On November 19, 2020, the Bucharest-based think-tanks the Middle East Political and Economic Institute (MEPEI) and the EURISC Foundation organized the Webinar/ International Conference “Post-pandemic: A New Order or A New Chaos? The Middle East and North Africa Perspectives”. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 6th edition of this event, normally held in Bucharest every year, was moved on the online platforms, undergoing a digital transformation, as many of the events held in the last period.
Also, given the international health crisis and all the changes the international community goes through, the conference’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA)-oriented theme took into account the possible scenarios developed as a consequence of the current situation. Therefore, bringing together keynote speakers from Austria, China, Germany, Hungary, Lebanon, Iran, Italy, Malaysia, Morocco, Palestine, Romania, Russia, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey, the webinar created a channel of communication between diplomats, officials, academics, business leaders, politicians, as well as independent researchers, think-tank representatives, journalists, and other civil society representatives.
The event has a duration of approximately 8 hours, with over 140 attendees, from different corners of the world.
The MENA region is undergoing significant transformations, both as a continuation of underlying long-term economic, social, and political trends, but also as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The regional governance architecture, encompassing security, economics, and crisis management is facing unprecedented challenges but also opportunities. As such, in order to better accommodated the above-mentioned domains, the webinar was structured into three sessions:
Session I. “The Evolving Security Cooperation and Crisis Management in the MENA Region. Great Powers Competition.”
Session II. “The COVID-19 Pandemic: An uninvited Guest. MENA: Health Security and Financial Crises Challenges.”
Session III. “The Unpredictable International Security Environment: Unprecedented Challenges and Opportunities for a Regional Security Architecture. Resilience and Reconstruction of the MENA region.”
The key elements of the conference are as it follows:
- Opening remarks: Mr. Flavius CABA-MARIA, President, Middle East Political and Economic Institute, Bucharest, Romania.
- Session I. “The Evolving Security Cooperation and Crisis Management in the MENA Region. Great Powers Competition”, chaired by Dr. Liviu MUREȘAN, Executive President, EURISC Foundation, Bucharest, Romania.
During this session, the panelist approached topics like the impact of the Great Powers’ involvement in the region, and also the subjects of cooperation on which diverse actors with sometimes conflicting goals can agree.
The following speakers brought their contribution to the debate: Prof. Adrian SEVERIN, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Romania; HE Dr. Mostafa ZAHRANI, Adviser of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Director- General of Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), the Islamic Republic of Iran; HE Mr. Werner FASSLABEND, President, the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES), President EuroDefense Austria, and former Minister of Defense of Austria (1990- 2000), Austria; Dr. Basam ABOABDOLAH, Head of the Center for Strategic Studies and Adviser to the Syrian Information Minister, the Syrian Arab Republic; Prof. Svyatoslav A. TIMASHEV, The Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia; Dr. Qin TIAN, Assistant Director of Institute of Middle East Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), the People’s Republic of China; Prof. Kayhan BARZEGAR, Director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies, Tehran; Professor at the Islamic Azad University / Tehran, and Fellow Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, the Islamic Republic of Iran; Dr. Germano DOTTORI, Scientific Advisor of Limes, Italian Review of Geopolitics, Italy; Prof. El Mostafa REZRAZI, International Expert in Crisis Management and Violent Extremism, Senior Fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, President of the Moroccan Observatory on Extremism and Violence, Professor of Crisis Management at the University Mohammed VI Polytechnic, the Kingdom of Morocco; Prof. Hassan AHMADIAN, University of Tehran, the Islamic Republic of Iran; Prof. Erzsébet N. RÓZSA, Professor, National University of Public Service and the Institute of World Economy, Hungary; Dr. Saban KARDAS, Associate Prof. Department of Political Science and International Relations, TOBB University of Economics and Technology, Ankara, the Republic of Turkey; Dr. Corneliu PIVARIU, security and international relations senior expert, Romania; and Dr. Amir Cyrus RAZZAGHI, International Economic Affairs, CEO Ara Enterprise, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
- Session II. “The COVID-19 Pandemic: An uninvited Guest. MENA: Health Security and Financial Crises Challenges”, chaired by Prof. Kayhan BARZEGAR, and by Mr. Iulian MAREȘ, Strategic Analyst, MEPEI, Bucharest, Romania.
