Year XXXII, 1990, Number 3 - Page 232
Privileged relations between the EEC and Maghreb countries have been in existence since the very foundation of the Community. History itself shows how the dialogue (or clash) between the two sides of the Mediterranean is unavoidable. These relations by now seem to have reached a turning-point, also due to the Gulf crisis.
The fundamental data which allows us to understand, to a certain extent, the choice in question and its possible consequences can be summarized in a few points.
1) The formation of a European internal market could further weaken North-African economies, if the latter do not tie themselves more closely to it, thus making a qualitative change.
2) The Mediterranean countries’ debt represents an ever more burdensome hindrance to their development. An organic plan of co-operation between Europe and the Maghreb, both economic and financial, is an indispensable condition to launch these countries’ economies.
3) Collaboration between East and West has radically modified world balances, thus making dramatically urgent the need to create regional federations as an alternative to nationalism which creates crises, such as the Middle East crisis. The growing co-operation between Maghreb countries could represent within this perspective a stabilizing element of strategic importance for the whole Mediterranean; it is in the general interest that this process be consolidated.
4) The increasing disequilibrium between the North-African demographic boom and the ageing of Europe’s population makes it even more urgent to guarantee an economic re-balancing between the two areas as the only long term alternative to destabilizing migratory flows.
The revolution taking place in international relations and the formation of a single internal European market are closely linked. It is definitely Europe’s success which has made Yalta decline and the Berlin Wall fall. It is inevitable that this wave will reach North Africa, opening up new prospects.
The growth of Europe has weakened the old bi-polar order; the latter has still not disappeared, but it is essentially confined to the military sector and is effective only in those cases in which the military factor itself prevails. The new emerging world order can only be multi-polar. But multi-polarism can be either co-operative or anarchical. It will be cooperative only if countries integrate into regional federations, on the basis of their historical affinities. Otherwise, the world will remain divided into small states, driven to nationalism and aggression by exasperation at their problems, which in a national framework cannot be solved. This is the fundamental alternative which all states have to face; it explains the Middle East crisis, and can contribute to understanding which alternative scenarios are open to Maghreb countries.
To direct the world towards co-operative multi-polarism it is not enough to develop the UN’s ability to ensure that international law is respected. To reach this end it is indispensable to gather states together at a regional level, activating co-operation processes with the gradual creation of federal powers.
In this situation, Europe is called upon to play a role of growing importance. Not only by giving an example of how it is possible to unify peoples divided by a thousand differences; but also by giving concrete support to efforts of regional co-operation, starting with areas closest to Europe itself.
Within this framework EEC-Maghreb relations can be fully appreciated and it becomes easy to understand the importance of what is at stake, which goes well beyond local problems, which albeit are relevant. Within this framework there is also the problem of finding concrete measures which can be adopted by Europe to support the development of the Maghreb and, more generally, the development and integration of all Mediterranean countries.
To this end two precedents can be considered. In the immediate post-war period, to support the development of Europe and its integration, the United States launched the Marshall Plan, on condition that aid be administered by one single institution and with a common European strategy.
The second precedent consists of the establishment of the Eastern Bank, founded by the Community to support the restructuring of Eastern economies towards the market and democratic development. The Eastern Bank will allow rationalization of Community aid, thus helping to overcome the limits of bi-lateral agreements between single countries, and at the same time making all countries involved, financers and financed, participate in the running of the bank itself.
These precedents suggest the opportunity of creating a European Bank of the Mediterranean. It would constitute a strategic instrument for European commitment in favour of the development of the Mediterranean area, and in particular for the financing of the integration of the Maghreb countries with themselves, on the one hand, and on the other between the Maghreb countries and the EEC. A European Bank of the Mediterranean would embody, in the most important region for Europe, the European alternative to the crisis and Europe’s contribution to the establishment of a new and more evolutionary economic order.
The deep motivations which support this project have already driven the EBI to develop its activity in this direction. It must also be said that a European Bank of the Mediterranean would enjoy greater powers, being able to involve equally, from its very establishment, the technical and financial resources both of Europe and the Mediterranean countries.
The Maghreb Community is destined to develop gradually, with a functionalist approach. The first step in this direction will probably take place in the energy sector; not by chance, the process of European integration also made its first progress in the energy sector, with the creation of the ECSC. A joint initiative in the energy sector poses the Maghreb with financial problems also as far as relations with Europe are concerned; from this point of view, too, the importance of the role to be played by European Bank of the Mediterranean emerges.
The operations of a European Bank of the Mediterranean would require support from other initiatives, which could guarantee the availability of the goods and services which can be financed by the Bank itself. What emerges in this perspective is the important role that the Mediterranean countries, which are EEC members, can play, placing at the disposal of a European policy for the Mediterranean their own abilities and know-how, in return deriving concrete opportunities for growth, initially for their regions looking onto the Mediterranean itself. It is also a matter of not marginalizing these regions with respect to a horizontal East-West development line, trying instead to occupy a position as watershed between North and South, creating a triangle between the three areas. And there is another fundamental reason which makes it important for the Southern regions of Europe to stimulate such as evolution. The reinforcement of European policy for the Mediterranean is able to strengthen, within Europe, the regional policy for less developed areas. In this perspective, it is a matter of uniting the intervention instruments for regional policy and Mediterranean policy, combining Community and national resources, the experience of the largest private enterprises and public bodies.
Within this perspective the interests of the Maghreb, of the Mediterranean, of the less developed areas of Europe, of Europe as a whole are fully complementary. Outside this perspective, there is an increasing risk of economic conflict and therefore of a process of disintegration.