Rabat - On the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, Morocco World News publishes the address of one of its contributors, Mohammed Hashas, and his experience of belonging to the first edition of European Studies MA Programme in Rome (MES). This is the original address, delivered to the third edition of the graduates of the same programme. Though it is a graduation speech from a young student, it also contains some foresighted remarks that are still relevant and debated in the current Europe, and its relations with its new citizens as well as its neighbours in the southern shore of the Mediterranean.
Rabat – On the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, Morocco World News publishes the address of one of its contributors, Mohammed Hashas, and his experience of belonging to the first edition of European Studies MA Programme in Rome (MES). This is the original address, delivered to the third edition of the graduates of the same programme. Though it is a graduation speech from a young student, it also contains some foresighted remarks that are still relevant and debated in the current Europe, and its relations with its new citizens as well as its neighbours in the southern shore of the Mediterranean.
A Moroccan’s Eyes on the EU: An Outsider’s Look from Inside
Address delivered by Mohammed Hashas
LUISS University, Rome
Cultural diplomacy is “the exchange of ideas, information, values, systems, traditions, beliefs, and other aspects of culture, with the intention of fostering mutual understanding.” The American political scientist and author, Milton C. Cummings.
Rector of the University (Massimo Egidi)
Your Excellency, the Ambassador (Ambassador Giampiero Massolo, Secretary General of Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
MES director (Orsina) and MES board
Professors and students
Ladies and gentleman
I am humbly honoured to be invited to talk to you about my experience with the first Master programme in European Studies (MES) at LUISS Guido Carli University of Rome. (I am glad that I won a grant from the European Commission for Education and Culture to pursue these studies, to find myself the only Arab-African student among some 36 international students from all over the world.)
In my Arab-Islamic culture, there is a proverb that says that if somebody or something shows good qualities, praise them so that people can know about them, and this way these good qualities can travel and influence others. I have seen a lot of these qualities around here, and I would like to share some of them with you.
Allow me first to start by saying that the welcoming words of the university on the international website are not virtual but real. Since September 2008, I have seen these words in reality within the university campuses. These words are:
We promote dialogue among people, cultures and ideas; intellectual freedom of our students, staff and faculty members; culture of merit and competence; and commitment and responsibility. These are the values that guide our University and our community. This is LUISS Guido Carli. (Quoted from LUISS English webpage)
Our gathering here today is another proof. I can see in this room as much as I can see outside it in the campus: ideas and cultures, students and professors, intellectuality and research, all in dialogue.
A Common Mediterranean Culture in Mind
I graduated in Morocco, with an MA in Humanities and Area Studies. That was after 6 years of a lot of literary and cultural studies. Now I look at politics with poetic eyes. I have developed a kind of personal hybrid understanding of academia and the issues I deal with. It is simply a rich combination the feeling of which I appreciate very much. I build bridges between the disciplines I study. From literature to cultural studies, I moved to European studies, i.e. politics and history, and now it is political theory. Belonging to different departments gives you an idea of how different scholars think. The challenge is to find your way among all these, and come up with a genuine interdisciplinary approach. I come back to this point later.
I applied for MES, and stayed at LUISS for PhD studies, which I earlier intended to do in Giessen, Germany. MES for me is a step I will always treasure in my studies trajectory. On 28 April 2008 I applied to MES and wrote the following in my application letter:
I have been interested in European studies since my high school years because of my location at a very strategic geography, Morocco.
European Studies cannot only influence the material side of students, but their vision of politics and the world at large. Maybe my poetics is what is speaking here, more particularly it is ‘geopoetics’ school. That is where my belief in pluralism resides. There is nothing like pluralism. And there is no good pluralism without good politics that govern it to maximize its utility.
EU was an idea before it became a reality. After it had become a reality, the idea remains. That idea is ‘Europe is Beautiful.’ When I think of that I bring to memory the idea of Fritz W. Scharpf who believes that the EU studies should not be oriented or guided by IR studies, but by internally developed approach of EU studies (in “Notes toward a Theory of Multilevel Governing in Europe”, 2001). Only this approach can show the merits of EU, what the EU is, and not always what EU does. Of course both help in understanding its role, but valuing it may not occur if looked at just from outside. What MES was primarily about was, to my reading, an inside-look approach more than an outside-look approach. This gives it vitality and historical appreciation that the outsiders think of when they look at it, i.e. EU as an unprecedented achievement in modern history.
I am not here to compare EU with other world players, and EU significant or ‘midget’ power compared to that of the US for example. Polish poet Adam Zagajewski says that if the US is a military and economic giant, it is, however, an intellectual midget. My look at the EU, which I have developed through European studies programme in the first place, focuses on the area I belong to: the Mediterranean.
