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Spain urges Europe to embrace Middle East democracy

Zapatero says Morocco more stable than others.

February 22, 2011 10:39 by



Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero applauded the birth of new democracies in the Middle East and North Africa on Monday, and urged Europe to give them economic and political support.

He also condemned violence after dozens died in escalating conflict in Libya.

In an interview with Reuters, Zapatero said the European Union should consider creating a bank to help emerging new democracies in the region rebuild, as it had for eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

“It’s historic. We are probably witnessing a wave of new democracies being born.

“We want democracy. We want reforms. We don’t want violence. We condemn it,” he said, urging the EU to actively embrace new governments after the overthrow of authoritarian rulers.

Increasingly violent and widespread protests in Libya are threatening to end Muammar Gaddafi’s four decades in power after popular uprisings toppled long-time leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

Thousands of Moroccans have also taken to the streets asking that King Mohammed give up some of his powers.

But Zapatero said Morocco, Spain’s southern neighbour, was in a different situation from other countries that have seen popular revolts because it already had a multi-party system.

“Of course things are different in Morocco. It’s a country that has made reforms… certainly the citizens want more reforms, but it is a different situation with more potential for stability and gradual progress,” he said.

New democracies in the region will take time to consolidate and will need strong, united support from Europe, both economically and politically, Zapatero said.

“The European Union should be ready to facilitate above all economic help.

“The European Union should study creating a reconstruction bank similar to the one created for rebuilding eastern (European) countries,” he said.

Asked whether uprisings in North Africa posed security threats to Europe, he said: “The struggle for democracy is over and above any other consideration.”

However, he noted that European interior ministers would meet in Rome on Wednesday to discuss precautionary measures to avert a possible flood of migrants from the region.

Spain has recommended that all its citizens leave Libya and is considering airlifting them out in coordination with other countries in Europe, he added.

(Editing by Paul Taylor and Michael Roddy)



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