G-8 leaders announce aid package for Egypt, Tunisia

McClatchy NewspapersMay 27, 2011 

DEAUVILLE, France — President Barack Obama and the leaders of the world’s largest industrial democracies wrapped up a two-day summit here Friday by announcing a “Deauville Partnership” to help usher democracy into Egypt, Tunisia and the rest of North Africa.

“The changes under way in the Middle East and North Africa are historic and have the potential to open the door to the kind of transformation that occurred in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall,” the leaders said in a joint statement. “We stand ready to extend this long-term global Partnership to all countries of the region engaging in a transition towards free, democratic and tolerant societies.”

Signing the pledge were the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the new prime ministers of Egypt and Tunisia, the first countries to overthrow authoritarian governments and usher in the Arab Spring.

Also signing were representatives of the Arab League, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

White House aides said the formal partnership would seek two goals to help ensure that democracy takes hold: political reforms and economic growth.

The first will work with the countries toward “the fight against corruption and the strengthening of the institutions needed to ensure transparency and accountable government,” the White House said.

The second will support economic and social reforms “to create jobs and enshrine the fair rule of law.”

Obama and others fear that corruption and poverty, particularly unemployment among the young, could feed more unrest and endanger the fragile new democracies. They liken their efforts to help to those that helped countries emerge from Communism after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“In the short term, partnership countries will work to support economic stabilization to ensure that instability does not undermine the process of political reform,” the White House said.

Following on Obama’s pledge last week of $2 billion in U.S. aid, other G-8 members announced individual aid packages of varying amounts and duration. In addition, the multinational development banks of the World Bank system pledged up to $20 billion in aid over three years if certain conditions are met. The pact also urges the IMF to provide “the necessary financial support” to help the struggling countries more.

“We stand ready to help Partnership Countries meet their financing needs,” the joint declaration said.

It also recognized that other countries in the region can help. Qatar, for example, is reportedly talking with other oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia about a joint fund akin to one Europe set up at the end of the Cold War.

The pact also encouraged greater trade, both through bilateral and multi-lateral agreements.

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