Events & Activities > Annual Conferences and General Assembly > A Common Agenda Against Intolerance: Human Rights as a Shared Concern
A Common Agenda Against Intolerance: Human Rights as a Shared Concern
3 October 2007 - 4 October 2007
Annual Conferences
CCB, Lisbon, Portugal
 This year’s EuroMeSCo Annual Conference, entitled “A Common Agenda against Intolerance. Human Rights as a Shared Concern”, was held on 3-4 October 2007. First held in 1996, and organised alternately since then in a EU and a non-EU country, the 2007 EuroMeSCo Annual Conference was held in Lisbon. Its aims have remained essentially the same throughout the years: promoting a meaningful exchange among the network and a broad range of political, economic and civil society actors from Europe and the Southern Mediterranean, as well as evaluating progress made with respect to the creation of a democratic, prosperous and peaceful Euro-Mediterranean community – the ultimate goal of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

The conference programme can be downloaded here

Traditionally, the theme of the Annual Conference reflects the main thrust of EuroMeSCo’s programme over the year as well as the major issues confronting the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and more largely the Euro-Mediterranean area. The 2007 conference is no exception, and an effort was made to address topics of more immediate political relevance, so the conclusions and findings of the conference would feed into the EuroMed ministerials to be held under the Portuguese Presidency.

More than ten years in existence, the aims of the Barcelona Process remain unchanged. Tensions are running high, however, and violence continues to take a heavy toll on civilians in parts of the Euro-Mediterranean area. This has given rise to a wide debate on the capacity of the Partnership to bring about or be seen to bring about substantive progress on any of its three pillars – peace, prosperity, security for all of its citizens. In this context new proposals have emerged for other forms of association between the European Union and its Mediterranean neighbours. Harmony between the Barcelona Process and the Neighbourhood policy, as well as between the EMP and other initiatives, namely the emerging Mediterranean Union, is necessary in order to ensure that existing and new initiatives are able to boost the Euro-Mediterranean process of inclusion.  Much of this will in turn depend on greater coherence of EU external action which is expected to come about through the ‘fusion’ of CFSP and community instruments as a result of the consensus achieved among the 27 on the reformed Treaty on European Union.

The success of this process will to a large extent depend on the inclusive atmosphere the renewed Partnership is able to generate within an area where diversity is the rule, both within societies and among Euro-Mediterranean civil societies. Fighting intolerance and xenophobia, and promoting active tolerance instead – that which sees diversity as an asset, not a liability that would threaten identity and compromise integrity –, is thus a challenge the renewed Partnership must meet. The human dimension of the Partnership must thus be given due prominence, notably through the study and the debate on how best migrants and communities of foreign descent can be “agents of Euro-Mediterranean inclusion”, from an economic, social and political point of view. The first step to this end is unquestionably to guarantee their rights.

Intolerance is at once the cause and the consequence of damaging crises which are profoundly afflicting the region, and exacting a heavy toll in human suffering, massive violations of basic human rights and hundreds of thousands of refugees, notably in the Middle East. Democracy means power to the people. But there where freedom of choice has been exercised through elections, this has not always meant power was indeed devolved to the people. As moderate but real progress was recorded in political reform in parts of the region, tensions and violence have not abated notably in those very countries where the people had been free to choose their government, such as in Lebanon and Palestine. Relentless defence of human rights within its borders is a precondition of the EMP’s leverage and the credibility of its human rights promotion strategy. Human rights are indeed the common thread that binds all chapters of the Partnership together and a shared concern of citizens and states alike. Working for the adoption of a joint human rights agenda for the EMP based on tolerance and respect for the other is the main goal of the EuroMeSCo Annual Conference in 2007.

Senior politicians spoke at the opening and the closing of the Conference, which was organised around five  plenary sessions, and four parallel working groups each composed of two panels. Main conclusions were summarised at the wrap-up session.

I    Fighting intolerance and xenophobia: strengthening citizenship rights
A plethora of initiatives designed to combat intolerance exist, both at the national, regional and international levels. This session aims to explore their role and their achievements in promoting tolerance as a positive value (as opposed to the absence of intolerance) and the protection of human rights as its main ‘guarantor’, while investigating whether there is a specific role for the EMP in this regard.

II    From Euro-Mediterranean Partnership to Mediterranean Union?
New proposals for organising the relationship between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbours have recently emerged, together with repeated attempts to revamp existing ones, including the Euro-Arab dialogue. At the same time the mainstay for the EU’s regional policy remains the largely untested Neighbourhood policy. Is the Mediterranean Union a viable project? Can the EMP resist competing pressures in an ‘overcrowded’ region initiatives-wise and retain its uniqueness while fulfilling its promise?

