European "soft power" gets even softer

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Even the New York Times notices that the "soft power" appearsement approach of the Europeans to the Arab world is not paying many dividends lately.

In a summit meeting marked as much by who was not there as who was, the European Union opened a two—day conference here on Sunday aimed at renewing its commitment to developing and democratizing Muslim nations on the Mediterranean's southern rim.

Many of the North African and Middle Eastern leaders who had agreed to come to the meeting announced last week that they could not attend. Their absence weakens European claims that their approach to the Muslim world — based on economic development, dialogue, strengthening the rule of law, and other forms of soft power — has greater credibility with the region's leaders than what they see as the Bush administration's more aggressive approach.

The conference was intended to bring together heads of state and government and other senior officials from all 25 members of the European Union, Israel and a dozen Muslim countries, including Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Jordan and Morocco.

But despite initial indications they would attend, many of the top leaders from those countries stayed away, like President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who cited domestic political concerns; King Mohammed VI of Morocco, who said he had business in Japan; and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, who was reported to be seeking medical treatment in France.

European leaders sought to play down the absence of their North African and Middle Eastern counterparts on Sunday, saying that the reasons appeared unrelated to the conference. "These leaders have different reasons for not coming," said Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. "But I'm sure we'll have a good conference nonetheless."

Ed Lasky   11 28 05

Even the New York Times notices that the "soft power" appearsement approach of the Europeans to the Arab world is not paying many dividends lately.

In a summit meeting marked as much by who was not there as who was, the European Union opened a two—day conference here on Sunday aimed at renewing its commitment to developing and democratizing Muslim nations on the Mediterranean's southern rim.

Many of the North African and Middle Eastern leaders who had agreed to come to the meeting announced last week that they could not attend. Their absence weakens European claims that their approach to the Muslim world — based on economic development, dialogue, strengthening the rule of law, and other forms of soft power — has greater credibility with the region's leaders than what they see as the Bush administration's more aggressive approach.

The conference was intended to bring together heads of state and government and other senior officials from all 25 members of the European Union, Israel and a dozen Muslim countries, including Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Jordan and Morocco.

But despite initial indications they would attend, many of the top leaders from those countries stayed away, like President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who cited domestic political concerns; King Mohammed VI of Morocco, who said he had business in Japan; and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, who was reported to be seeking medical treatment in France.

European leaders sought to play down the absence of their North African and Middle Eastern counterparts on Sunday, saying that the reasons appeared unrelated to the conference. "These leaders have different reasons for not coming," said Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. "But I'm sure we'll have a good conference nonetheless."

Ed Lasky   11 28 05