pro dialog

Alexander Langer

Euromediterranean Brotherhood
We have all lived through those years in which Western Europe has had to, and not without some difficulty, rediscover “the other side of the moon”, i.e. our fellow Europeans from the East. Now the walls and the iron curtain have come down, a reciprocal amputation which lasted at least half a century is slowly and somewhat contradictorily healing. No fatted calves have been slaughtered for the brother who has been found again, rather you see the painful reaction of those who are having to come to terms with an inheritance they thought was already theirs, and theirs alone, which now has to be shared instead.

Today there is another brotherhood, one which is weakened or maybe even forgotten, that has to be rediscovered: the Euromediter-ranean one. In recent years, Italy has seen a curious geopolitical debate take place: those who wanted to “get into Europe” often claimed the necessity of breaking away from the Mediterranean, “from Africa”, as was sometimes contemptuously said. In the rest of Europe, too, the attention paid to the Mediterranean in recent years has had its ups and downs, becoming even more precarious since the Gulf War, which resulted in the consolidation of a sort of hegemony of the USA/Gulf oil states (with Saudi Arabia at their head) axis. This has had a strong influence on the Mediterranean which has also manifested itself through public expenditure policies. For every ECU invested by the European Community, ten have been invested by the USA and the same again by the oil-rich Arabs.
The lack of a common Mediterranean policy has been visible not only with regard to the Gulf War; the sidelining of Europe has become even more obvious when it comes to the search for peace between Israelis and Arabs, when dealing with “difficult” countries (like Libya, Syria and so on), or with injustices which we have had to put up with for too long (the division of Cyprus, for example), as well as in the search for a new, post-Cold War order in the Mediterranean. The proposal, put forward right from the start of the 1990s, to set up a sort of “Mediterranean Helsinki”, that is a common framework of agreements on safety and co-operation, has been abandoned - those very governments (Spain and Italy followed by France and Greece) which had been so eager for it, have now let it sink without trace.

Today governments worry about certain alarm-bells and react to them, unfortunately too often in a merely repressive way: uncontrolled immigration, social tensions and “food revolts”, the increase in Islamic integralism, the risks connected with illegal drugs and arms trafficking, and so on. In other words, the dangers count more than the opportunities. The intergovernmental Euromediterranean conference, called by the European Union for the following November, 1995, under the Spanish Presidency, aims to establish a new, positive, Euromediterranean partnership, but risks being restricted to only containing those problems seen as dangerous via financial and co-operation agreements, without daring to strive for anything more ambitious, namely a partnership which should lead to a real Euromediterranean community side by side, yet also intertwined, with the European Union.
On the other hand you cannot ask the governments to do that which has not yet been sufficiently felt and agreed to by the general population or society. Today this represents both a major challenge and an opportunity for the general population, as well as European and Mediterranean groups. Nowhere else in the world is there an area where in such a small space such a common, yet different, heritage can be found: at the crossroads of three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa) and of the three big monotheist religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) encompassed in an monumental environmental frame with such strong common characteristics, yet that frame is today in great danger.

That is why we feel that it is time to fight for the construction of a new Euromediterranean brotherhood from the bottom up, as well as to follow critically and attentively the process which is carried out at institutional and governmental level. Some of the Europeans involved in the voluntary process for peace, co-operation, environment, justice between north and south, as well as human and social sustainable development, are already operating at this level. But if we really want to revive and renew the common heritage which unites communities, populations, citizens, ecosystems, and Mediterranean economies and societies, intertwining them with that other integration process which is so painstakingly taking place today between the eastern and western parts of the European continent, then we need to develop a new sensibility and seize the various opportunities there are for action and interaction. Verdeuropa proposes that its readers should be aware of this goal and show commitment to it.

Editorial in Verdeuropa, 1 March 1995