It seems evident that, in the last few years, a new strategic scenario has been established in the Mediterranean. Profound forces, latent since the fall of the Berlin Wall, have finally come to the surface, above all since the attacks of 11th September. Among the factors that contribute to the configuration of the new geopolitical environment, we should point out the following: (1) the prevailing position of the USA, particularly in military terms, and the country’s clear will to exercise it, as was proved by the Iraq conflict; (2) the transformation of the EU, with the introduction of the Euro, the enlargement to twenty-five members, and the institutional reforms that the promulgation of the European Constitution will mean; (3) the existence of new threats to international security, including terrorism and weapons of mass destruction; and (4) the crisis, without mitigation, of the Peace Process in the Middle East.
Along with these factors, the traditional threats deriving from the North-South fracture prevail, and the persistent asymmetries of these threats in the political, socioeconomic and cultural fields are a further cause of instability. In perhaps a non-systematic way, solutions have gradually been generated of the risks arising from the new scenario. Some actors have prioritised a pure and traditional security approach while others have been inclined to employ strategies in which elements of the so-called soft power prevail.
It seems that in 2003 the beginning of a process of convergence between both these trends was started, a process that is accompanied by the general realisation that the solution, or at least the start of a solution to the problems put forward cannot come from one side of the argument only. In this evolution of awareness the capacity of response from the main actors in the Mediterranean scenario has been revealed, whether by using existing reference frameworks or by putting forward others with new approaches. With regard to this point, it is appropriate to mention that the document presented by the High EU Representative Javier Solana, «A Secure Europe in a Better World»,1 which attempts to join the soft mechanisms of the prevention and resolution of conflict with those that have a clear basis in security, on the assumption that prevention will fail.
Despite the frustration that its so-far unsatisfactory results may generate, the Barcelona Process is attempting to adapt itself to the new challenges in the most difficult circumstances of the region. During its Presidency of the EU in the first semester of 2002, Spain responded with a policy of «more Partnership » at a very complex juncture. The Valencia Plan, approved in the fifth Euro-Mediterranean Conference, held in April 2002, has been consolidated as the navigation chart of the Process. In fact, in December 2003, within the framework of the Naples Euro-Mediterranean Conference, or Barcelona VI, two institutions embodied in the Plan were definitively established.
The new Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly and the Foundation for the Dialogue of Cultures will mean, before the end of 2003, a notable strengthening of the Barcelona Process. It is true that the Euromed Development Bank is not yet ready for instigation, but the activities of the EIB in the area will be strengthened with new lines of investment towards the private sector. The Barcelona Process, conceived as a complex structure of non-military security, whose mechanisms point at eliminating or reducing the profound causes of instability in the region, will continue to be, in the long term and with the necessary adaptations, a framework of unavoidable reference in the definition of policies towards the region.
It is undeniable that, despite everything, there remains a long road ahead. In this sense, the EU’s launch of the New Neighbourhood Initiative – Wider Europe – marks more ambitious goals for its partnership with the South. Indeed, the policy of New Neighbourhood that Prodi has graphically summarised with the expression «everything but the institutions» renews and widens the EU commitment to extend its wellbeing and prosperity to its neighbours to the East and South, in anticipation of the functional problems that the EU enlargement may provoke.
Some observers do not exclude the possibility, and others even advocate it, that as a consequence of the gradual enlargement of the EU, with Turkey already a formal candidate, and its access to new neighbourhoods with formerly distant countries, of new perspectives that see Iraq and the Gulf region included in schemes that until now have been geographically speaking restricted to the Mediterranean region. Moreover, the USA’s growing interest in the Mediterranean, no longer as a simple corridor for the projection of force but instead as an area that is in need of clearer policies on economic and political modernisation, opens the way for the transatlantic partnership to develop, in turn, a renewed Mediterranean dimension.
There remain two observations to make before concluding this, let us call it, wide angle journey through the Mediterranean region. Firstly, it is clear that until the Arab-Israeli crisis is contained, none of the instruments used for stabilising and developing the area will be capable of bearing fruit. The EU needs to strengthen its role in all the mechanisms conceived to manage the crisis in the Middle East. In the second place, as we have seen, there are instruments in existence that will work in favour of greater stability, prosperity and reciprocal understanding in the area.
In order for its results to be in keeping with the challenges, a greater commitment from the two opposite shores of the Mare Nostrum is unavoidable: both from the North, in the form of a more generous contribution of resources, and from the South, as a renewed effort in order to more decisively undertake the political, economic and social reforms without which there will be no equitable development.