Maria-Àngels Roque

Editor of Quaderns de la Mediterrània

The enlargement of the European Union and the debate that has opened up regarding the foundations of its identity lead us to examine the values, opinions, attitudes and preferences of Europeans in relation to the rest of the world, starting with the countries and regions that are geographically closest, as are those of Southern Europe. Moreover, the policy of neighbourliness encouraged by the EU, both in Eastern European as well as in the Southern Mediterranean, forces us even further to try and discover shared values: what these values are, whether these values have undergone major changes and in which direction. In the West there remains no doubt that over the past few years we have been witnessing a postmaterialist change, where the chief concern is no longer to guarantee the survival of the individual, which is assumed to be secured, but rather to encourage personal self-assertion, with values that foster confidence and individualisation (Inglehart).

This trend, which has been in evidence since the 70s, has not followed a linear process, since its development in the various countries has pursued different paths and timeframes (Kerkhofs). The increase in secularisation is reflected in a growing laicity on the part of Europeans, compared with a greater religiosity throughout the rest of the world, including the USA. This increase in laicity (which is manifested in the decline in religious observance) does not in itself entail a loss of values, since it remains implicit in the background and continues to determine the system of values in each country. Western European societies tend towards individualism, with a strong dose of pragmatism and permissiveness that are confounded before the prospect of increasing multiculturalism. In the case of citizens, in recent years an increased capacity to mobilize in favour of alternative political action has become more evident, not in order to mitigate possible deficiencies in the democratic process, but rather to complement the system and to draw the attention of public opinion, to make their voices heard and to have an influence over these political decisions, an attitude that is clearly linked to this emergence of post-materialist values.

The dossier presented by Quaderns de la Mediterrània illustrates in particular the examples of the Western Mediterranean, since the countries of Southern Europe have undergone a major evolution over the last twenty years, as has been the case of Spain, and may serve as a break with the stereotype of cultural determinism as regards the evolution in values. Even though the southern shores do not benefit from the same kinds of surveys, it is still possible to undertake an analysis of the values that have had an influence after several decades of independence and the forging of identities. In relation to the values that make up the political culture of the Maghreb and that have a large bearing on the nature of the political link between governors and governed, tribe, Islam and language act as symbolic points of reference that vary in the force they exert. Despite the difference in condition (rural/urban), deep mutation is affecting all groups, leading to irreversible changes: of demographic pressure and the scarcity of resources, monetarisation and migrations. Nevertheless, culture and entrenchment represent the factors of resistance in which the individual, although included in a hierarchised system, finds in the group certain values of his or her security and personal expression (Tozy). Although the national differences cannot be interpreted other than depending on the entire history and the political culture of a society, it is true that the tensions between opening up and battening down are constant in all countries, including the countries of Mediterranean Europe.

It is for this reason that this reflection on the values seems particularly appropriate at a time like the present, when the values that will imbue the 21st century are being built. The current situation of globalisation, where in principle the whole world is interrelated, means that increasingly the decision-making power lies in the hands of fewer people, which is leading to the opposite effect of the fragmentation of civil society, of a regression to localism in an attempt to find closer affinities. Recently sociologists have suggested the concept of “glocalisation”, in which globalisation and localism are not opposed to each other, but instead go hand in hand: they are two sides of the same coin (Castells). The globalisation of both shores of the Mediterranean is accompanied by fundamental changes, where of necessity transformations take place that are experienced in the most dramatic way.The crisis that the contemporary world is going through, crisis in the Greek sense of “decision”, forces us to be alive to its consequences. The social dimensions, living conditions, are the most important terrain in the realities of the Mediterranean; they are what generally provide the guidelines for the cultural and political behaviour of the different peoples.

Numerous have been the observations that at the beginning of the 21st century are forming a corollary and that have contributed to creating a double language, or at least a fragmented language: the financial crisis, the changes in economic organisations to fit in with the thinking of networks on a world scale, the inability of the contemporary State to embody a project that transcends corporativism.The explosion in claims relating to identity that have accompanied the fall in the great totalitarian ideologies while Mankind has observed an increasing move towards the local space as an instrument for construction or of demands, of cultural identity and of social solidarity. The problem arises in the fact that cultures are increasingly complex, and, even though this may not be desired, societies everywhere are less alike in regard to their lifestyles. It would be wrong, therefore, to speak of contemporary societies as if we were talking about societies closed in on themselves, with culturally determined codes and wishes.

We can find the same desire for welfare and security in the North and the South, but they are expressed differently, each one seeking the chinks in the system. In the South, with a civil society struggling to win citizens’ rights and seeking to develop on a local level thanks to the contributions of European aid-givers and, in the West, with a civil society and currents critical of a system that proposes an exacerbated economic liberalism. However, between resigned fatalism in the face of a globalisation that is essentially economic in nature and the withdrawals of identity by exclusion, the only means of building a common, creative future is to try and conduct this process jointly. In order to achieve this, in the words of the Group of Wise Men set up at the initiative of the President of the European Commission, two conditions must exist: “on the one hand, through dialogue with the other seeking the origin of new references for oneself and, on the other hand, sharing with everyone the ambition to build a civilisation in common beyond the legitimate diversity of inherited cultures.”

That is to say, considering exchange as a value in itself, both as regards communication as well as social and cultural aspects. It is true that the third supporting pillar of the Barcelona Process, intended to create a dynamic of exchanges in social, cultural and human spheres, has always been marginal, both for the bureaucratic spirit of the European Union and for the authoritarian regimes to the South of the Mediterranean; the first, concerned in particular with issues of security and immigration, consider that the economic development of the countries on the southern shore represents the best support for bringing peace and stability to the region, while the political leaders of the other shore are distrustful of initiatives that encourage the opening up and autonomy of civil societies at the cost of central authority.

But if the dialogue between cultures has always been viewed as difficult, over the past years things have got worse and have caused the intransigents on both sides to glorify their own value system, which they consider to be the only one and non-transferable. In this respect, it is by no means a chance observation that we have had to find ourselves in the context of “post 11 September” and after the Iraqi war to make reality the creation of the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue between Cultures and Civilisations. Situated in Alexandria, with a diversified network within the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, this project emerges in the context of a near-paralysis of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation programmes, in particular as regards anything related to contemporary creativity, the human sciences, translations of books, and of a strong distrust between the two shores: refusal of visas for cultural agents, reduction in exchanges, etc.

Despite the State intervention in these exchanges, they remain a never-ending reality, and exchanges are becoming particularly frequent between the plurality of regions, local communities and Euro-Mediterranean civil society. In order to promote dialogue and the exchange of values between the two shores, Quaderns de la Mediterrània takes part with a dual aim: to have an influence on our society and at the same time to provide conceptual keys to its current state and the potential of the Mediterranean.This publication aims to be a nexus and a meeting-point that will provide incentive for intra-European and interMediterranean reflection and dialogue, where the voices and the projects of its agents can be heard, be they civil or institutional.