Sometimes the toughest question in world politics is: “And then what?” It is the question I shall be asking — and starting to answer — at Saturday’s summit in Paris to discuss Libya.
History is littered with examples of wars won, only for the subsequent peace to be lost. In Europe, terrible mistakes made after the First World War paved the way for the Second World War. We were more successful after 1945, despite the Cold War, because we understood that we needed to do more than defeat Hitler. We had to rebuild a shattered continent.
With Libya, success means not just protecting civilians in the days ahead, or even securing the end of Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime. Success requires a strategy for what we do afterwards. I intend to focus my discussions on how we rise to that challenge.
We know in principle what needs to be done to lay the foundations of deep democracy — the kind that lasts and does not get blown away. We need the rule of law, administered by honest police forces and independent judges. We need national and local government to be efficient and transparent. We need enforceable property rights, freedom of speech and free trade unions. Above all, we need prosperity to spread fast enough and wide enough for the whole society to feel it has a stake in democratic reform.
These are not simply Western liberal ideas. In recent weeks, I have personally found that they inspire reformers in Tunis and Cairo, and my staff has found a great appetite for them on the streets of Benghazi and even Tripoli.
I shall set out what the European Union can do, and how we want to work with the rest of the Western world — and, vitally, the Arab League — to achieve just that. Some people have called for a new Marshall Plan. The sentiment is surely right. However, 21st century North Africa is not the same as 1940s Europe. We need to fashion a new and targeted strategy for the task at hand. This is precisely what we have been working on in the E.U. At its heart are three M’s — money , market access and mobility .
Regarding money , I want Europe to contribute billions of euros to develop the economies of Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. Part of this will come from the E.U.’s own funds; I hope E.U. member states and parliamentarians will join with me in seeking the rest from the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Earlier this week I met Egypt’s planning minister, Fayza Aboulnaga. She told me that her most urgent need was to build one million more houses. I want Europe, working with others, to help her do so — and to help fund infrastructure projects across in Tunisia and post-Qaddafi Libya, too. We also have the resources, expertise and determination to help build the institutions of a healthy civil society, and have already started discussing specific projects with the new governments in Tunis and Cairo. And we can help to arrange and oversee free elections.
However, we know that in the end aid can play only a limited role. Countries must work and trade their way to prosperity. This is why market access matters so much: the ability to sell goods to better-off countries.
As North Africa’s nearest wealthy neighbor, Europe has a crucial role. In formal terms, there are already few trade barriers. But there are other obstacles. We rightly insist that imports, ranging from food to manufactured products, meet the highest standards. So we need both to remove the remaining tariff barriers over time, and also work with North Africa’s new democracies to help them in practice to sell goods and services into Europe.
One specific measure I am asking E.U. member states to adopt is a program to support rural development in North Africa, so that Egypt, Tunisia and, in due course, Libya will be able to grow food to the quality that European consumers demand. All these measures should help to attract the private investment that will be vital to achieve prosperity.
Greater mobility also needs a range of measures. The E.U. already has a number of scholarship programs such as Erasmus Mundus, EuroMed Youth and Tempus. These can be enhanced to bring more students to Europe and so help to enhance the skills base of the new democracies. We should also review our visa arrangements, so that business men and women, and those with professional skills, are able to travel between Europe and North Africa more easily.
I readily concede that this agenda lacks glamour. But it does not lack ambition. In recent weeks, many have said that the events of North Africa pose a special challenge to which the E.U. must rise. I agree. It is important for the world that Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and other countries in the region become stable democracies. It is especially important to Europe, for these countries are our neighbors. Failure would be bad for our citizens, not just horrific for theirs.
The test for us is not just what happens in the days ahead, but what happens in the months and years after peace returns and the media’s attention has switched to crises elsewhere. Saturday’s meeting in Paris gives us the chance, which we must seize, to plan for peace.
Catherine Ashton, high representative for foreign affairs and security policy of the European Union.