The history of the Mediterranean basin
The history of the Mediterranean basin is a history of exchanges and conflicts, that of a “crossroads of civilizations.’’ After having had major historical importance, the Mediterranean region seems marginalized. Its economic role has largely declined and the attention of European countries has been diverted. However, the challenges are numerous.
Because they share a common geography, the countries of the Mediterranean rim have an equally important concern for water management and the environment in general. Because they are close and because their level of development is dissimilar, they must work together on migration issues, [i]educational exchanges, and official development assistance.
Because energy has become a priority issue, oil and gas importing countries want to get closer to Mediterranean countries that have significant resources.
Finally, the Mediterranean is the scene of old and hard conflicts, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and instability in Lebanon: its pacification and development are therefore strategic issues. In this context, the riparian countries cannot ignore each other: the interdependencies are too strong. It is this observation that led to the first steps of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.
The history of the Mediterranean returns us to the image of a basin of exchange, immense resources of contact and development. We think successively of the manga Grecia of the VIII to the IV centuries before J-C, when Sicily, the Ionian regions, and Turkey shared the same language and the same culture; to the Mare Nostrum of the Romans, which allowed the biggest and the largest and strongest empire in the Western world to develop exchanges, conflicts and to the Arab expansion in Spain, France, and Italy, which left many traces in the cultures and societies of these countries, to the Byzantine expansion.
In the more recent past, the Mediterranean was offered as a vast construction site for the Republic of Venice, Pisa, Barcelona, Genoa, and Sardinia, allowing them to connect, through commercial expeditions, to regions like Flanders and Africa.
On the other hand, during the XXth century, the Mediterranean has been in the center of the attention of most negative episodes of violence, among which colonialism, ideological conflicts, political conflicts, and ethnic tensions, which have gradually reinforced an image of a “separatist” region as opposed to the image that once made the Mediterranean the sea of unification.
The Mediterranean region today
The Mediterranean is considered today as a vast frontier of distant worlds between which there are still links, but they are unbalanced and looked at with mistrust, whether it is a question of commercial relations or migratory flows. [ii]
Nevertheless, many Euro-Mediterranean schemes of cooperation have been duly constructed:
– The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP), known as the Barcelona Process; [iii]
– The European Neighborhood Policy; [iv]
– The policy of enlargement of the Union towards candidate countries such as Croatia and Turkey;
– The stabilization process in the Balkans;
– The association agreements with the states on the southern shore of the Mediterranean;
– The Customs Union with Turkey;
– The participation of certain Mediterranean states in community programs such as Erasmus Mundus in the field of higher education or the Framework Program for Research and Technological Development (FP7) the Framework Program for Research and Technological Development (FPRTD); and
– The 5+5 dialogue between the Mediterranean countries of the EU and the Maghreb countries. [v]
The Barcelona Process has made it possible to formalize relations between the European Union and Mediterranean neighbors since its launch in 1995. It brings together all 27 Member States and 10 Mediterranean countries (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Palestinian Authority). Albania, Iraq, and Mauritania have applied for membership while Libya and the Arab League have observer status. [vi]
The Barcelona Process was intended to be ambitious: its objective was to create an area of stability and peace that respects human rights, to develop cultural exchanges to promote dialogue and mutual understanding, and to develop economic and financial relations, notably through the establishment of a free trade area by 2010. [vii]
However, it is clear that the Barcelona Process has produced few results: the development gaps have not been substantially reduced, the Mediterranean countries outside the EU continue to suffer from a low attractiveness for investors, and little progress has been made in the free trade area in 2010 seems out of reach, little progress has been made in terms of peace and political stability, the southern states have made little effort to come together and overcome their rivalries, and cultural and academic initiatives have not prevented the stigmatization of Arab countries and Islam following the terrorist attacks of the 2000s. The method has also been criticized for the lack of involvement of populations, the absence of a permanent secretariat, and the North-South imbalance. [viii]
On the definition of the Euro-Mediterranean region, Armando Montanari writes: [ix]
‘’The Euro-Mediterranean region includes all EU and non-EU countries looking onto the Mediterranean Sea. The actual Mediterranean area is that comprising countries looking directly onto the Mediterranean, on both the southern and northern shores. This area has a precise geographical and historical significance, being a hub of cultural, social and economic exchanges that have developed over the millennia. The Mediterranean region thus defined no longer exists as a geopolitical dimension, as it now constitutes a common area for both countries looking onto the Mediterranean and all other EU countries. It is in this macro area that most human mobility flows (tourism and migration), cultural exchanges, international trade and economic transitions now occur. It is a pole of attraction for all Europeans thanks to its rich and varied historical and environmental features, with three continents – Europe, Africa and Asia – having coastlines looking onto this Sea. ‘’
The European Neighbourhood Policy, [x] for its part, has encouraged the development of bilateral cooperation between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbors, particularly in areas of energy, immigration, and security. However, this development of bilateral relations makes regional integration more difficult, as each country seeks to build a privileged relationship with the EU. In this context, a revival of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation was necessary. The difficulty lay in defining the framework and scope of this revival. This is the difficulty that the French Mediterranean Union project came up against. [xi]
Noting the inadequacies of existing cooperation mechanisms, French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the creation of a “Union for the Mediterranean”. The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), whose official name is “Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean”, is an international intergovernmental organization with a regional vocation. It was founded at the initiative of the President of the French Republic Nicolas Sarkozy on July 13, 2008, as part of the French presidency of the European Union.
