Reflections On The Mediterranean Region – Analysis

The Mediterranean region in question

The Mediterranean is etymologically the “sea in the middle of the land“. (1) The Romans called it Mare Magnum (‘Great Sea’) or Mare Internum (‘Internal Sea’) and, starting with the Roman Empire, Mare Nostrum (‘Our Sea’). The term Mare Mediterrāneum appears later in the work of Gaius Julius Solinus in the 3rd century, (2) but the earliest extant witness to it is in the 6th century, in Isidore of Seville. (3)

The original meaning of the name seems to have been the sea in the middle of the earth rather than the sea enclosed by land—as stated by Isidore of Seville (circa 560-636), Spanish archbishop and Doctor of the Church, in Originum sive Etymologiarum (The Origins or Etymologies): (4)

‘’The Mediterranean Sea (De mediterraneo mari) The Great Sea is the one that flows from the Ocean out of the west, turns to the south, and finally stretches to the north. It is called ‘great’ because the other seas are smaller in comparison with it. This is also called the Mediterranean because it flows through the ‘middle of the land’ (media terrae) all the way to the East, separating Europe, Africa, and Asia.’’

It is a semi-enclosed sea, which communicates with the Atlantic Ocean via the Strait of Gibraltar and, since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, with the Red Sea. It also establishes communication with the Black Sea through the Strait of Bosporus. However, its geographical position makes it in contact with Eurasia and Africa, it is at the same time a complex space of meetings, curiosities, confrontations, and all kinds of differences that are religious, cultural, ideological, material, without forgetting economic.

The region generates flows between centers and peripheries, and this modifies the Mediterranean spaces and landscapes. Its two shores are united by intense flows but there are differences that oppose them, and in spite of these difficulties, the shores are constantly and diligently trying to “get closer”. (5)

The Mediterranean is an original and unique ecoregion because of its geographical and historical specificities, its cultural heritage, and the common feeling of belonging of its populations to the “Mediterranean world“.

With its 46,000 km of coastline, the Mediterranean is the largest semi-enclosed sea in the world. It extends over 24 countries and territories in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. As a natural and strategic region, it plays a fundamental role in the development of the territories surrounding it.

The Mediterranean stretches from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Suez Canal. This basin contains some of the most fertile, beautiful, and, consequently, coveted lands on the planet. Its historical, and cultural heritage is rich, varied, and internationally renowned. It was around the Mediterranean that man invented animal husbandry and agriculture: The Neolithic revolution on which the incredible development of human societies is based.

The Mediterranean space is defined by the almost closed inland sea (to the East by the Isthmus of Suez, to the West by the Strait of Gibraltar) bordered by European, African, and Asian territories. According to a strict definition, this space corresponds to the sea itself and the shores subject to the climate of the same name.

Most of these coastal areas are partitioned (the Pyrenees between France and Spain, the Alps between Italy and France, the Balkans, the Atlas, and the Taurus Mountains in the south of Turkey), coastal plains are rare, and islands numerous (Cyprus, Sardinia, Sicily, Malta). The land relations being difficult, the sea gives its unity to the Mediterranean area and integrates the countries that border it. It is one of the major North-South interfaces of the planet. Inequalities are important, at all scales, and they generate exchanges between the facades. (6)

Renowned for the splendor of its nature, it enjoys a mild and temperate climate and is one of the most populated and developed regions in the world. The 500 million people who live there influence the ecological balance of the region.

The Mediterranean Sea is home to more than 10,000 species, including 4 to 18%, depending on the taxon, of the species known to date (a quarter of which are unique to the region), even though this sea represents only 1% of the world’s waters.

The Mediterranean region refers to the Mediterranean geo-cultural area and the set of countries that border the Mediterranean Sea: the islands of Cyprus, Crete and Rhodes, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, and the Balearic Islands; the following countries: France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Spain, to which we can add Gibraltar and Palestine (West Bank, Gaza Strip). (7)

Cradle of great civilizations

A rich and contrasted historical and religious heritage The Mediterranean world is anciently populated (Mycenaeans, 12 000 BC). It was the Greeks and then the Romans who gave the Mediterranean basin its first unity: The Greeks through the massive colonization of the shores, the Romans through their military conquests. The development of plains, mountains, and forests, the development of cities, and trade are the first common features of Mediterranean civilization. The Mediterranean world is the cradle of monotheism: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity which is divided between Catholics and Orthodox. (8)

On the long history of the Mediterranean region, Gülsün Sağlamer writes: (9)

