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William Hague argues for "broad and deep economic integration" between the Middle East and the EU

Matthew Barrett

Hague FCO William Hague's speech at Mansion House tonight on the Arab Spring and democratic reform in Middle Eastern countries contains an interesting passage on a topic that may not get as much attention:

Essential compromises that are difficult and painful now may become impossible in the future unless the moment is seized, and we call on both sides to re-enter negotiations. Britain hopes that the announcement of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will lead to the formation of a government that rejects violence and pursues a negotiated peace leading to a Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel.

This is in contrast to the Israeli position - that Fatah are wrong to reconcile with Hamas, and so should be punished for doing so. With the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, having a dinner meeting with David Cameron tonight, the timing is certainly intriguing. It comes after months of briefing by European governments, France in particular, that they may officially recognise Palestine. Mr Hague's speech also argues:

The EU already has the tools and the resources for the task.  What it has lacked is the will to use them well. We should use the EU’s economic magnetism to encourage and support real political and economic reform. That means a new partnership with the southern neighbourhood with a simple proposal at its heart: that the EU will share its prosperity and open up markets in return for real progress on political and economic reform.

The EU should offer broad and deep economic integration, leading to a free-trade area and eventually a customs union, progressively covering goods, agriculture and services, as well as the improvement of conditions for investment. All of this must should be accompanied by our partners achieving clear and sustainable political and economic reform.


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