Has the “Arab Spring” reached Europe?

The “Arab Spring” which has swept over the Middle East was received by surprise around the world. No one was sure what forces stood behind the various organizations and groups, which brought about far reaching changes in various countries, each in a different way. Only in retrospect, it is quite clear that the conditions and settings of these upheavals in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, and other locations could only result in the socio-political “tsunami” that we are witnessing.

The challenging results of the “Arab Spring” can teach us about the current events in Greece. The referendum in Greece could inspire such a dubious kind of spring in Europe. It can provide various lessons which have implications for other states with similar characteristics in so-called classical Europe – Spain, Portugal, and even Italy. Furthermore, Baltic states face a similar threat as that which has loomed over Georgia and the Ukraine, as the governmental and economic stability of several European countries is being called into question. There can be no doubt that Europe displays very different attributes and public behavior than societies of the Middle East, however, the rioting and violence we see in various European societies, such as in Scotland, Catalonia, Belgium, can potentially have far-reaching implications on government stability.

Since the world is busy putting out fires, it appears that there is no guiding strategy towards a functioning global reality. In addition to changes already taking place in various European countries through democratic means, there is underlying social unrest, as various social groups and minority are organizing and posing a threat on the existing political order.

There is a sense that the various countries are engaging in an “ostrich policy” of digging one’s head in the sand, attempting immediate solutions to immediate problems, without providing any clear or decisive horizon. The world seemed reluctant to take firm and determined policy decisions. Furthermore, there is a lack of unity to take such decisions which will change the world’s direction, not on the present and not on the future ever changing before our eyes. It is impossible to ignore the fact that when tested global decision-making reveals hesitation and unwillingness to take far-reaching decisions in the face of significant challenges. The phenomenon of running away from problems that may boomerang upon us, creating a far more difficult situation.

We see several forces of de-stabilization on numerous fronts, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the conflict in Georgia, North Korea’s threatening strategic stance towards its neighbors, the horrors of Islamic State, and Iran’s various destructive policies. The free world is not facing these issues resolutely, but illustrating a lack of leadership, a loss of power , and loss of the ability to take far-reaching decisions, while surrendering to pressures of majority or minority public opinion, without taking into account real strategic needs. The questionable success of international institutions which were established to protect human rights and enable peaceful social existence, poses serious questions about the logic and structure of such organizations, which must be adapted to the new reality of the 21st century.

The referendum in Greece should set off alarms around the world. It is time to formulate real solutions and facilitate changes required in various global structures and organizations intended to maintain world peace, as none of these organizations have succeed in this task. If the world does not wake up soon, our immediate peaceful existence is indeed in danger.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center