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The Fruits of Mediterranean Dysfunction

The Fruits of Mediterranean Dysfunction

Long op-ed in La Repubblica yesterday about the failure of Europe to resolve its Mediterranean question, defined as a lack of economic integration, the ongoing immigration crisis, corruption and environmental concerns. The piece recounts the litany of declarations, conferences and organizations over the past few decades that grapple with these issues, culminating most recently with a stillborn attempt by Nicolas Sarkozy to form a Mediterranean Union.

“The European countries on the Meditarranean have failed to keep pace with their Northern European neighbours,” it notes, “while those on its southern shores have fallen even further behind. At the same time, states on both sides of the Mare Nostrum continue to have difficulty forging alliances with their continental partners.”

Certainly, the economic imbalance cannot be gainsaid — in Italy itself there are moans and groans about the southern half of the country constantly playing catch up to the north. The Eurozone has corrected some of those issues — Croatia and Slovenia have demonstrated respectable economic growth in the past decade as they sought to join the currency union — but the economic crisis wiped out progress in other countries (i.e. Greece and Portugal). Nor has there been any discernible progress on comprehensive immigration reform.

But there is one consequence of Mediterranean dysfunction that has produced amazing results: the uprisings in the Maghbreb. Had substantial integration with North Africa been achieved, its dictators folded into a functioning coalition, would the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan uprisings ever have occurred? Nowhere in any of the aforementioned proposals are common standards for democracy and rule-of-law outlined. Sarkozy’s Union, if realized, would have only reinforced and legitimized the power arrangements propping up their respective autocracies.

Instead, Maghreb populations took control of their fates and committed to forming modern democratic states. If European countries are serious about Mediterranean integration, now is the time to commit to these populations.