IRI Hosts Conference Examining the Future of Political Parties and Islam in the Euro-Mediterranean

Exploring ground for further cooperation between the center-right political parties of the Atlantic community and moderate Muslim parties of the Euro-Mediterranean region, the International Republican Institute (IRI) played host to more than 20 senior political leaders from 21 countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and the United States and institutions of the European Union at a roundtable conference entitled, The Future of Political Parties and Islam in the Euro-Mediterranean, in Istanbul, Turkey, October 19-21, 2007.

“Individuals have a relationship to God but countries and states do not,” said Egemen Bagis, Deputy Chairman of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey, characterizing his party as “conservative democrats at the center of Turkish politics” rather than as “moderate Islamists.”

Wilfried Martens, president of the European People’s Party (EPP) and former prime minister of Belgium, explained the basics of the EPP’s principles, which were originally Christian Democratic but later came to form the basis for a broader family of conservative and reform-oriented parties in Europe.  Responding to his presentation, Mr. Aly Abuzaakuk from the Washington-based Center for Study of Islam and Democracy emphasized the remarkable similarities between the EPP’s principles based on the individual, that each person is unique and endowed with freedom, and similar principles to be found in the programs of the moderate Islamic parties throughout the region.

“One of the most important results of this seminar,” observed Abderrazak Makri, Vice President of the Movement for Peaceful Society in Algeria, “is that it has shown that we all have common interests and convictions.”  

The gathering also served as an opportunity to raise awareness among the leadership of European political parties and European Union institutions of the current political dynamics in several Muslim countries of the Mediterranean region.

Supported in part by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Constatinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy, Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies and the Eduardo Frei Foundation, the IRI roundtable also featured: Mohamed Auajjar, former Minister of Human Rights, Morocco; Ignacio Cosidó, Member of the Senate, Spain; Abdelkrim Dahmen, National Secretary in Charge of External Relations and Immigration, Movement for Peaceful Society, Algeria; Werner Fasslabend, President of the Political Academy of the Austrian People’s Party; Thierry Mariani, member of the National Assembly, Union for a Popular Movement, France; Nader El Nakib, Expatriate Outreach Director, Future Party, Lebanon; Jan Petersen, Deputy Chairman, International Democrat Union, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Conservative Party of Norway; Sylva van Rosse, Senior Advisor, Bureau for Integration, Christian Democratic Appeal, The Netherlands; Magda Said, Chair of the Secretariat of Social Development, Democratic Front Party, Egypt.

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