Bruxelles, 23 january 2013-Seminar on new economic opportunities in the "Arab Spring" countries

On 23rd January the Group of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament organised a seminar on asset recovery in the Arab Spring countries, taking the lead in the European Parliament on this issue. Participants included high-level representatives of the southern neighbours concerned, Switzerland and key EU and international players. The President of the S&D Group Hannes Swoboda, recalled the fact that it has already been over two years since the Arab Spring broke out and authoritarian regimes were overthrown by their people, willing to establish democracy and freedom in their countries. Nevertheless, the economic situation in Arab Spring transition countries continues to be fragile. According to her in those countries there is a widespread feeling that needs must be met, trust must be restored, accountability and justice must be ensured, including through asset recovery. The S&D vice-President for Foreign Affairs and vice-Chair of the European Parliament's Middle East Working Group, Mrs. VĂ©ronique De Keyser showed her confidence that this event will pave the way for further parliamentary initiatives, including a resolution on this topic in the coming weeks. The seminar was also attended by S&D Foreign Affairs Co-ordinator, Ana Gomes, who considers asset recovery as a matter of dignity, justice and economic necessity for Arab countries in political transition, since it is about something that has been stolen from the people. She is deeply convinced that asset recovery is first a question of political will, but that it also depends on technical capacities. For this reason, the EU should focus its efforts on mobilising expertise to cooperate with Arab partners, by helping transfer assets which have been frozen or hidden in EU member states and elsewhere. During the event it seemed clear that, although process of recovery is a bilateral issue, the countries involved have to deal with 27 different legal systems, which makes the procedure slow and complicated.