From November 15-16, GMF convened a group of American, European, and North African policy experts to discuss the current and future potential for transatlantic cooperation on North Africa and the Mediterranean.
The conference opened with a keynote presentation by Kurt Volker, U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, who stressed that problems in North Africa highlight the need for the transatlantic community to look outward, concentrating on global challenges (full audio of Volker's speech is available below). He encouraged the transatlantic community to share responsibility with North African states for addressing issues such as high unemployment and illiteracy, both of which create a fertile environment for the growth of extremism. The region's abundant natural resources have produced income, but not development, and exhorted the transatlantic community to build on successful initiatives such as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership to create a lasting institutional framework for cooperation in the region. When the conversation turned to a number of specific American and European initiatives, Volker warned that while cooperation is a paramount goal, it is easier said that done. He pointed to widely divergent EU and American trade policy as an area in which cooperation will be hard to foster. Generally, though, he rejected the notion that transatlantic priorities toward North Africa are so different as to preclude meaningful cooperation. He disagreed with the perception that American priorities in the region begin and end with counterterrorism, stressing that economic and political development in the region are equally important to stability.