What has the EU-Arab League summit achieved?

The EU members and the leaders of the Arab League states have hailed the start of a "new era of cooperation" at their first joint summit meeting in Sharm El Sheikh. The strategic partnership is to be further developed but no mention was made of contentious issues in the final declaration. While some commentators are disappointed others are more optimistic.

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Negotiations with the wrong partners

Deutschlandfunk doubts that this or future summits can lead to better relations:

“The League members have no single market, no customs union, no common currency. The League is known for its members seldom sticking to their own decisions. As always, relations with the Arab states still work best at the bilateral level. Certainly Europe can't pick and choose its regional neighbours. And talking to one another is never a bad idea. But the hope of 'change through rapprochement' is a little too flimsy to make demonstrative overtures to the Arab League. Rather than strengthening the courageous human rights activists in the Arab world, it bolstered those who relentlessly attack them.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Human rights cannot be left out

As recently as last week nine Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were sentenced to the death penalty were executed. For Hürriyet Daily News it's scandalous that the issue was not addressed at the summit:

“European opinion leaders should not fall into the error of looking at the Arab Spring as a failed test case to transition to democracy in the Middle East. It is these regimes' anti-democratic practices that feed the causes of terrorism and migration. And they should not think that supporting the Arab autocratic regimes will curb terrorism and migration. It is these regimes' anti-democratic practices that feed the causes of terrorism and migration. It is essential that the EU remains engaged with Arab countries, but a more significant dose of human rights conditionality needs to be introduced.”

La Stampa (IT) /

The rapprochement has begun

It's not as if the subject of human rights wasn't brought up at all, La Stampa points out:

“Towards the end human rights were addressed when a journalist asked the question about the differing standards and their observance in Europe and the Arab world. Egypt's president al-Sisi didn't hesitate to defend the death penalty in Egypt, arguing that it is as deeply entrenched in the country's culture as it is important to the Europeans to abolish it. ... Apart from the various different accents the summit in Sharm El Sheikh had the advantage of confronting extremely disparate points. And even if in more than one case the widely disparate positions remain, the path towards more similar rules, languages and methods has already been embarked on.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Weak start often followed by a strong reprise

The mere fact that the summit took place at all is an achievement worthy of recognition in the opinion of Hospodářské noviny:

“And it's even more difficult to reach a consensus among so many participants. Above all on the migration problem. The Europeans heard that it is not enough to help finance refugee centres in the countries of origin. They also had to create jobs in these countries. Just as they were all united in their concern that following the military defeat of the IS terrorists attacks in Arab and European countries could become more frequent, they were also uncertain about how to deal with Syria. Finding an answer here is also difficult because Iran, Turkey, Russia and Israel were absent. ... Concrete results were not to be expected. But not only in theatre have we seen successful reprises after difficult premieres.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Symbolism that fits in with the strategy

For the EU the most important thing about this summit is that it is taking place at all, comments Večernji list:

“Although there have been no decisions or new initiatives it fits in well with the EU's global strategy aimed at increased cooperation with such organisations. The summit is also important because of the EU's efforts to resolve global problems with a multilateral approach and boost global trade - in a situation in which this multilateralism is under attack, from both foes and friends (such as the Americans). ... All in all there is more symbolism in Sharm El Sheikh than concrete decisions that will change the world.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Cosying up to al-Sisi will backfire

The EU's close cooperation with Egypt's president is as inept as it is irresponsible, The Guardian rails:

“EU leaders see Mr Sisi's regime as a rare source of stability in the region, even if his actions are feeding long-term pressures. … The constitutional coup now under way removes even the 'promise or veneer' of democratic rule, notes one Egyptian author. An increasingly autocratic ruler may well believe he does not need much support when he can coerce compliance. But his predecessors thought so, too. Corruption, inflation and unemployment as well as state brutality are fuelling frustrations. … Bolstering his reign is foolish and wrong.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Another step towards Eurabia

For Magyar Nemzet the meeting spells danger for Europe:

“In view of the summit the time has come for us Central and Eastern Europeans to wake up and smell the coffee: the rapprochement between Europe and the Muslim world is aimed at nothing short of creating Eurabia. Western Europe has had its sights on this goal practically since the 1970s. ... Originally the objective was only to let Arabian Muslims into Europe. In the past three years, however, migrants from other African countries have also been allowed in. Let's not forget, the Coudenhove-Kalergi European Prize is awarded to those who work towards creating a transnational European unity. ... The goal is to abolish the sovereignty and self-determination of Europe's long-established populations.”