A Marshall Plan for the Arab World

ROME – US President Barack Obama’s major speech on the consequences of the Arab Spring is also a challenge for Europe. Only if the trans-Atlantic partnership proves effective, as it did to meet the demands of the Cold War and the end of Europe’s division, can the West contribute to realizing the hopes engendered by the Arab uprisings.

The crisis in Europe’s southern neighborhood reflects a deep-seated transformation process that will have long-lasting consequences – for the region, for Europe, and for the world. The Mediterranean region is vital to Europe’s peace, stability, and economic growth. The continent’s Mediterranean neighbors look to Europe as their natural partner. And events there, including the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, have a broader impact that naturally entails the close involvement of global partners – first and foremost the United States.

Current events, not just in Libya, but also in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, mirror the political complexity of these countries. They also spring from different factors, such as frustration with rising food prices and widespread corruption, coupled with demands for greater democratization, reduction of economic and social inequalities, and job creation.

Europe’s response to this process must embody the goal of an orderly and rapid transition. Proposals for some sort of “partnership for transformation,” based on political reform and full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, should bear in mind that the region’s political landscape looks certain to remain volatile and tense in the coming months.