The southern shore of the Mediterranean, as you know, has been facing hard economic and political times since the independence in the 1950s and 1960s, and earlier as well. The European Community attracted the attention of these neighbors and each hurried to bilateral agreements with it. In 1986, one of these countries even applied for membership; it was my country, Morocco. The attempt failed. The way out was to think of a model like the EC’s. Morocco suggested The Arab Maghreb Union, to be composed of Mauritania, Algeria, Tunis, Libya, and Morocco, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and they signed the treaty of the Union in 1989. However, the regional main unsolved problem of the Moroccan/Western Sahara became an issue of antagonism, mainly now between Algeria and the country most concerned, Morocco. The problem remains unsolved since 1975, though Morocco has suggested autonomous regional system of governance to the secessionist movement of POLISARIO. This is the main hindrance to the building of a similar block in the Maghreb.
‘What the EU is’ is what concerns me most here, though what it does is not of less importance. If there is a Union the Maghreb thinks of, it will not be so much different from the EU general structure. If there is neighboring countries that the EU has to deal with closely, that will be the countries Europe has been dealing with historically for long.
Parag Khanna in The Second World: How Emerging Powers Are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-first Century, 2009, speaks of 3 superpowers: the US, the EU, and China. In this emerging multipolar world we are already witnessing how ‘enlarged regional integration’ plays a big role for political security, economic competition and social well-being.
For this particular reason, I believe in the Mediterranean. Despite the cultural differences that seem there between its southern and northern shores, i.e. the Arab-Muslim world, and ‘Western’ post-Christian Europe, I see more of understanding in the near future.
I have in mind ‘a common Mediterranean culture.’ I am aware of the fact that history may tell us this cannot work. This same history can tell us that it is possible if we work for it. Both Europe and the Arab world have been in antagonistic relationships for centuries. This can be read otherwise for the common future that binds the two together. The American historian Richard W. Bulliet says ‘The past and future of the West cannot be fully comprehended without appreciation of the twinned relationship it has had with Islam over some fourteen centuries. The same is true of the Islamic world’ (The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization, 2004).
The three monolithic religions and the two civilizations that they shaped in and around the Mediterranean have been in touch from the very beginning. They were all born in the Middle East and later flourished around the Mediterranean Basin. To play a significant role in the multipolar world, they, I believe, must come closer to each other, both as religions and as cultures. It is not just dialogue that is needed, but genuine understanding and common participation interculturally.
The EU will need, among others, the human resources the southern Mediterranean enjoys, while the latter will need the structure of the former. There are already millions of immigrants in Europe, now called ‘new Europeans.’ They can be, and are already, the bridge between the two shores of the Mediterranean. I may seem very optimistic about it. Better being optimist than pessimist! My poetics and pluralism in mind keep influencing my political perceptions. That is the beauty of interdisciplinary studies.
John Monnet was asked whether he was optimist or pessimist about the European Community project. His reply was wise: ‘I am busy.’ Instead of questioning what I believe to be the future outlet for the Mediterranean, for the world I belong to (the Arab world), and for the Europe I study and live in, we should be busy with it already. It takes time. Radical views are always there to prevent such rapprochement, and they are among the challenges we have to face, inside the EU, and inside the Arab word. The recent waves of change and revolt in the Arab world have to be encouraged and assisted, without imposition or conditionality, as long as the aspirations there are democratic and pluralist. The civilian side of the EU can go on playing its role. Supporting dictatorships for the sake of security betrays the messages of Enlightenment and human rights for all. Principles should be defended, instead of just oil interests. These are the issues the EU should re-address to gain trust and be a significant player instead of being just a payer of where the US played so much! I do understand that a good number of political analysts say that the EU can never be ‘that big boy’ in the region, in foreign policy. I believe it has the potential for that, as much as I believe it has a lot of ‘inside’ structural/institutional deficits to look after first. Let’s see how Lisbon Treaty fares, and mainly let’s still see what one voice of the EU in Foreign Policy can achieve. Lady Catherine Ashton is trying ‘to be busy,’ using Monnet’s words!
My focus on what the EU is more than what it does stems from the same universal values I saw Europe defending decades ago after the Two World Wars and centuries earlier after religious wars, which the Arab world also nurtured and enjoyed differently centuries back before decline, colonialism and dictatorships swept them away.
Europe is as diverse as the Arab world is, at least when it comes to political systems. From an outsider’s look, one sees Europe as one, and so does he/she sees the Arab world. It is true that inside they share a lot, but still each country has its own history and tradition. I see more commonalities than differences, however. I believe in pluralism, again and again. I particularly mean pluralism in mind, based on respect and recognition, instead of short-sighted multicultural policies that pretend to be inclusive. Real multiculturalism is in teaching what the world is in the first place: pluralism. The world is a priori pluralist. Policies should be the means not the end. If we consider policies as ends in themselves then we are implying that big differences exist and are there to stay.
