For my parents, Europe was an ideal: it meant peace after the unspeakable death and destruction brought about by two World Wars. Europe was a dream, admittedly a minoritarian dream, whose power fostered the longest era of uninterrupted peace on the continent, first in Western Europe, then expanding eastwards after the end of the Cold War.
For me, Europe has been the opportunity of a lifetime: from the thrill of interrailing as a teenager, to my studies in the UK, my first job in Belgium, my wedding in Spain, up to the relief of not having to switch off data roaming every time my flight landed in the Union. For me, and for many, Europe has been a luxury.
In a recent speech in Hungary, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Europeans that using technology from Chinese telecommunications manufacturer Huawei could hurt their relationship with the United States. This warning follows a series of high-profile arm wrestling involving the U.S. government, Huawei, and countries like Canada and Australia. The Huawei saga has come to encapsulate a broader concern: Current efforts by Chinese state-led companies to access — and eventually dominate — global markets in key technologies, such as 5G or artificial intelligence, raise a number of privacy and competition-related questions. China’s disinterest in Western standards, coupled with lack of reciprocity and other barriers to foreign companies operating in the Chinese market, makes these challenges even more acute. As argued by other U.S. officials, the lack of a level playing field ultimately means that China could leverage global supply chains and infrastructure nodes and “game” the current international order against American power. In order to forestall this risk, the United States will need to work with allies. And the advanced economies of Western Europe and East Asia are particularly critical.
On Wednesday, Foreign Policy published a call for help written by the current Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. To make it short, his point is: Help: don’t let the Transitional Government go down; send us money so we can handle the situation.
The argument behind his call for action is Somalia could become the new safe haven for Al-Qaida and other international terrorists and that it’s not the time for the international community to change its policy toward Somalia.
But are there not other options for the international community? Besides ‘forgetting’ Somalia and pulling out like Omar Ali Sharmarke fears will happen, what else would be possible?
I think that the world has forgotten that two parts of Somalia are actually doing relatively well in comparison with Mogadishu and the center of the country: Somaliland and Puntland. These two de facto autonomous regions are currently not recognized by any government.
Would strengthening these two poles of peace and relative stability by establishing diplomatic contact and providing aid and investment help stabilize Somalia? For example, the US has taken the first step by inviting a Somaliland cabinet delegation to Washington earlier this year for talks, which were seen by some as de facto recognition.
On the other hand, international interference in Somaliland presidential elections almost derailed them with allegations of voter list tampering (see same article linked above).
Maybe a middle road of gently assisting the two regions, offering advice when asked, while recognizing their right to form their democracies on their own, is the proper one. Perhaps then Somalia will benefit from their experience. If not, the international community will be out of cards, and Somalia will be out of time.