Ibrahim Radi, a 69-year-old Egyptian graphic designer protesting outside Christie’s.
The 28.5 centimetres (11.22 inches) high piece, with damage only to the ears and nose, was sold from the private Resandro collection of Egyptian art.
Christie’s said it was acquired from Munich dealer Heinz Herzer in 1985. Before that, Austrian dealer Joseph Messina bought it in 1973-1974, and Germany’s Prinz Wilhelm Von Thurn und Taxis “reputedly” had it in his collection by the 1960s.
Hailing the piece as a “rare” and “beautiful” work, a Christie’s statement acknowledged controversy over its home.
“We recognise that historic objects can raise complex discussions about the past, yet our role today is to work to continue to provide a transparent, legitimate marketplace upholding the highest standards for the transfer of objects.”
Before the auction, Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said he was disappointed the sale was going ahead, despite requests for information and protests from government officials and Egypt’s embassy.
“I believe that it was taken out of Egypt illegally … They have not presented any documents to prove otherwise,” he told Reuters, saying that Egypt would continue to press the buyer and others for the work to be returned.
Staff at Christie’s said they had taken the necessary steps to prove its provenance and the sale was legitimate. “It’s a very well known piece … and it has never been the subject of a claim,” antiquities department head Laetitia Delaloye told Reuters.
Christie’s had been in touch with Egyptian authorities in Cairo and the London embassy, she added.
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
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
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.”
Chatham House Reports of one of its Middle East and North Africa Programme elaborates on the still on-going conflict economies of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The excerpts of the published Executive Summary reproduced here below do not include its Recommendations for Western policymakers, etc.
The conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen have killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions. In seeking to explain the violence that has struck the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) over the past two decades, analysis to date has focused predominantly on ideological and identity-based factors. This report expands this discourse by incorporating approaches adopted from the literature on the political economy of war to examine the conflict economies of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
motivations, at the individual and group level, are key to understanding
the wars in these countries, yet have tended to be overlooked
in the MENA context. (As the wars have progressed and evolved, the
national and local economies in which conflict is embedded have also changed.)
Such motivations can offer an alternative or complementary
explanation for armed group membership and armed group behaviour. While some
groups will fight to promote or defend a particular identity,
others fight for economic survival or enrichment. For many more actors,
these motivations are tied together, and separating out ‘greed’ and ‘grievance’
is a difficult, if not impossible, task. Even
if economic motivations did not spark the wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and
Yemen initially, it is clear that such factors now play a critical
role in the persistence of open fighting, localized violence and
objectives of this report are twofold. First, it seeks
to develop a framework for comparative analysis of conflict
economies at the local level in the MENA region. Traditionally, the
idea of a conflict economy has been tightly linked to the
funding for arms, ammunition and fighters. Further, most analyses
of conflict economies are conducted at the national level. Even where
research is conducted on a regional basis, discussion
of the impact of conflict is brought back to the national
level. In contrast, we see a broader political economy
of war at work in the region. Our analysis illustrates how
a conflict economy is embedded within a complex local socio-political
system, in which many variables and agendas interact. We deliberately
avoid characterizing conflict economies in terms of ‘black’ and
‘grey’ markets that somehow need to be ‘cleaned up’, as this
erroneously implies that they can eventually be converted into licit
markets like their peacetime counterparts.2 A more
nuanced and multifaceted reading is essential. For the purposes
of this report, we define a conflict economy
as a system of producing, mobilizing and allocating resources
to sustain competitive and embedded violence, both directly and
we show that a ‘political economy of war’ framing offers new
approaches for reducing competitive and embedded violence. ‘Competitive
violence’ can be defined as violence ‘deployed by warring elites
to contest or defend the existing distribution of power’.4 Fighting
between rival armed groups for control over resources and rents, among other
things, usually falls into this category. ‘Embedded violence’,
in contrast, underpins ‘how a political settlement5 works,
as the deals agreed between elites may revolve around who has the “right”
to use violence’.6 In practice,
this could mean that one group is ‘permitted’ to use violence against
another group – and no punishment will be enforced. In the
context of this study, the use of armed force to assert the
status quo to limit the number of ruling elite members is one
example of embedded violence.
of conflict economies has mostly focused on state-level dynamics.7 However,
less attention has been paid to the development of conflict sub-economies that are specific to certain types of
location. This study demonstrates three distinct types of conflict sub-economy:
(1) capital cities; (2) transit areas and borderlands; and (3) oil-rich areas.
Our analysis highlights how each sub-economy creates distinct location-based
patterns of resource production, mobilization and allocation
to sustain competitive and embedded violence. The rents available
in these areas vary. In capital cities, rents focus on control
of the distribution of revenues and assets from the state and private
sector. In transit areas and borderlands, rents centre around taxation and
arbitrage. In oil-rich areas, rents are related to control
of the area itself (and therefore the ability to levy taxes upon
the oil sector), bearing in mind that the level of achievable
taxation depends on the extent to which a given actor controls
the supply chain.
As this report will elaborate, factors specific to each sub-economy type play a role in conditioning the nature of economic activities in each locality, and in determining whether and by which means violence is dispensed. For this reason, national-level generalizations and in-country comparisons of conflict economies are inadequate: for example, the conflict sub-economy of Baghdad has more in common with that of Tripoli than that of al-Qaim, an Iraqi town on the border with Syria. In turn, the conflict economy observed in al-Qaim has more in common with that of al-Mahra in Yemen than al-Mahra does with Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.
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