The interdisciplinary approach of the MES programme influenced debates in and outside class, to the extent that sometimes we, the international students, were a ‘naughty burden’ on our local and international lecturers, who still enjoyed those hot debates on various issues, mainly when it came to Transatlantic Relations, EU-US relations and the war in Iraq, Immigration and Integration Policies, Mediterranean Policies and the aspirations of Turkey to join the EU, EU Big Enlargement and the Eastern countries aspirations and difficulties, etc. I should not forget to note that the students, the European and non-Europeans alike, had also strong debates on historical issues that may seem to belong just to the old generations’ mode of thought. I could see how the 19th and 20th century politics, especially the wars, had different effects on Europe, and on the world around. The interaction of the international students in those debates told me more than what historical books could tell me. The present is just another version of the past.
Jacques Delors’ Idea of ‘A Soul for Europe?’
‘A Soul for Europe’ is an initiative that aims at giving a spiritual and ethical dimension to the European Union. It came from the former President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, in 1992. His opinion was that it would be impossible to succeed with the European Union solely on the basis of legal expertise and economic know-how. Therefore, President Delors wanted Europe to offer its citizens something beyond economics and legal systems. In the wake of this, A Soul for Europe was founded in 1994. It incorporates five main inter-religious organizations that preach openness, tolerance, and ethics. That soul which has institutional basis in Brussels has more than that in Rome. The Treaty of Rome was signed here, in 1957. (It is no wonder that Professor Giovanni Orsina thought of making of LUISS another bearer of this soul, through LUISS and MES Programme).
Here are some of Jacques Delors aims:
- ‘We must give Europe a soul.
- The aim of “A Soul for Europe” is to implement concrete steps and conduct projects to ensure that Europe makes greater and better use of its cultural assets, utilizing culture more than in the past as a strategic factor for its development – at the local, regional, national and European level. All fields of policy beyond the cultural sector, from social to foreign affairs, must develop a cultural component.
- We believe that it is possible to create a Europe of the Europeans, rather than just a Europe of institutions and regulations and to implement this aim based on the potential of European culture.
- We lobby for Europe – with the means of culture.
- A new understanding of citizenship is required to create Europe from the bottom up. We need to activate citizens to play a bigger role in creating Europe.
- As citizens, it is our responsibility to take a hand in Europe’s political mechanisms.’
After the project of ‘A Soulf for Europe’ in the 1990s, the new Milleneum still had to raise the same issues, and George Steiner’s 2003 essay and lecture ‘The Idea of Europe’ for ‘The Debate on the Idea of Europe,’ initiated by the Dutch EU Presidency in 2003, and organized by Nexus Institute, is an example of that continuity of the debate. The closing conference entitled ‘Europe: A Beautiful Idea?’ (Rotterdam, 4 December 2004) focused on the major topics of the series: European citizenship, European culture and education, and European values.
At the end of the series, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Jan Peter Balkenende identified certain points for urgent action, and I refer to two here:
- European politicians must break ‘the conspiracy of silence’. ‘Communicating Europe’ is still urgently needed.
- Europe needs to be united in its diversity. Newcomers should have the opportunity to become fully-fledged members of our society and assume their responsibilities as fellow citizens.
These points should remain always a matter of urgency for the soul of Europe.
Job Market Outside Europe
I would like now to address the new graduates. First, my congratulations on your work and new degree in European Studies. There is no doubt that you now look different from when you first arrived here in September-October. MES intellectual atmosphere must have added value to what you think and what you still think you would do in the future.
Second, as you certainly learnt in lobbying and stimulation course, jobs or internships do not knock your doors; they do so when they see you are interested and talented. That means that besides your degrees, you need to promote yourself, and value the value of what you have. The way you learnt to ‘communicate Europe’ in your studies, you will need to communicate yourself as a European beginner scholar or policymaker. That is among the things I also learnt in MES classes here, or in Brussels study trip, as well as the intensive summer school on European Issues I took part in in Giessen-Frankfurt in July-August 2009.
Please do note that job prospection should not be European-or-Brussels-Based. When you are trained as a European Studies expert or graduate in related fields, you may still think of opening up to other markets and regions beyond European premises. North-Africa, West-Africa, South-Africa, the Gulf, Latin-America, and Asia are markets that are trying to build themselves in the EU-model, and they will certainly need people who can work with them for that. Once you get more expertise around here in Europe, you can always travel with what you learnt. Once you travel, remember that you travel with your values as well. The soul of Europe travels with you, whether you are European or not. That is where politics and culture converge. It is part of ‘cultural diplomacy.’
Ladies and gentleman, I am very pleased to have talked to you about my experience in LUISS. It is a pleasure to share these moments of graduation with my fellow students. I have aims and I pursue them. MES has helped me a great deal in that. I do thank MES main board, Professor Orsina and Dr Blasberg for their excellent work. I appreciate the School of Government scheme, which will definitely be another plus to MES and its students. I do thank all the people in charge for having contributed to the making of MES, to the organization of this event.