CHATHAM HOUSE'S DR. NIBLETT TOUR D'HORIZON
On Wednesday the 26th of October, at the august and ultra-elegant, beaux-arts, ‘Studio Building’, Dr. Robin Niblett, Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (‘Chatham House’), spoke to a select audience of attendees (the total party was approximately twenty in all), in the splendidly luxurious & palatial apartment quarters of Mr. & Mrs. John Heimann, the patrician-like, Investment Banker, and former Comptroller of the Currency (1977-1981). In the midst of offerings of black caviar and champagne, the following were some of the pensee that Dr. Niblett threw-out in a most intellectually interesting tour d’horizon:
- that the successful termination of the Libyan War, notwithstanding, Europe has a colossal need to rectify its ‘troubled’ relationship with the countries of North Africa and that rather than viewing the Mediterranean as merely a 'border', what European Union needs to do is view the Mediterranean as a meeting place, a venue of goods, peoples and ideas. Something that Dr. Niblett contended was the case, prior to the nineteenth century. That the failure to remedy this situation would produce many worse problems than what one sees on the horizon currently.
- contrary to the headlines that one reads currently, the crisis over the Euro and the solvency of Greece and other peripheral countries of the Eurozone, is something hat EU can overcome, and that this will be done by simply expanding and deepening the institutional structures and capacities of the common institutions of the Eurozone. That a common Finance Ministry, and a common Eurozone budget will inevitably be the solution to the current problems of the Eurozone.
- that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a serious effort by Israel to meet the moderates of the Palestinian Authority ‘half-way’ and that in the absence of which, there is a very real danger that the situation will muddle on indefinitely unresolved with negative effects on the region as a whole.
What is one to make of Dr. Niblett’s exposition? Well aside from agreeing with his thoughts on the current impasse between the Israelis and the Palestinians, I cannot entirely agree with his suppositions. In particular, the idea that a ‘Braudelian’ view of the Mediterranean was ever a reality is completely ahistorical. The fact is that the Mediterranean has not been ‘whole’ in terms of being an economic and cultural center since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century anno domini. Conflict, not commonality was the hallmark of the Mediterranean in the period prior to European colonization in the second, third and forth quarters of the nineteenth century. With the ‘Retreat from Empire’, in the third quarter of the twentieth century, the earlier type of relationships between Europe and North Africa has merely reasserted itself. Quod erat demonstrandum. As per the future relations between Europe and North Africa, in the absence of the possibility of membership of the European Union, which even Dr. Niblett agrees is an impossibility, the only realistic scenarios from my perspective are: a) more financial assistance to develop the region’s economies; b) greater diplomatic and political ‘guidance’ and assistance in terms of institution-building and civil-society assistance; c) infinitely greater degrees of immigration controls and checks to ensure that illegal immigration from North Africa does not swamp Southern Europe in the next twenty years.
As per what Dr. Niblett regards as a de minimis, problem of the Euro, all one can say is that Dr. Niblett overlooks the fact that the Euro crisis has exposed the problem of the legitimacy of the entire European Union vis-`a-vis it's pays reel. That the fact is that the Euro project, was one which in retrospect was misguided and incompetently handled by the same pays legal, the bien-pensant, Europhile elites who now proclaim, urbi i orbi, that the only solution to the problem that they en fait created is more of the same. With the culprits who presided over this entire debacle, allowed to completely go scot-free. It is due to such hazy thinking that the entire Euro projet has come under scrutiny from the collective European pays reel. I for one, cannot fathom how possibly what Dr. Niblett proposes can in any way assist to lay aside the widespread skepticism that exists in many EU countries at the at the present time.