Given the fragmented nature of contemporary inter-Mediterranean relations and the serious risk of EU integration faltering further after the Brexit vote, it is in everyone’s strategic interest to map out a Euro-Mediterranean security strategy that connects more effectively with the unstable reality currently manifesting itself.
Failure to adopt such a strategic agenda will only further erode the relevance gap that should exist between the people and their respective governments across the region.
Against this very fluid international relations context Malta assumes the Presidency of the Council of the EU in January 2017. It has already been announced that, amongst other themes, Malta’s EU Presidency will focus on migration, maritime affairs in terms of transport and tourism and relations between the EU and its neighbours in the Mediterranean. During the EU Presidency Malta together with other countries will be expected to put forward proposals to take stock of the situation in each of these areas and formulate a way forward to address the challenges in each of these very important strategic sectors.
A review of contemporary trends indicates that what we require is more of a focus on solidarity and not just security. The numerous challenges we are facing dictate that a clear message be communicated that emphasises the message that we either all swim together or else sink together. In order to carry this out, it will be important to clearly stipulate that all of us in the European Union and beyond share a common future and it will be essential that a counter narrative to the divisive policies that some are putting forward is introduced and implemented.
Among the numerous geo-strategic factors contributing to an increase of insecurity across the Mediterranean is the issue of terrorism. There has been a considerable rise in terrorism in the region. The migration of Daesh from Iraq and Syria to Libya has further consolidated this trend. Continuous acts of terror in all countries across the southern shore of the Mediterranean including the specific targeting of overseas residents, as has been the case in Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey has resulted in a state of emergency and high alert that are stretching the security capabilities of the respective states to try and cope with terrorism.
This increase in tension has had major economic consequences on tourism receipts and on private foreign investment at a time when such revenues are essential if the Mediterranean developing states are going to be able to provide a better standard of living to their respective citizens. A concerted Euro-Mediterranean counter-terrorism strategy that brings together both soft and hard security resources together is long overdue. A key challenge for all democratic governments will continue to be how to enhance counter-terror measures without undermining the freedom and rights of citizens living in a democracy.
The 2016 EU Global Strategy recognises that the Mediterranean is already a geo-strategic area where numerous sources of insecurity threaten to escalate and put regional and international stability at risk. It also admits that regional dynamics that need to be urgently addressed include the collapse of failed states, the increase of terrorist activities, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the proliferation of all types of weapons, energy security, environmental degradation and the ever-increasing state of economic disparity between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. The Strategy does not however offer any specific insight into the specific types of security initiatives that will be introduced to tackle such a broad agenda.
The absence of a Mediterranean centric security arrangement to address security challenges in the Mediterranean is certainly a recipe for an increase of sources of insecurity as this strategic waterway is perceived as a zone where illicit activity can take place unchecked. It is quite ironic that the more interdependent the global security theatre of operations has become, the less connected security mechanisms in the Mediterranean have become. If such a trend continues, it is clear that the security vacuum in the Mediterranean will result in an even more instability emerging in the Euro-Mediterranean area.
The setting up of a Euro-Mediterranean regional security network would dispel the perception that the Mediterranean has largely been neglected by the international community since the end of the Cold War.
Source of article EU2017Malta
About the author
The author is Director and International Relations Professor at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies at the University of Malta. He is also former Rector’s Delegate for International Affairs at the University of Malta.
Professor Calleya is advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malta with the status of Ambassador. He is also a former member of The Today Public Policy Institute, a think tank in Malta and a member of the Board of the European Documentation Research Centre, University of Malta.