III     Migrants: the human dimension of the Partnership at work
The aim of this session is to concentrate on the actual role of migrants in realising the Partnership’s aims whether in the political, economic or cultural sphere, in short in building the human dimension of the EMP.  It is also the aim of this session to explore the wider dimensions of the issue, looking at the forgotten south-south impacts and avoiding the excessive focus on Europe that has dominated the debate.

IV     Elections and their outcomes
The aim of this session is to examine the domestic and the wider regional impact, as well as in certain cases the international implications, of recent elections within the region. Have these contributed to advance political reform and democratisation, and to shape a reality in which governments and political parties are more responsible as well as more accountable?

V    A common human rights agenda: ‘no man is an island’
Human rights are the common thread that binds all chapters of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership together.  They constitute an interest that is common to all citizens, North and South, and one that states, in the North and the South, are committed to protect through a variety of binding national and international instruments. The EMP’s credibility in the eyes of the citizens is crucially linked to its ability to constitute a space where human rights are indeed protected. Thus, the adoption of a joint human rights agenda may be one of the main goals of the EMP and an important measure of its success.

A    Migrants and Exiles within the EMP
1.    The Euro-Mediterranean Charter of Migrants’ Rights
2.    Refugees and Exiles in the Middle East
The first panel is to propose ways of implementing a minimum of rights that should be guaranteed by all EMP countries to those who choose to live and work permanently or temporarily in a country other than the one where they were born. The second panel will look at the reverse issue: how to guarantee the rights and the safety of those forced into a double exile, both from their country of origin and their country of residence. Decades-old refugee camps in the Middle East constitute in fact spaces of non-citizenship and lawlessness. Can the “right of return” be replaced by the notion of “citizenship of residence”?

B    The EU’s Role in Supporting Human Rights in its Neighbourhood
3.    Protection of Human Rights in the South: Europe as a catalyst?
4.    Protection of Human Rights in the East: Europe as a catalyst?
How adequate the tools? How coherent the policies vis-à-vis the South and the East? How deep the effects? How do civil societies perceive EU human-rights promotion strategies and how far are these embedded in EU policy instruments? These questions will be examined from a results-based perspective, in view of an assessment that compares the East and the South by comparing different country- cases.

C    Security and Citizenship
5.    ‘Security-first’ Doctrines and their Impact on Citizenship Rights
6.    Violence, Conflict and Fundamental Rights:  can the EMP Produce a Citizens’ Security Culture?
The Barcelona Declaration aims to create an area of peace and security based on democracy and the respect for human rights. What are the implications of this shared objective for the resolution of disputes and conflicts between member states of the Partnership, in what concerns in particular the use of force? What is the importance in this context of the Code of Conduct on Countering Terrorism approved in Barcelona 2005? How far has it translated in improved cooperation among EMP states, in particular in ‘helping victims of terrorism’ and ‘ensuring respect for human rights’? In short, both in its internal and external dimensions, is there a distinctive security culture that should characterise cooperative projects based on voluntary association such as the EMP that places the citizen at its heart?

D    A Greater Mediating Role for Civil Societies?
7.    The Role of Local/Regional Actors in Overcoming South-South Tension and Conflict
8.    The Role of Local/Regional Actors in Resolving Conflict in the Middle East
Governments and international organisations have been the main actors in trying to resolve conflict and ease tension in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. The role of external actors in this regard has been examined in detail. At a time when the importance of non-state actors in performing traditional roles of the state is universally recognised, the purpose of this session is to investigate how local and regional non state actors – the media, grass-roots and other civil society organisations, religious establishments, political parties… – can contribute or are already contributing to mediate disputes and ease south-south tension and conflict.

1. Speeches/interventions made in the plenary sessions:
Read the intervention of R. Arim
Read the intervention of M. Makram-Ebeid
Read the intervention of H. Bouzid
Read the intervention of B. León

2. Presentations given in the working groups:
Read the intervention of T. Maroukis
Read the intervention of V. Aytar and O. Genz
Read the intervention of B. Oddo
Read the intervention of S. El-Khoury
Read the intervention of K. Ulusoy
Read the intervention of E. Soler
Read the intervention of Y. Baar-Siman-Tov
Read the intervention of K. Arfaoui
Read the intervention of J. Sayouri
Read the intervention of A. Lamnaouer
Read the intervention of W. Khalifa
Read the intervention of N. Hani Abdallah
Read the intervention of K. Chater
Read the intervention of H. Kadouri
Read the intervention of F. Roumate
Read the paper of F. Roumate