Tribune. This Mediterranean, which has nourished our history, shaped our identities and irrigated our cultures, we see it today most often only through the tragedy of migration and the tragedy of terrorism. Cemetery of hopes or abyss of fears. But what is the Mediterranean? “A thousand things at once, not a landscape, but countless landscapes, not a sea, but a succession of seas, not a civilization, but civilizations piled on top of one another”, answered the historian Fernand Braudel.A European power with broad maritime facades, France has for several decades “Mediterranean policy”. This traditional policy, still marked by its colonial past, has been jostled by the “Arab revolutions”. The Deauville partnership promoted by France in June 2011, in response to these events, has not kept its promises. The calamitous military intervention in Libya in 2011 and the war in Syria, where France was ultimately marginalized, led to a retreat towards the western flank of the Mediterranean basin. The stalemate of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), launched by President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, confirmed the failure of a policy that broke with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a project that was too broad and ultimately too vague, and the mistakes of the European Union, traumatized by the “Migration crisis”.
Considerable assets still little exploited
This is why the desire of President Emmanuel Macron to breathe new life into this Mediterranean policy is an opportunity that there is every reason to celebrate. Announced at the ambassadors conference held on August 27, 2018, this revival could see a beginning of concretization during the Summit of the two banks which will meet in June in Marseilles within the framework of a tightened format, said “5 +5 », bringing together France, Italy, Spain, Malta, Portugal, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Mauritania which produced results on security issues and on the “Migration crisis”.
The reduction of the scope of cooperation in the western Mediterranean, where trade is the most intense and the most essential for France and its immediate neighbors, makes it possible to develop considerable assets, but still little exploited.
We can first of all highlight the existence of a market of 100 million consumers on the South Bank, whose standard of living rises continuously. Reducing the Maghreb to a single market for European products would, however, be a historical misinterpretation. These long-standing peoples of the European continent aspire to development and want their northern partners to support them through productive investment and genuine technology transfer.ConverselySouthern industrial groups can come to revive certain territories and industrial wastelands in Europe, like the Cevital group, whose president Issad Rebrab has already invested in French companies in difficulty, such as Brandt in 2014 for example. The multiplication of these investments and cross-partnerships will make it possible to better secure to one another these two shores of the Mediterranean in a mutually beneficial process.
Emmanuel Macron expressed the wish that civil societies be fully involved in this Mediterranean construction policy under the “5 + 5”. For the French President, it is necessary to “To rebuild a more inclusive Mediterranean policy which is also undoubtedly one of the conditions for the reconsolidation of the Maghreb”. This desire to bet on civil societies is doubly important. Firstly because the geopolitical situation born of the “Arab Spring” has greatly increased the need to support the transitions in the South Bank countries, by fixing them to the European Economic Area. Secondly, because civil societies, perhaps even more than states, now play a structuring role in these transition processes. For all that, include civil societies – that is, the private sector, associations, experts, citizens’ movements, etc. – involves several risks, which the failure of the UPM has brought to light. Risk of inefficiency, by focusing on large projects without a clear principle of action, particularly in terms of financing and monitoring. Risk of counter-productivity, damaging strong bilateral relations in a collective forum paralyzed by traditional rivalries between states.
Creating a G10
In order to overcome these risks, it may be necessary, first of all, to define a few shared principles: respect for the sovereignty of the States, the common Mediterranean interest – the projects which must systematically involve the countries of the North Shore and those of the South Bank as part of a G10 evoked by the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita – and, finally, the solidarity between two sets of unequal development. As Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi pointed out: “By helping us, you help yourself. “
It is also important to have an effective and consensual working method. The logic of major projects promoted under the UFM has shown its limits, perhaps because of the initial gap between very broad ambitions and reduced execution capacities, but also because of the lack of matching between the available capital and profitable projects. This is why it seems more appropriate to replace the logic of “big projects” initiated at the top with a more participative and inclusive approach based on the spreading of good practices, backed up by innovative financing and monitoring mechanisms. In addition, at the political level, greater attention should be given to upgrading the capacity of public and private actors on the South Bank. In concrete terms, this would mean defining major themes of Mediterranean interest, then letting civil society actors mobilize and guarantee the best projects a mixed public-private financing.
The relevant level to implement this participatory and inclusive policy is probably that of large urban metropolises, much more agile than the States. In the North, cities like Marseille and Barcelona, but also Valletta, are at the forefront of this movement. In the South, the development of emerging metropolises such as Tangier, Oran and Bizerte is closely linked to trade between the two shores. That is why it might be appropriate to create a network of smart cities (smart cities) by connecting the major economic and cultural centers of the Mediterranean and putting innovation and youth at the heart of this decentralized cooperation.
States, for their part, would be responsible for ensuring, through the monitoring committee, the relevance of projects in the light of the Mediterranean interest, compliance with implementation deadlines or the necessary financial guarantee. They could also bring or facilitate, on the sovereign side, common projects, not expensive, such as the creation of a “training pass” on certain skills valid throughout the space concerned or the establishment of a University of the Mediterranean spread over several campuses (North and South Rivers) focused on Mediterranean issues. The objective could be to foster investment in human capital, innovation and youth, and to increase the social return of this investment by valuing it through a network of incubators and start-up accelerators. up.
Crucible of the ancient civilizations of East and West, our common sea, mare nostrum, can not be summed up in the macabre count of drowning migration or picrocholine rivalries between states. The Mediterranean people deserve better than that. And it is more than ever time, in these hours where nationalism roars, to reaffirm that, hence the differences, beyond the dark moments of history, Southern Europeans and North Africans surely have better to share that hatred and resentment.
Karim Amellal is an author and teacher at Sciences Po, and Alexandre Kateb, economist and teacher at Sciences Po.