It brings together states bordering the Mediterranean Sea and all member states of the European Union. It has 44 members: the 27 members of the EU, Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, and Mauritania, Monaco, Montenegro, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and the Arab League.
This format was to allow the association of Mediterranean countries in the framework of concrete projects around a few consensual themes:
– The environment and water management: de-pollution of the Mediterranean, development of access to drinking water, recharging of groundwater and improvement of irrigation systems, protection of fisheries resources, preservation of the coastline, and exploitation of solar energy;
– Exchange of knowledge: the creation of a Mediterranean scientific space, strengthening of university exchanges, the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean University Institute, and the development of audio-visual cooperation;
– Economic development: agricultural projects, creation of a group bringing together institutional donors likely to finance the Mediterranean Union’s projects, creation of a Euro-Mediterranean Union projects, creation of a financial institution capable of better managing migrants’ savings and facilitating access to financing for SMEs; and
– Security and management of migratory flows.
The Union for the Mediterranean is therefore intended to extend the Barcelona process by giving it a new impetus. The break with the current inefficiencies will depend on the ability to launch clear projects with substantial funding and strong political support. However, there is no guarantee that the Union for the Mediterranean, which will potentially have 43 members, will do better than the Barcelona Process on these points. But it remains a necessity to give a long-term impetus to the Union for the Mediterranean. [xii]
North-South disparities in the Mediterranean
The inequalities between the north and south of the Mediterranean are much more marked than between Mexico and the United States. Gibraltar is only 13 km away from the Moroccan coast. Yet the gap between the standards of living, according to the different methods of calculation, is 1 to 13! How can this be explained? The fact that southern regions of Europe – Andalusia, Sicily, and Greece – have benefited greatly from the transfers linked to European construction. This has widened the gap between the two shores, whereas previously the standards of living between Sicily and Tunisia, Andalusia, and Morocco were more or less equivalent. Now there is not a gap but a real dropout. Not only have the disparities widened considerably, but the gaps have become wider than anywhere else. This is not an unknown fact: everyone knows it. Everyone knows that “the grass is greener” in the North. This is obviously a major factor of tension. [xiii]
Development levels remain very unequal among Mediterranean countries. This is underlined by the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which takes into account longevity (measured by the number of years of life), level of education (measured by literacy rate and combined primary, secondary and tertiary enrolment) and standard of living (measured by GDP per capita at purchasing power parity). The 27 EU countries and Israel perform much better than the other Mediterranean countries and rank among the 34 most developed countries in the world. THE HDI is a reminder of the efforts that still need to be made to provide the inhabitants of the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean with better living conditions.
How will the Union for the Mediterranean -UfM- [xiv] overcome its main obstacle, namely all these current or potential conflicts: Israeli-Palestinian, Syrian-Israeli, Algerian-Moroccan on the issue of Western Sahara, the Spanish-Moroccan issue of Ceuta and Melilla, Hispanic-British on the issue of Gibraltar, Turkish-Greek on the reunification of Cyprus, Lebanese-Lebanese…? [xv] Is the eastern part of the Mediterranean not an “Arc of crises“, and a seismic zone par excellence? [xvi]
And the United States of America in all this? Is the UfM an alternative to the Greater Middle East, whose fiasco we know?
