Britain's Clegg urges 'new deal' in EU-north Africa ties

2nd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Deputy British premier Nick Clegg on Wednesday urged Europe to match the bravery of the Arab street with "a bold new" economic offer coupled with support for political pluralism.

In Brussels ahead of an extraordinary European Union summit next week to look at events in Libya and north Africa, Clegg said the talks should set a U-turn in policy to Europe's Mediterranean neighbours.

"Every day on our television screens, we are witnessing the courage of ordinary people taking to the streets to demand greater freedom," Clegg said in a keynote address.

"The countries of the European Union need to match their bravery and get behind this movement for change."

"They are creating a new world. We need a new response," he said.

Clegg met EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and was to hold talks with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso as Europe's leaders seek to put behind them a much-criticised era of propping up despots and turning a blind eye to rights abuse and corruption.

The EU only 20 years ago rushed to help eastern Europe shake off communism, said both Barroso and Clegg.

"It is clear," the British leader said, "that we are witnessing the biggest geopolitical events of the last decade".

"This is happening in our backyard," he added. "All of us need to step up to the plate."

© 2011 AFP

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