The big question is how the relationship between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean can be reconstituted. It is interesting to observe how much investment, not just from France but from China and Arab countries, was being pumped into Tunisia on the eve of the Arab Spring, making it quite probably the strongest economy in the African continent; but such successes may now seem precarious. By building a massive new port at Tanger-Med, the government of Morocco is seeking to draw benefit from traffic through the Straits of Gibraltar and openly to challenge Algeciras across the water. Morocco actually asked to join the EU in 1987, and, despite the expected rejection, a number of agreements tie the EU to Morocco. But increasing wealth among the Moroccan middle classes still has to be matched by a massive improvement in the condition of the urban and rural majority. Probably, though, the country to watch is Libya, where the elections have apparently shown that there is strong support for a liberal, non-Islamist government, and where prodigious energy resources promise to bring the country the sort of prosperity enjoyed by the Gulf states.
Attempts have been made to bind together the countries of the Mediterranean in a diffuse league of states that would be able to address common problems, irrespective of political differences. The first major initiative was the so-called Barcelona process of 1995, in which both the Mediterranean countries and the members of the EU were involved; but plans for the creation of a free trade area in the Mediterranean by 2010 have remained simply plans.
The idea of a "Mediterranean Union" is more of an ideal than a practical possibility, even though there are urgent questions that need to be addressed together by all Mediterranean nations, notably the issue of migration and the promotion of trade between the EU and non-EU countries within the Mediterranean, not to mention the sharp political confrontations that exist in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Particularly important is the protection of the maritime environment, which has experienced massive and catastrophic change as a result of over-fishing (treating the sea as an unlimited food source), and the dumping of effluents (treating the sea as a vast rubbish tip). One of the world's seas that is worst affected is the Mediterranean, as a mainly closed space, though the situation in another almost enclosed sea, the Baltic, is even worse, to the extent that much of the Baltic can be described as dead water. Lack of oxygen in the water is only one consequence of the human presence. The vast quantities of plastic, often in the form of minute globules, that choke the sea and the animals that live within it are a further major problem, and once again the Mediterranean is a particular area of concern.
- ONLINE ONLY: Academic Boycotts Teach Us Nothing
- ONLINE ONLY: Send in the Clowns
- ONLINE ONLY: Thatcher, Reagan and the Dictators
- The Resolute Courage of Margaret Thatcher
- America's New Isolationists Are Endangering the West
- An Alternative To Our Reckless Energy Gamble
- The Family is the Key to the Future of Faith
- Persecuted Muslims Who Love Life in England
- They Were the Future of the Tory Party, Once
- The Parable of the Stupid Samaritan
- Pope Frank: In the Footsteps of St Francis
- The Middle Kingdom's Problem with Religion
- We Abandon Christians in the East At Our Peril
- Feminism Or Islamism: Which Side Are You On?
- At Last: Gove Goes For the Culture of Excuses
- Is There a Way Out of the Tories' Modernising Mess?
- Online Only: The Kenyatta Dilemma
- Cameron is the Euro's Best Hope for Survival
- Census That Revealed a Troubling Future
- The Servant of the servants of God Departs in Peace