Alfred Sant said it was an illusion to think that the Arab Spring was a fast track towards the adoption of ‘European’ values by Arab countries. “European” values, even the most fundamental one of human rights, cannot simply be exported. They can only be assimilated in a dialectical manner, subsumed and altered in the culture with which European values interact, and finally forged into a relatively homogenous model, not least as a result of the ongoing pressures of globalisation.

The Maltese Head of Delegation at the S&D Group at the European Parliament was addressing an activity in Valletta in honour of Ahmed Al Zenussi, who spent 31 years in prison after being accused of conspiracy to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in 1970. Sant said that quite rightly, many Arabs now consider European reactions to the Arab spring as partly hypocritical, because they were also defined not by the push of values but the tugs of interests.

The values that the spring asserted went beyond the values that too many people felt familiar with while running against interests, popular, traditional and elitist, that remained very powerful. Outside interference, some of it blatant, compounded the problem and has turned it into a crisis.

Freedom and new rights are very rarely attained through the intervention of foreign powers, overt or covert. They come from a courageous and potent declaration of values and rights being assumed by populations which seek redress from injustice and oppression.

That is the way by which the fundamental values of Europe were declared in the past. Even so, these declarations are not perfect and still need further development.’ Said Sant.

Dr. Sant thanked Al Zenussi for bringing his message of experience and hope to the Maltese people and described him ‘as a living witness of the ongoing process which will eventually promote the emergence of new generations of people committed to a scale of human rights which need not be eurocentrically determined.’

Al Zenussi was awarded The Shakarov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament.