World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Europe and the Middle East (EU Policy towards the Region) (127) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE, 20 / 2.30 - 4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Martí Grau (Visiting Professor, SPEA-Indiana University, USA)

Paper presenter: Anders Persson (PhD candidate, Lund University, Sweden), “Dilemmas of Peacebuilding: Four decades of EU involvement in the Middle East peace process”
The EU has sought to establish a just and durable peace between Israelis and Palestinians since the early 1970s when the Union began to get involved in the affairs of the Middle East. Over the years the EU has issued numerous declarations outlining the Union's position on the conflict's key issues such as borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees and so on. It is therefore possible to argue that on the rhetorical level the members of the European Union have all come to accept and publicly endorse the objective of a two-state solution with an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel. On the practical level however, the EU seems to be all but united and has thus far not been able to speak with one voice in controversial issues when approaching either the Israelis or the Palestinians. These intra-European dynamics has led to a situation where the EU is suffering from institutional weakness, which in turn has led to political weakness for the EU, particularly when dealing with foreign policy and even more so when it comes to controversial foreign policy issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite having association agreements with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and despite being the largest provider of aid to the Palestinian Authority and Israel's largest trade partner, the EU has not able to translate this economic leverage into political or strategic influence. This paper therefore analyzes the past four decades of the EU's peacebuilding in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in search for the main dilemmas in the Union's policy towards the conflict. The paper argues that the main dilemmas are; the discrepancy between rhetoric and reality in the EU's peacebuilding strategy, inbuilt tensions in the EU's institution-building in the Palestinian territories and various dilemmas relating to the EU's commitment, credibility and legitimacy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Paper presenter: Johan Cato (PhD candidate, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies. Lund University, Sweden), “The Christian Socialdemocrats in Sweden- Their understanding of Islam and its consequences for Middle East Policies”
This paper deals with the organisation of Christian Socialdemocrats in Sweden, also known as the Brotherhood movement and their understanding of Islam and its consequences for their views on Middle East policy. The Brotherhood movement which originated in 1929 is an integral part of the Socialdemocratic party in Sweden, but it is at the same time an independent organisation within the Swedish labour movement. What I will be highlighting in my paper is the shifts that has occurred among the Christian Socialdemocrats on their understanding and views of Islam and in conjunction with this their ideological stance towards Middle Eastern policy. This is an ideological stance that in many ways differs on fundamental issues vis á vis their mother party. The Brotherhood movement is rather small in absolute numbers, but they are a political and ideological influence to be reckoned with in the Swedish political landscape, since a large proportion of the Socialdemocratic parliamentary members also are affiliated to the Brotherhood movement. Members include both the former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson and the former attorney general Tomas Bodström. During the 1960s and 70s the Brotherhood movement were staunch supporters of Israel and its policies towards their Palestinian counterparts and the Israeli states evolution was seen as a sign of Gods will being done. During the latter part of the 1980s and continuing during the 1990s their view on Middle East policy and especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shifted towards becoming more pro-Palestinian and their stance was also a forerunner that helped change the swedish public opinion concerning the conflict. My argument is that this ideological shift can be understood and analyzed only if we also take in to account the Swedish political domestic scene concerning Muslim immigrants, and especially those with a Middle Eastern background. The Brotherhood movement have at least since the early 90s been a forerunner in trying to attract Muslim voters to the Socialdemocratic party. They have established a working relationship in several different areas with one of the leading Swedish national Muslim organizations, which is heavily influenced by the Muslim Brotherhoods ideology and dominated by individuals stemming from the Middle East. My paper analyzes this cooperation and the changing views on Islam and Middle East policy, through looking at articles from the Brotherhood movements own newspaper and the organizations official ideological programme.

Paper presenter: Vincent Durac (Lecturer in Middle East Politics, University College Dublin, Ireland), “Ireland and 2003 Invasion of Iraq: A Clash of Principle and Self-Interest?”
This paper will examine Irish foreign policy on the Middle East with particular focus on the Irish position on the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. Irish foreign policy since independence has traditionally been shaped by a number of factors: adherence to a position of neutrality on the one hand, along with a close relationship with the United States, and to a more variable extent with the United Kingdom, combined, since accession to the European Union in 1973, with the desire to assert a strong voice in European policy-making. Prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, virtually all significant political actors in Ireland supported the government in its insistence on the need for a second UN Security Council resolution to justify further action in Iraq on the part of the international community. During the invasion and afterwards, Ireland maintained this stance consistently. Nevertheless, and in apparent breach of its neutral stance, Ireland throughout this period permitted not only overflight of its airspace but the use of its airport at Shannon by US forces en route to Iraq. This paper will attempt to make sense of the apparent paradox of Ireland’s seemingly principled opposition to the invasion of Iraq while providing logistical support to the forces involved in the invasion and occupation of that country. It will do so first by examining the formative influences on the development of Irish foreign policy making. More specifically, it will explore the nature of Irish foreign policy making in relation to the Middle East and will closely examine debates in Ireland on the war in Iraq. In particular, it will set out to rationalize the Irish attempt to square the circle of opposing the actions of two of its closest allies (the U.S. and the U.K.) on Iraq, while simultaneously, if implicit support for their war effort in that country. Finally, the paper will locate the development of the Irish position on Iraq, before and after the invasion, in the broader context of European debates on the issue. It will argue that while Irish approaches display an apparent inconsistency, this is shared across a Europe anxious to downplay any notion of a transatlantic rift arising out of differences on Iraq.