25 Years of Mediterranean Project

Senén Florensa

Executive President of the European Institute of the Mediterranean

In 2014 we celebrate 25 years of the European Institute of the Mediterranean. Since its creation in 1989, the Institute has developed an action plan based on a rigorously studying and reporting the complex Mediterranean reality. The objective and commitment of our activities has been to contribute to the stability, progress, cooperation and dialogue in the region.

The Institute, initially focused on studying and reporting the realities in the Mediterranean area, experienced its turning point in 1995 with the organisation of the 1st Euro-Mediterranean Civil Forum, whose aim was to include the voice of civil society in political dialogue between states. Thereafter, the Institute also began to act as a platform of cooperation, mediation and dialogue to contribute to the progressive construction of an area of peace and stability, shared prosperity and dialogue between cultures and civilisations in the Mediterranean. An example of this is its active contribution to the main Euro-Mediterranean civil society networks: EuroMeSCo and the Anna Lindh Foundation.

Within this framework, the journal Quaderns de la Mediterrània first appeared in 2000, and this issue 20-21 seeks to contribute to the series of initiatives commemorating the IEMed’s 25 years of work. Under the title “Mediterranean Scenarios / Escenarios mediterráneos”, our dossier brings together contributors who have been with us since the beginning of the publication, such as Edgar Morin, Fatema Mernissi, Tahar Ben Jelloun, José Enrique Ruiz-Domènec and Federico Mayor Zaragoza. Moreover, other specialists of recognised prestige offer us an analysis of the many present and future Mediterranean scenarios that must be taken into consideration for this desired construction. However, today, despite the major presence of civil society, heavy storm clouds still hang over us and prevent us from achieving this space of dialogue and peace, which is the main objective of the European Institute of the Mediterranean.

Thus, the voices that make up this dossier warn us about the current political and social situation of the southern countries in the Arab Spring and their relations with the northern countries. While Edgar Morin and Franco Rizzi make a brief historical assessment of the events that have taken place since 2011, Tahar Ben Jelloun focuses on the most recent developments and concludes that Arab peoples no longer fear dictators and are determined to fight for their dignity. In relation to the Maghreb, Sébastien Abis uses a political-economic approach to analyse how for over a quarter of a century the integration of the countries of this region has been discussed and announced, to finally ask whether it is really desired. Cengiz Günay, meanwhile, focuses on the role of northern countries and on the importance of civil society in the construction of the political and social process of the Maghreb. From the Balkan perspective – often forgotten but always influential –, Tamara Djermanović, with reference to the anniversary of the Great War, explains how savage liberalism has damaged these societies. In his article, Abraham B. Yehoshua argues that Israel must not forget that, from the geographical and historical point of view, it is an integral part of the Mediterranean. If it wants to ensure itself a lasting existence in the area that was the base and origin of the formation and growth of the people of Israel, it must find a path of renewal by deepening its Mediterranean identity.

In terms of scenarios, we cannot overlook the ecological issue, particularly in a fragile ecosystem such as the Mediterranean. Thus it is urgent to establish some political foundations for environmental conservation to achieve a more desirable and fairer future. Both Joandomènec Ros and Jérémie Fosse argue that, in order to manage good conservation of the environment in the Mediterranean area, we first need real and effective cooperation between the countries on the two shores. In a forward-looking vision, it is important to bear in mind the demographic and family changes experienced by the Mediterranean region and, particularly, the south, to identify the economic development needs in the area, as analysed by Youssef Courbage. The historian José Enrique Ruiz-Domènec shows that knowledge of our history is fundamental for the construction of our future, in which cities are a key value and the basis of civility – which comes from the Roman word for city, cives. Another important aspect is the analysis of the different artistic currents today in the Mediterranean cultural panorama (María Elena Morató, Marinella Ferrara, Isona Passola and Patricia Almarcegui).

We close the dossier with Federico Mayor Zaragoza who, as a perceptive observer in his long years at the head of UNESCO, summarises in his article the keys for a future of peace and stability in the region. For his part, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, an essential actor in these 25 years of history, recalls the story of the Institute through its actions and outstanding personalities.

This dossier is, therefore, an analysis of the diverse general views that affect the Mediterranean region today, as complex and changing as ever, and also a commemoration of our institution and our work, which would not have been possible without the cooperation and constant commitment of many other institutions and people who have believed in our project and have helped us to advance in our Euro-Mediterranean journey.