Excmo. Prof. Luis González Seara | EMUI_ Former President
The journal Nómadas. Revista Crítica de Ciencias Sociales y Jurídicas, Complutense University of Madrid on-line´s publication, which nowadays turns into the official EMUI´s magazine under the tittle Nomads. Mediterranean Perspectives, it begins a second time navigation all over the Mediterranean, with the purpose of considering the fact itself of examining from the perspective of becoming a new project about the Union for the Mediterranean. This project replace the exhausted Barcelona Process. Economic, legal, cultural, political and social topics will be developed from an expansive and in-depth conception of the Mediterranean as a plurality of civilisations, cultures, languages and symbolical universes. By doing so, these topics will be structured, not so much as an alternative to globalisation –as some propose–, but as a cosmopolitan and tolerant vision demanded by an open-minded society.
The Mediterranean issue has a long history, which has evolved on the banks of the old sea –currently threatened by the degrading ecology and progressing towards becoming a new Dead Sea. Despite all this, that risk pales in comparison to the political-military conflict fought on both sides of the sea, a conflict that actually dates back to the Middle Ages and the glorious times of Al-Andalus. The Mediterranean is oftenidentified with the Greco-Roman tradition that expanded the grandiosity of the West around the area bathed by the Latin sea, where wine and olive trees grew and communications, commercial exchanges and culture spread easily from bank to bank. This setting is the foundation for a good part of European modernity, but we often ignore that part of the Hellenic knowledge and science was brought to Western Europe by Arab philosophers such as Al-Kindi, Al Farabi, Avicena or Averroes. In this sense, great importance was given to the task Columbus and Vasco de Gama carried out, discovering the new world and changing the political centre of gravity of the world, which shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. This shift unquestionably took place initially with the Spanish Empire and then with the British Empire, as John Elliot has proven in a recent book. However, the historical role of the Mediterranean did not sink over night. Fernand Braudel's monumental book, El Mediterráneo y el Mundo mediterráneo en la época de Felipe II, put things into focus in terms of the permanence of the grandiosity of the Mediterranean in multiple dimensions, beyond the new Atlantic shift. The Mediterranean accommodates the greatest concentration of art in the modern world and Braudel's passion is indebted to Paul Valéry's Mediterranean humanism. That humanism is open to the Islamic world, in contrast to the terms established by Belgian historian H. Pirenne, for whom the Arab conquest of the Middle East and of Nrth Africa led to the rupture of the Mediterranean unity. Braudel values the different sources that gave way to the Mediterranean civilisation, raising his voice against the prejudice and stereotypes of the Greco-Roman hegemony and of traditional Orientalism, and building the Arab culture into the picture. Thus, says Danilo Zolo in a recent book on La alternativa mediterránea, the Mediterranean becomes a sort of historical character, which dominates the world of political and social sciences, not only in France and in the rest of Europe. Thus, the "Mediterranean issue" obtains an irreversible scientific status.
However, it is important to note that the Mediterranean issue is also a complex global political topic, as the region has become one of the most conflictive and insecure areas in the world. The process has been fuelled throughout the whole of the 20th century, starting with the colonial policy implemented by France, England and the other European powers which took advantage of the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The world wars led to the fragmentation and division of the Islamic Arab world, and gave way to a growing influence of the United States in the area. In World War I, France and England shared the control over the formation of the Arab States in the Mediterranean area, with the consent of the Society of Nations. The Mediterranean Arab countries established their political independence after World War II, apart from Algeria which did so after its particular war victory. However a new event also took place: the post-war antagonism between the United States and the Soviet Union became patent in the distribution and influence of both countries: Turkey and the countries in the Persian Gulf took sides with the United States; Syria, Libya, Algeria and other Islamic countries did the same with the Soviet Union and the Communist Block. Unity in the Mediterranean was becoming impossible, especially with the addition of another permanent source of conflict: the creation of the State of Israel and the triggering of what Edward Said called the "question of Palestine." The last stage of the 20th century still had more surprises in store. The fall of the Soviet Empire, the end of the "Cold War" and of the bipolar order of the world gave way to new wars and conflicts, from the Balkans and Lebanon to Iraq and Afghanistan, maintained by Western powers, with the direct or indirect participation of Euro-Mediterranean nations.
This takes place within a historical circumstance in which the fear of "guaranteed mutual destruction" has filtered out to be replaced by global terror and violent and suicidal fundamentalisms that prevent civilised and democratic dialogues, which should be the base of the new world order. Yet that new order should start by being observed under the lens of the new European reality. At present, all Mediterranean issues become European issues, although some EU countries, such as France, Spain and Italy, have become the champions of a European Mediterranean policy that focuses on the most Western area of the old sea. Already back in 1988, this gave way to a Mediterranean Forum that was open to third countries with a view to designing a community policy for the Mediterranean. Consequently, in 1995, under the French and Spanish EU Presidency, it was agreed to stage a Euro-Mediterranean conference that gathered in November in 1995 and endorsed a Declaration to promote a global Mediterranean policy, where peace, security, economy, finance, culture, the State of Law, democracy and human rights were encompassed in one same document for the first time. The goals of the Barcelona Declaration were excessively ambitious, especially considering the difficulties for political dialogue, the development of religious fundamentalism and the rampant terrorism that hampered peace and security in the area. Ten years later, 2005 was designated the “year of the Mediterranean,” and the Conference of Foreign Affairs Ministers met again in Barcelona under Tony Blair's presidency. On that occasion, the group’s objectives were limited, and the work plan focused only on immigration, justice and security. Special attention was granted to the fight against terrorism, which caused great controversy between Arab and European delegations. In any case, the Barcelona Process evaporated gradually until the arrival of Nicolas Sarkozy, who presented a project that required greater European implication: the "Union for the Mediterranean,” in the organisation and strategic performance stage.
This is the new panorama in which the goals of the Euro-Mediterranean University Institute (EMUI) and, specifically, of the journal Nomadas, appear. An example of what Nómadas aims to achieve is outlined in the issues addressed in the first publication: the time for Africa; social and social-democratic policies (Greece and Spain); changes in the European project; towards a new European digital citizenship; the OECD and the Mediterranean area; the modernity of youths and the European identity; the Mediterranean passion and diffuse citizens; cyber-terrorism and cyber-war; social aspects of development in the Mediterranean area; the role of the civil society in a post-national world; Mediterranean and immigration; presence of the Mediterranean in Sarkozy's European Agenda; Sarkozy and in the Union for the Mediterranean; dialogue of cultures in the Mediterranean; religion and politics in Israel; the difference of the difference; the traps of subjectivity... Different issues addressed with authority by specialists in their corresponding fields and in their vastest dimension within the lines of the goals of the Institute.
Once again, we need to think of the Mediterranean as a universal concept, at a time when Minerva's owl seems tired of flying over the old sea.