Europe without the Mediterranean
A few days before the start of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) summit in Vilnius, the incessant arrival of boats in Lampedusa once again overwhelmed the capacity of the reception centres, where more than 2,000 migrants were concentrated after having survived the Mediterranean. Focused on the war in Ukraine, the Alliance has been seemingly more detached from the problems of the so-called southern flank. Although European and American leaders are well aware that Euro-Atlantic security is increasingly complex in today's changing international order. Where traditional threats have been overtaken by Russia's aggressive policy, but also by the dynamics of global competition between powers that is manifested in scenarios such as the Mediterranean, whose waters and coasts are open to the human drama of immigration, the rivalry of interests and the risk of confrontation.
However, among the priorities of the Spanish presidency of the Council of Ministers of the European Union, the Mediterranean does not appear as one of them. This would already be shocking if it were any other country assuming the six-month rotating presidency. But it is even more so in the case of Spain, a country that has historically promoted Mediterranean policies since the second Spanish presidency in 1995, when the Barcelona Declaration was drawn up and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership was launched. Our country is a strategic actor in such important issues in the region as security, border surveillance, trade, energy reconfiguration, the promotion of interculturality and diplomatic mediation.
Among the four priorities established for the Presidency, in addition to the extension of support for Ukraine, the first priority is the reindustrialisation of the European Union to guarantee its strategic autonomy. To this end, a policy of diversifying trade relations and strengthening supply chains is proposed, an issue of particular relevance following events such as the pandemic or economic and sectoral crises. In this regard, the EU-CELAC Summit is expected to be given considerable importance, thereby focusing one of the objectives of the six-month period on the Ibero-American region as a whole. This is clearly in line with one of the historical paradigms of Spanish foreign policy, which is to serve as a link or bridge between Europe and America. At the same time, it reinforces a transatlantic relationship whose future must be conceived around a more integrated, secure, and dynamic Atlantic space.
However, from the geopolitical point of view of both Spain and the Union itself, an Atlantic space of these characteristics requires another Mediterranean space that is receptive and capable of growing commercial dynamics and stabilised on its coasts. It is therefore somewhat surprising that the Mediterranean variable does not appear in this European and American equation.
In any case, the fundamental idea of the Spanish government's priorities is to confront the transformation that the post-globalisation era of competition entails. Thus, in addition to strengthening supply chains, the idea of reinforcing European unity by deepening the internal market and improving common instruments such as the Next Generation EU funds is also a priority. The third priority is geared towards advancing the ecological transition and environmental adaptation. In this case, giving prominence to the reform of the electricity market and the deployment of renewable energies.
Both objectives are also linked to the EU's Mediterranean countries, and their implementation can therefore be considered to have favourable consequences for the Mediterranean region as a whole. However, it should not be forgotten that the Mediterranean is an area of particular competitiveness in the energy sector, for example. Both among countries producing traditional energies, as well as land and maritime energy transport systems. Any adaptation of these environments and sectors will specifically involve the Mediterranean.
Finally, one of the priorities of the Spanish presidency is the promotion of greater social and economic justice, which is necessary to confront transformational changes of great magnitude. Incidentally, this priority should be developed through private investment, innovation, and the creation of new projects. Under no circumstances should the concept of economic justice, understood as equity and equal opportunities, be confused with the recurrent use of public debt or the abuse of public funds, which have played a role in times of crisis, but must give way to public-private activity in times of transformation.
In the previous indicative Decalogue proposed by the think tank Real Instituto Elcano, at least three political objectives were included that affected the Mediterranean in a practically explicit manner: shaping a broader approach to immigration and asylum; completing the process of the Strategic Compass; and advancing strategic autonomy by integrating new voices from the so-called Global South. This would confirm the geopolitical relevance of the area and its link with the transformation processes in which we Europeans are involved. The new government will have to reactivate this linkage, which is evident and fully recognised by the major parties. Unfortunately, however, it has not been adequately reflected among the Presidency's priorities.