This session emphasized topics like the significant global impact of the health crisis in MENA and its local economic impact, and indirectly, the impact on key trading partners, debating the prospects of recovery, the development of the regional financial system, with a possible alternative financial framework for trade and investment. It also included elements regarding a new development model for the region with ideas on how to create inclusive growth for all of its population.
The speakers who contributed to the mentioned topics are the following: General Dr. Florin PAUL, epidemiologist, former head of medical branch UNAVEM III, Iraqi Freedom Mission, AMISOM, UNIFIL, EUCAP-Niger, Romania; Dr. Alibeman Eghbali ZARCH, Senior Expert, Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), the Islamic Republic of Iran; Prof. Radu MUȘETESCU, Director of International Economic Relations at MEPEI, and Director of the Department of International Business and Economics, Bucharest University of Economic Studies (ASE), Romania; Dr. YAO JINXIANG, Assistant Research Fellow, Department for Developing Countries Studies, China Institute of International, the People’s Republic of China; Mrs. Yeşim TIRPAN, Leiden University, Holland / Turkey; and Dr. Alexandru GEORGESCU, Strategic Analyst, EURISC Foundation, Romania.
- Session III. “The Unpredictable International Security Environment: Unprecedented Challenges and Opportunities for a Regional Security Architecture. Resilience and Reconstruction of the MENA region”, chaired by Mr. Flavius CABA-MARIA, and by Dr. Liviu MUREȘAN.
The third session focused on elements regarding the rebuilding of key areas and the establishment of a security architecture that could generate the premises for long-term stability and growth in the face of challenges, with the need to develop resilience for an unpredictable security environment and develop the tools and partnerships that will ensure future safety, security, and prosperity.
As such, the following experts made sure to bring their inputs: HE Mr. Viorel ISTICIOAIA-BUDURA, Former Ambassador of Romania to People’s Republic of China, Former Head of the European Union delegation to Japan, Managing Director, Head of Asia and Pacific Department, European External Action Service, Romania; Dr. Ralph D. THIELE, Chairman, The Institute for strategic, political, security and economic consultancy, President EuroDefense Germany, and CEO StratByrd Consulting, Germany; Prof. Nasser HADIAN, Professor of Political Science, the University of Tehran, the Islamic Republic of Iran; Dr. Wael Al-BATTREKHI, Minister Counsellor, Deputy Chief of the Mission, Embassy of the State of Palestine to Romania; Mr. Li ZIXIN, Assistant Research Fellow, Department for Developing Countries Studies, China Institute of International, the People’s Republic of China; Prof. Davood KIANI, the Islamic Azad University, Vice President at the Institute of Iran and Eurasia Studies (IRAS), the Islamic Republic of Iran; Mr. Emiliano STORNELLI, Charmain and Founder, the Religion and Security Council, Rome, Italy; Dr. Abdul Halim FADLALLAH, Chairman, the Consultative Center for Studies and Documentation, the Lebanese Republic; Dr. Ghazi Ben AHMED, Chairman of the Board, the Mediterranean Development Initiative; Senior Expert International Economics, the Republic of Tunisia; Prof. Ecaterina MAȚOI, Program Director at MEPEI, Lecturer at the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Department of Basel University, Switzerland and at the National Defense University of Romania, Romania; and Mr. Andrin Jerome Nevis RAJ, Director, the Nordic Counter Terrorism Network, Helsinki, Finland; the Southeast Asia Regional Director, the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals – Center for Security Studies, Kuala LUMPUR, Malaysia.
After these main topics, every session was concluded with a Q&A part. The seminar concluded with a short recap by Mr. Flavius CABA-MARIA and Dr. Liviu MUREŞAN.