I first learned of the Alliance of Civilizations (AoC) in February of 2006 when tensions were high in the Middle East due to violent riots. I recall reading that the unrest was in response to Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s Sept. 2005 publication which contained inflammatory caricatures of the prophet Mohammad. The information that followed was very extraordinary and somewhat confusing to process. I noticed the following:
- People from both the United Nations and the European Union had stepped on stage to manage and diffuse the crisis.
- These same people called for restrictions on free speech.
- The United Nations had just introduced something big--the “Alliance of Civilizations”--that had quickly rooted through management of the crisis.
- An article entitled “The Betrayal of Denmark (and of Us All)” appeared in the Brussels Journal. It contained writing from a Jyllands-Posten journalist stating that the three most inflammatory cartoons that made their way into the Middle East were never part of the newspaper’s publication.
As I read news accounts, I became convinced that the Alliance of Civilizations was something that was not going to disappear anytime soon. The Jyllands-Posten journalist asserted that this crisis may have been a staged “clash of civilizations”. I began to suspect likewise. I have since pieced together a timeline from the materials I’ve collected that have strengthened that suspicion. At the AoC’s Doha debates, Diana Buttu was asked if the events were orchestrated to bring about a desired response. Her response was yes, but she didn’t know who would benefit from it. I believe I have that answer.
To understand the AoC, one must also examine the social dimension of the European Union’s Barcelona Process which was developed in 1995 by Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Common and Foreign Security Policy. The Barcelona Process is the political, social, and economic platform in which the EU operates. Two of the social dimension’s objectives are:
- To create favorable trade conditions for the EU within the Mediterranean basin ( enlargement, aka Euro-Med Partnership)
- To combat religious fundamentalism worldwide.
In 2005, the EU held a 10-year anniversary summit dedicated to the enlargement process. It was reported to have been a failure on a grand scale. Muslim states saw the EU as self-serving imperialists and had no desire to incorporate into the European Union. The Process desperately needed help and Solana had found some political allies in both Spain and Turkey. The following are events that correlate both the formation of the AoC and the ailing Barcelona/Euro-Med Summit:
September 2004, Spain's Prime Minister Zapatero introduced the concept of an Alliance of Civilizations initiative before the 59th session of the United Nations General Assembly. This initiative was co-sponsored by Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan. I suspect Zapatero discussed this initiative with Javier Solana as in March 1997 Solana had written in “NATO and the Mediterranean” that he ought to thank Samuel Huntington for his thesis on the “clash of civilizations” and went on to explain how the Euro-Mediterranean region could avoid such a clash.
March 22, 2005: Zapatero urged Arab leaders to back his AoC initiative. Islam Online reports that “His project is set to breathe new life into trans-Mediterranean dialogue and Barcelona is scheduled to stage a November summit to mark the 10th anniversary of the launching of the so-called Barcelona Process designed to that end.”
July 14, 2005: Kofi Annan announced for formation of the AoC.
July 27, 2005: Tony Blair welcomed the AoC.
September 8, 2005: UN Security Council adopted Resolution S/2005/567 establishing a Partnership of Civilizations which states that “moments of crisis carried the seeds of opportunity…” and also “This partnership will represent a powerful response to those who feed on exclusion and arrogantly claim the sole ownership of truth…”
September 30, 2005: Jyllands-Posten published the Mohammad cartoons.
October 3, 2005: Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey warns the EU that “An Alliance of Civilizations is a must if the EU wants to be a global power…”
November 2005: The AoC reported that the High Commissioner of Human Rights received complaints about the cartoons.
November 27-28, 2005: 10-year anniversary of the Barcelona Process is held. It was reported that ‘The outcome of the Summit is seen by some as a success merely because it was saved from collapse”.
November 27, 2005: First meetings of the AoC High Level Group meet in Spain.
November 27, 2005: Javier Solana attends an Alliance of Civilizations meeting.
November 29, 2005: 35 Euro-Med member states welcome the Anna Lindh Foundation as the face to Euro-Med Partnership and instrument of implementation for the AoC.
Early February 2006, riots break out throughout the Middle East over cartoons.
February 15, 2006: Solana is reported to be touring the Middle East capitals to placate Muslim anger.
February 16, 2006: Zapatero thanks the Muslim community for its calls for calm. Muslim leaders give full support to the AoC initiative.
February 23, 2006: Solana again apologizes and attends AoC meeting with the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
March 10, 2006: EU asks Turkey to be a mediator in the cartoon crisis.
As the dust settled, two beneficiaries appear to have emerged from this crisis--namely, the AoC and Javier Solana. As I will show in future posts, the AoC is very pro-Islam and blames the west for all of the Mideast’s problems. Solana's incorporation of the AoC into the Barcelona Process has subsequently resulted in a favorable outcome for the Euro-Med Partnership. The flailing Barcelona Process had found new life. This past January 2007, Solana strengthened the Euro-Med Association Agreements for a period of seven years. The Arab partners must now incorporate and establish with the EU a trade zone by 2010. Alliance of Civilizations' implementation is targeted to start within the framework of the Barcelona Process and then be amplified globally.
For Javier Solana and the Alliance of Civilizations, this crisis indeed equalled opportunity.
(Note: I have supporting news articles for each date in the timeline. Unfortunately, most are no longer available online but have these archived for reference.)