In order for the UfM to be a project for the future, for this still embryonic project to be a common human space, so that it can change the course of a world increasingly threatened by regional conflicts and terrorism, so that it becomes an instrument of sustainable development and respectful of the environment, a tool for peace and harmony, it must be a project of Civilization. Much more than the emergence of a new economic exchange zone or a new geopolitical block, it is the birth or rather rebirth of a Mediterranean Civilization, that must be considered. [xvii]
On the question of human development in the southern Mediterranean, Josep Maria Jordán writes: [xviii]
‘’Given that the goal of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership is to achieve shared development throughout the region, we should ask ourselves what we mean by development. Undoubtedly, the academic community today has reached a fairly broad consensus on this concept, which goes beyond the concept of economic growth. According to J. E. Stigliz, A. Sen and J. P. Fitoussi (2013), Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a good measure for following the evolution of a country’s economic activity, but it is a very incomplete indicator of the levels of social progress. According to these authors, among the key facets of the welfare and quality of life of a country are the following: a) level of material life (income, consumption and wealth); b) health; c) education; d) personal activities (including work); e) the political voice and governance; f) social connections and relations; g) the environmental surroundings (present and future conditions); and h) physical and economic insecurity.’’
A deep resentment persists between the two shores, linked to the perception of a history that is both common and contradictory. In the UfM philosophy, there is an expressed demand for respect, support for democratic processes, and the transfer of knowledge.
Wealth, as measured by GDP per capita, reveals the gap between the countries of the Mediterranean basin. The north-western states (GDP/capita of over $20,000) are very rich countries. In the SEMCs, the values are less than half. However, this observation must be qualified.
In the North, apart from Greece, Slovenia, and Croatia, GDP/capita remains low throughout the Balkan peninsula. In the South, Israel appears as a rich enclave within much poorer states, even very poor ones such as the Palestinian Territories. For their part, Algeria and Libya benefit from hydrocarbon revenues.
However, we see that these differences reflect an unequal integration into economic globalization. Spain, France, Italy, and, to a lesser extent, Greece have adapted their economies to the demands of the European world market. In the SEMCs (System Marginal Energy Cost), while Morocco and Tunisia are sometimes regarded as new industrial countries, it is only in the case of Turkey, at the gates of the EU, that one can speak of relative industrial power. In the South, apart from Israel, intensive commercial agriculture is more sporadic: The Atlantic coast of Morocco, the region of Sfax, and Sousse in Tunisia…
But the maps also reveal the extent of the contrasts in development between the different shores of the Mediterranean. Significant differences, measured by indicators ranging from the HDI to the rate of cell phone equipment, are found in areas that are geographically very close.
In the South, from the Maghreb to Turkey, the lower HDI (between 0.6 and 0.8) is a reminder that economic progress has been offset by population growth. In the north-western part of the Mediterranean area, a small number of countries are among the developed countries with a very high standard of living: Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands,
The Mediterranean region is at the crossroads of three continents, it is also a North-South divide and an area of multiple exchanges, of strategic importance for the world. Because of its specificities – a development highly conditioned by its natural environment, bringing together countries with very different levels of economic and social development to share this common heritage – it perfectly illustrates the global issue of sustainable development. Will it be able to show the way to a more united, more balanced development, more respectful of the heritage to be passed on to future generations? Or, on the contrary, will it fall into a process of unequal and short-term development, wasting the resources it has inherited? [xix]
Depending on the case, it is destined to become an example of regional regulation of globalization or reinforce global instability. The 1989 Plan Bleu already showed the risks of a growing divide between the North and South of the basin and continuous and sometimes irreversible degradation of the environment, proposing orientations for a more environmentally friendly and equitable integration between development and environment, strengthening the capacities of States North-South and South-South
We are here in the very principles of sustainable development, whose notion has since gained ground, i.e. the search for a “mode of development that strives to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs”. Today, have these forward-looking visions been followed?
The interfaces are territories of exchange and human flows that are quite considerable. There are a hundred flights a day between French and Moroccan cities, in both directions. We have a real business here, with people traveling either for family, tourist or even professional reasons, the organization of conferences being easier in Morocco.
There are therefore institutions that interface between the North and the South. But at the same time, if there is an interface, the problems of integration remain. There is no real integration. There are several reasons for this. On the one hand, Egypt has turned its back on this region of the world; in this sense, it cannot be considered, from a geopolitical point of view, as a Mediterranean country. On the other hand, Libya is on its own. And the rest is blocked by the cold war between Morocco and Algeria. [xx]
One of the characteristics of North-South relations around this inland sea is that there is a sense that reconciliation processes are, at best, unfinished. In reality, many would say that they have not been completed. Dialogue is difficult and this situation has serious implications for many countries in the region. [xxi] Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case, whether we think of the relations between Algeria and Morocco, the situation – blocked – in the Middle East, or that between Greece and Turkey where military incidents between the navies occur every day. Certainly, between Italy and Libya, the climate has relaxed, with a substantial check in return. Pure Realpolitik. [xxii]
You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter: @Ayurinu
[ii] Montanari, Armando. “The Euro-Mediterranean region: human mobility and sustainable development”, Belgeo, 1 | 2021. http://journals.openedition.org/belgeo/49993; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/belgeo.49993
Summary: The Euro-Mediterranean region represents an area of possible collaboration, but also of possible conflict, between EU nations and countries in the Mediterranean region that are not EU members. The reasons for effective cooperation have been evident for decades and may be summarised as follows: increased trading and economic assistance in exchange for lasting peace. Over the years we have also begun to realize that the environment and cultural heritage of the Mediterranean need to be protected, also in the interest of EU countries with no direct access to the Mediterranean Sea. Covid-19 and the measures introduced to combat it are changing many of the ways our societies work. Human mobility, for example, in the form of migrant and tourist flows, is being transformed from a global phenomenon to a proximity relationship. The concept of proximity is still being defined. The Mediterranean may well be considered, in the near future, as an area of enhanced accessibility for all EU countries.