‘’The Mediterranean Basin has been the cradle of world civilization since the first settlements in Jericho in 9000 BC. Known in English and the romance languages as the sea “between the lands”, the Mediterranean goes and has gone by many names: Our Sea, for the Romans, the White Sea (Akdeniz) for the Turks, the Great Sea (Yam Gadol) for the Jews, the Middle Sea (Mittelmeer) for the Germans and more doubtfully the Great Green for the ancient Egyptians.1 Our Sea played a major role in the communication of the peoples around it and prevented clashes between people with different interests from different parts of the Basin. No other such basin exists in the world. The world map shows what a unique location the Mediterranean Sea has in the world — it is big enough to house all of us but at the same time, with its unique shape, with its islands, bays and straits, it creates the means to connect the people around it. It looks as if it is a closed sea, but it offers the main transportation routes between east and west. The Mediterranean Sea is a symbol of creativity, of the search for the meaning of life and for wisdom, and of the love of people and nature. This sea has always been an environment that has bred outstanding people who have made remarkable contributions to the development of history in philosophy, art, music, literature, science and technology. Magnificent civilizations have scattered all around the Basin, from east to west, from north to south, from Mesopotamia to Egypt, from Anatolia, Troy to Macedonia, from the Greek city states to Phoenician civilization, from Carthage to Rome, from Baghdad to Al-Andalus, from Byzantium to the Ottoman Empire and from Alexandria to Bologna, and have formed a sound base for world civilizations. One cannot imagine a history of the world without the Egyptian, Hellenistic, Roman and Ottoman civilizations.’’

The Mediterranean region, the cradle of great civilizations and of the three monotheistic religions, (10) is the witness of several realities: the socio-economic interdependence between developed and developing countries, the major weight of religious pretexts and ethnicity in conflicts, the play of alliances and the geostrategic dynamics of natural resources. The Mediterranean also shows great margins for progress and growth: the “Arab Spring” in the South and the sovereign debt crisis in the North are illustrations of this.

Marked by demographic, cultural, and economic heterogeneity, the Mediterranean basin remains the bearer of both a common ideal and the fear of the other. The strong moments of the Mediterranean community, with variable contours according to the ages (Greek, Roman, Berber, Arab or Ottoman Empires for example), have left traces in science, urbanization, and the art of living.

Faced with the gap between the different shores and the absence of a geopolitical dynamic exclusive to the region, new initiatives have been launched, such as the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). (11) This more than half-hearted evolution should not lead to unbridled skepticism. Economic convergence and the renewed vitality of civil societies could give substance to a Mediterranean community of peoples.

The Mediterranean is no longer at the center of the world. Like the three continents that border it (Europe, Africa, and Asia), it is affected by the geographical shift of the world’s geopolitical and geo-economic center of gravity towards South and East Asia. This strategic marginalization could mean the dawn of a peaceful era, with the tensions linked to the concentration of global issues gradually moving away to the East. Nevertheless, the Mediterranean basin concentrates in its limited space all the issues and challenges of globalization and is confronted with all the risks that result from it.

A fragile common space, the Mediterranean Sea is also one of the world’s main trade routes, (12) with veritable energy and economic umbilical cord between the East and the West, and societal balances that are very precarious. Preserving this living space, made particularly fragile by its small size, while allowing everyone to make a living from it, is the dilemma faced by the twenty-three or so states bordering it.

It is a region that is a more permeable area than any other border space, due to its physical organization, the Mediterranean rim is particularly sensitive to the contaminating effects of crises. It is also a zone of friction between rich and poor, between an Africa in the full demographic boom, an Arab world under tension, and a Europe torn between openness and protectionism. Also, the chronic instability in the Eastern Mediterranean, the political and social fever of North African societies, and the risk of South/North migration are all reasons for vigilance, as is the indispensable preservation of the common environment: The Mediterranean Sea takes a hundred years to regenerate.

There are many declared or potential crisis areas. For nearly thirty years, the Mediterranean basin has been experiencing a crisis cycle that has progressively affected, directly or indirectly, a majority of its neighbors. The wars in the Balkans and their painful end, the civil war that ravaged Algeria in the last decade of the twentieth century, the proxy wars underway in the Levant, and the aftermath of the “Arab springs”, particularly in Libya and Syria, have been both metastases of more distant and deeper crises and laboratories for the balance of power in which the new balance of global and regional powers is played out. (13)

According to Dimitris K. Xenakis and Dimitris N. Chryssochoou: (14)

‘’Throughout history, the Mediterranean has been as much a laboratory for the cross-fertilisation of diverse cultures as it has been a place of open and protracted conflicts. Being a heterogeneous synthesis of various religious and ethnic groups — along the lines of a ‘heter-archy’ — as well as of unequal economic development, a plurality of political regimes, divergent perceptions of security (threats), and uneven demographic growth, Mediterranean complexity occupies a prominent position between order and disorder.’’

