A Middle Eastern Union?

Perhaps the best, if not the only, way to secure peace in the Middle East is to begin managing scarce resources on a regional basis. Despite today’s chronic pessimism, the pursuit of a Middle East Water and Energy Union, coupled with adoption of the Arab Peace Initiative that was reconfirmed in 2007, could very well change mindsets that have been hardened by decades of conflict.

TOLEDO, SPAIN – This autumn, the Toledo International Centre for Peace convened a meeting devoted to water cooperation in the Middle East. One conclusion that emerged was that any effective response to the unequal distribution of natural resources in the region must be regional. With this idea in mind, Munther Haddadin, a former Jordanian minister of water resources, proposed for the Middle East a “Water and Energy Union,” a long-term mechanism to integrate a fragmented region.

The idea is compelling. Attending to such basic needs in a way that manages scarcities and surpluses regionally has a powerful logic.

Indeed, the parallels with the role of coal and steel in forging the European Union are clear enough that, over the past month, Joschka Fischer, Germany’s former foreign minister, has called for such a union. So, too, have former Czech president Václav Havel and a group of global luminaries who support the idea of regional integration through water. Having convened the meeting in Spain, we are very much in favor of the pursuit of such a worthy goal.

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