G8 ready to reward democratic uprisings in Arab world
By Nick Rigillo May 28, 2011, 9:59 GMT
Deauville, France - The Group of Eight (G8) on Friday promised to reward Arab countries that embrace democracy with billions of dollars in aid.
But the world's wealthiest nations failed to put specific pledges in writing, saying only that the vanguard of the so-called Arab Spring - Tunisia and Egypt - could hope to receive up to 20 billion dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Investment Bank and other multilateral development banks over the 2011-2013 period.
Such money would be conditional on the new regimes in Tunis and Cairo enacting 'suitable reform efforts.'
'In our country it is important that this (democratic) process succeeds because it will be an example for other Arab and Muslim countries,' said Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi, who was invited by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to attend the G8 summit in Deauville along with his Egyptian counterpart, Essam Abdel Aziz Ahmed Sharaf.
'Tunisia wants to show the world that Islam and democracy are not incompatible,' Essebsi said.
According to British Prime Minister David Cameron, 'the big test for the G8 was whether we could respond to the momentous events that we have seen in North Africa and the Middle East.
'I would argue that we have responded,' Cameron said.
Following discussions spread over two days, the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States likened the 'historic' changes under way in the Middle East and North Africa to 'the kind of transformation that occurred in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.'
'We stand ready to extend this long term global Partnership to all countries of the region engaging in a transition towards free, democratic and tolerant societies,' G8 leaders said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who offered Egypt a debt-swap deal worth 300 million euros (426 million dollars) and an 'Employment Pact' designed to help train 5,000 workers and create 10,000 new jobs, said the 'the main concern now is that the money arrive quickly to the people.' Britain and France also offered bilateral support.
Another notable outcome of the summit in Deauville was the acceptance by the United States and Europe that they both need to put their public finances in order.
Under pressure from the US and Canada, European members agreed to pursue 'rigorous fiscal consolidation' amid market speculation that eurozone member Greece may go bankrupt and undermine the global recovery.
US President Barack Obama, for his part, acknowledged the need for a 'clear and credible medium-term fiscal consolidation framework.' His country's budget deficit is predicted to exceed 9 per cent of gross domestic product this year, more than double that of the eurozone as a whole.
'On the economy, we have seen clear determination by all partners to address those issues in each region that could hamper the global recovery, which we all want to speed up,' said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Reaffirming its 'profound commitment to the values of freedom and democracy, and their universality,' the exclusive club of advanced economies condemned the violent crackdowns on anti-government protesters in Syria and Yemen.
However, in the case of Syria, the G8 backtracked from its threat of 'action in the United Nations Security Council,' saying only it would 'consider further measures.'
The move was believed to have been prompted by veto-holder Russia, which is resisting European calls for UN Security Council condemnation of the Syrian regime.
On Libya, the G8 said it was resolved to see Moamer Gaddafi go, with Obama warning that the NATO campaign would not end until the Libyan leader was ousted from power.
'We agreed that we have made progress on our Libya campaign, but that meeting the UN mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Gaddafi remains in Libya directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people,' Obama said before heading to Warsaw for the final leg of his European tour.
'And we are joined in resolve to finish the job,' he added after bilateral talks with summit's host, French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
While in Deauville, the British government confirmed that it was joining France in deploying attack helicopters in Libya, taking the fight closer to the ground.
Other issues discussed in Deauville included the need for stricter international nuclear safety standards in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan, and the need to preserve the internet as 'an instrument for political liberty' while making sure it is not used to violate the law, including through the illegal distribution of copyrighted material.
Non-governmental organizations following the talks were critical, arguing that little progress had been achieved on traditional G8 issues such as aid to Africa and fighting climate change.
'The G8's package of help for the Middle East is timely, but shouldn't divert attention from the existing promises to the poorest in the world,' said Save the Children's Adrian Lovett.
'We don't want an Arab Spring to be followed by a long African winter,' Lovett said.
There were also light moments in Deauville, a seaside resort by the English Channel, particularly when the French first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, welcomed the spouses of G8 leaders arriving for a lunch.
And despite much of the world's attention focussed on her silhouette, her husband refused to answer a question about whether their baby would be a boy or a girl.