One of the challenges for the riparian countries, Europe and France is to re-appropriate the management of these crises, by refusing to be dispossessed and used by external interests. The creation of a local multilateralism, probably sub-regional as the eastern and western basins of the Mediterranean are so different, is probably an avenue to explore. The regional interest militates for a return to stability through dialogue and cooperation. From this point of view, the best asset of Europe and France is to be able to talk with everyone without taboos and to act as a credible and legitimate intermediary in the region. This is all the more important at a time when Donald Trump’s the United States was turning up the heat on Iran, threatening to ignite a conflict that could easily impact the security of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

Geography and demography

The geographical specificities (climate, soils, fragmented relief, border between the tropical and temperate zones) and historical specificities of the Mediterranean region make it one of the most original biogeographical regions in the world from the point of view of biological diversity, but also one of the threatened. (15)

The Mediterranean is the only sea in the world to have given its name to a regional climatic unit. There is no such thing as a Caribbean climate or an Indian Ocean climate. I would like to emphasize this singularity because it is an absolutely structuring factor, a unifying factor with the exception of mountainous regions. The Mediterranean climate is characterized by the fact that the maximum temperatures correspond to the minimum rainfall. This means that summers are dry, winters and autumns rainy with very concentrated precipitation. The duration of sunshine per year varies from 2,400 to 3,500 hours against, for example, 1,630 in Paris and 1970 in the French national average. Water is therefore an important issue, an issue at risk.

Mediterranean agriculture is schematically characterized by two types of agricultural practices: dry and irrigated. Thus, the Spanish make a clear distinction between “secano“, and “regadío“. In addition to its cultural aspects, we can also mention the agricultural competition between the regions of the “north” and those of the “south”, the latter having an advantage of a few weeks over those of the north. That is to say that their productions arrive at maturity a few weeks earlier, with all the questions that this raises and that the specialists know well.

The summer drought is accentuated by a strong irregularity of precipitation and aridity in the south, which are likely to increase with global warming. This is a major constraint for vegetation, agriculture, and societies, which explains the fundamental importance of water for the entire region and the magnitude of the efforts devoted by successive generations to its storage, transport, and use. The Mediterranean countries comprise 7% of the world population but only 3% of the world’s water resources and more than half of the world’s “water-poor” population, i.e. with less than 1,000 m3 of renewable natural water resources per capita per year. (16)

One speaks readily of the sea. This is to forget that this space is rather like an extremely articulated body of water. 4000 kilometers separate Gibraltar from Beirut; the North-South distance does not exceed 800 km (Genoa in Italy/Bizerte in Tunisia). Between these extreme points, a system of peninsulas, capes, major islands, and minor islands, which generates 46,000 kilometers of coastline. Thus the Mediterranean riparians, when they sail, are never more than 350 kilometers from a coast. This is the reason why, since the beginning of time, man has been able to navigate on this body of water, in a more or less risky form of coastal navigation, since there is always the possibility of finding harbors.

Another singularity: The Mediterranean is an almost closed sea. In the East, at the Bosphorus Strait, the width between the two shores is about one kilometer; in the West, on the Gibraltar side, it varies, depending on the place, between 13 and 39 kilometers. As for the Suez Canal, which connects this area to the Red Sea, it is 60 meters wide, with a draft of 16 meters over 16 km long. What can we deduce from this? That this sea renews itself very slowly. However, the Mediterranean climate being hot and dry, the rainfall and the river contribution, especially from the Black Sea, are not enough to offset evaporation. In other words, the level of this sea would fall if there was no Atlantic contribution. The Atlantic contribution is 70,000 cubic meters per second, which means that it takes 90 years to renew all the water in the basin. This singularity explains why this sea is particularly sensitive to pollution problems.

Currently, there are a little more than 500 million inhabitants in this region of the world, the figure may vary depending on the limits given to this space. By 2025, according to Plan Bleu estimates, (17) the population will be 523 million, with an inverted north-south distribution. In 1950, 60% of the inhabitants lived on the northern shores of the Mediterranean, 40% in the south. In 2025, due to the shifts in population growth, we should see a demographic reversal, with the southern shores hosting 60% of the population against 40% in the north. But let’s put a stop to fantasies of migratory invasion: the demographic transition has taken place in all the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, as far as Iran. The only exception is Gaza, where there is a high fertility rate inspired by patriotism. (18)

The Mediterranean is facing the phenomenon of people residing on the coast. In the North as well as in the South, populations are crowding into overcrowded metropolises. In the North, 75 million people live in cities; in the South, 85 million.

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 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, (19) 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 for 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. (20)

Nevertheless, many Euro-Mediterranean schemes of cooperation have been duly constructed:

– The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP), known as the Barcelona Process; (21)

– The European Neighborhood Policy; (22)

– 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. (23)

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. (24)

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. (25)

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. (26)

On the definition of the Euro-Mediterranean region, Armando Montanari writes: (27)

‘’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, (28) 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. (29)

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. (30)

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? By the fact that the southern regions of Europe – Andalusia, Sicily, or 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. (31)

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- (32) 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…? (33) Is the eastern part of the Mediterranean not an “Arc of crises“, and a seismic zone par excellence? (34)

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. (35)

On the question of human development in the southern Mediterranean, Josep Maria Jordán writes: (36)

‘’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? (37)

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. (38)

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. (39) 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. (40)

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