The Barcelona Process is a unique and ambitious initiative, which laid the foundations of a new regional relationship and which represents a turning point in Euro-Mediterranean relations.
In the Barcelona Declaration, the Euro-Mediterranean partners established the three main objectives of the Partnership:
– Definition of a common area of peace and stability through the reinforcement of political and security dialogue (Political and Security Basket);
– Construction of a zone of shared prosperity through an economic and financial partnership and the gradual establishment of a free-trade area (Economic and Financial Basket); and
– Rapprochement between peoples through a social, cultural, and human partnership aimed at encouraging understanding between cultures and exchanges between civil societies (Social, Cultural, and Human Basket).
Developed in 2004, the European Neighbourhood Policy’s (ENP) primary aim was to avoid the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged European Union and our neighbors and instead strengthen the prosperity, stability, and security of all.
Based on the values of democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights it was proposed to the 16 of the European Union’s closest neighbors – Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Ukraine.
The ENP is chiefly a bilateral policy between the European Union and each partner country. It is further enriched and complemented by regional and multilateral cooperation initiatives such as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EUROMED) (the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, formerly known as the Barcelona Process, re-launched in Paris in July 2008).
Within the ENP, the European Union offers our neighbors a privileged relationship, building upon a mutual commitment to common values (democracy and human rights, the rule of law, good governance, market economy principles, and sustainable development). The level of ambition of the relationship depends on the extent to which these values are shared. The ENP includes political association and deeper economic integration, increased mobility, and more people-to-people contacts.
In 2010-2011, the European Union reviewed the ENP and put a strong focus on the promotion of deep and sustainable democracy, accompanied by inclusive economic development. Deep and sustainable democracy includes in particular free and fair elections, freedom of expression, assembly, and association, judicial independence, a fight against corruption, and democratic control over the armed forces. The European Union also stressed the role of civil society in bringing about deep and sustainable democracy. The European Union unveiled the “more for more” principle, under which the European Union will develop stronger partnerships with those neighbors that make more progress towards democratic reform.
The 5+5 Dialogue serves as a sub-regional forum for the ten Western Mediterranean countries that take part since its creation, five from the north of the Mediterranean (Spain, France, Italy, Malta, and Portugal) and five from the southern shore (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, and Tunisia). It constituted one of the first prolific initiatives between Mediterranean countries and a prelude to the structures that were built with the Barcelona Process from 1995 onwards.
[vii] Holden, Patrick. ‘’The European Union’s Mediterranean Policy in Theory and Practice’’, Mediterranean Politics, 14:1, 2009, pp. 125-134. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13629390902747566
[viii] Ayoob, Mohammed. ‘’From Regional System to Regional Society: Exploring Key Variables in the Construction of Regional Order’’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol. 53, no.3, 1999, pp.247- 261.
[ix] Montanari, Armando. “The Euro-Mediterranean region: human mobility and sustainable development”, op. cit.
[x] European Commission. Southern Neighbourhood: EU proposes new Agenda for the Mediterranean, Press release 09/02/2021, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_426
[xi] Borrell J. (High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy), ‘’A new start for the Mediterranean’’, from the blog on 02/03/2021, https://eeas.europa.eu/diplomatic-network/union-mediterranean-ufm/946
[xii] Macron, E. ‘’Déclaration de M. Emmanuel Macron, président de la République, sur le Sommet des pays du sud de l’Union européenne’’, Ajaccio, 10/09/2020, https://www.vie-publique.fr/discours/276209-emmanuel-macron-10092020-france-pays-mediterraneens
[xiii] European Commission. ‘’Southern Neighbourhood: EU proposes new Agenda for the Mediterranean’’, Press release 09/02/2021, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_426
[xiv] Pironet, Oliver. ‘’ Le « machin » méditerranéen’’, Le Monde diplomatique, February-March 2022. https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/mav/181/PIRONET/64313
It was intended to be the cornerstone of political cooperation in the Mare Nostrum basin, a tool for North-South dialogue and a means of strengthening, among other things, the development of Maghreb countries, but it is more like an empty shell… The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) has never achieved the objectives it set for itself, and the results of the intergovernmental organization are even inversely proportional to the hopes it raised at the time of its creation. Launched with pomp and circumstance in July 2008 in Paris by President Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012), who brought together for the occasion many Arab heads of state, including Bashar Al-Assad, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the Emir of Qatar Hamad Ben Khalifa Al-Thani, etc, The UfM’s goal was to build “an area of peace and stability on both shores of the Mediterranean,” inspired by the European community architecture. It was intended to give new impetus to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership (or Barcelona Process) between the European Union and the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean, which had been weakened by regional crises.
Abstract: The emerging literature on ‘anchoring’ draws attention to non-conventional benefits of regional integration arrangements, which include increased policy credibility. Nevertheless, this literature tends to view the anchoring of policy reform as an exogenously given option for a reforming country. We demonstrate that anchoring is an endogenously determined choice, which may guarantee neither optimal levels of policy reform nor effective anchoring unless the relevant contracts are both complete and incentive compatible. We examine the economic pillar of the Euro-Med Partnership (EMP) to ascertain the extent to which its contractual provisions satisfy these conditions. Our findings suggest that the EMP leaves too much room for discretion and does not internalize the positive externalities associated with policy reform. These findings enable us to elaborate on why the EU cannot be expected to function as an effective anchor for policy reform for its trading partners.
[xvi] Aliboni, Roberto & Fouad M. Ammor (2009). ‘’Under the Shadow of Barcelona: From the EMP to the Union for the Mediterranean’’, EuroMeSCo Paper 77, January 2009
[xvii] De Ville, Ferdi, et Vicky Reynaert. « The Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area: an Evaluation on the Eve of the (Missed) Deadline », L’Europe en Formation, vol. 356, no. 2, 2010, pp. 193-206.
[xviii] Jordan, Josep Maria. ‘’The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the Challenge of Development’’, IEMed,
QUADERNS DE LA MEDITERRÀNIA 22. https://www.iemed.org/publication/the-euro-mediterranean-partnership-and-the-challenge-of-development/
[xix] Nabli, Béligh. Géopolitique de la Méditerranée. Paris: Armand Colin, 2015.
A common sea since Roman antiquity, the Mediterranean is the cradle of Western culture and of the three great monotheistic religions. It is now, and above all, both an area of conflict (migration, religions, territories), but also of cooperation (energy, transport). Globalization is summarized there for better or worse and Europe is playing a part in its future. From the origins to recent political developments, this book invites us to rethink cooperation between the North and the South of the Mediterranean basin around an integrating project that should have an assumed political dimension, in line with the democratic aspirations of the Arab peoples.
[xx] European Institute for Research on the Mediterranean and Euro-Arab Cooperation with the Support of the European Commission (2003). Cooperation Initiatives in the Mediterranean. Brussels, June 2003. http://www.medea.be/index.html?page=&lang=en&doc=889&highlight=security
[xxi] Calleya, Stephen C. Evaluating Euro-Mediterranean Relations. London: Routledge, 2005.
Book Description: What are the prospects for the future of the Euro-Mediterranean area and what relevant role can the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) play in the future? After decades of a Mediterranean policy that was actually more focused on improving economic relations between Europe and the Mediterranean riparian states than anything else, the EU launched a more comprehensive Mediterranean policy in November 1995, the so-called Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) that also embraced political and security relations and socio-cultural relations. As the tenth anniversary of this partnership approaches, this book discusses measures that could help transform this multilateral initiative from a boundary management exercise to a process that focuses more on encouraging boundary transformation. Euro-Mediterranean initiatives that are in the pipeline, such as the enhanced political dialogue, the Charter for Peace and Stability, the creation of a free trade area, and justice and home affairs cooperation, are also discussed.
[xxii] Gomez, Ricardo. Negotiating the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Strategic Action in EU Foreign Policy? London: Routledge., 2003.
Abstract: This title was first published in 2003. In this study, Ricardo Gomez traces the origins of the external Mediterranean policy of the European Union (EU) and examines in detail the negotiations that shaped the policy and its impact. Combining historical analysis with case studies of the Euro-Med partnership initiative, EU policy on Algeria, and the EU’s involvement in the Middle East peace process, he covers a diverse array of issues that will appeal to scholars across a variety of sub-disciplines of political science and international relations.