Tribune. The Mediterranean is not a border: the flows of people, ideas, goods, money have long made it an interface much more than a barrier.
The six million French people from the Maghreb now make France’s destiny linked to this region of the world. But, what is true for France is also increasingly true for Spain (with Morocco) and Italy (with Tunisia and Libya). The south of Europe is tied to the north of Africa, for the better (cultural exchanges, tourism, the “care” economy, industrial cooperation), but also for the worse (radical European Islamism has its roots in the Maghreb).
The importance of the Maghreb for Europe is however largely underestimated. When we think of the Arab world, spirits are set on fire for the wars in the Middle East and interests are displayed for the wealth of the Gulf countries. The Maghreb countries are the poor relations of Western interest in the Arab world. Neither very rich nor very unstable, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia have little enthusiasm for the chancelleries.
The near stranger
The relations are so old, the mutual knowledge so important, and the intimacy so strong, in particular with France and its leaders, that these countries have been paradoxically classified rather far in the row of the French and European strategic priorities. The European Union (EU) should perhaps take a cue from the Russians who, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, invented the concept of “near alien” which includes all countries that gained independence after 1991.
In the case of the Maghreb, the concept of close alien could be mobilized with different objectives: while asserting the sovereignty of the Maghreb states, it is a matter of recognizing that we have a common destiny with these countries. This should lead the European powers to observe very closely their political developments – and not only those of their governments. Civil society is playing an increasingly important role there, as shown by the 2011 revolution in Tunisia and the Hirak in Algeria. This should also encourage them to do everything possible to allow a favorable development of their economies, a guarantee of social and therefore political stability.
However, while the EU congratulated itself on its recovery plan and its ability to borrow jointly to ensure the stability of its members, no one suggested that this borrowing and donation capacity could also benefit the EU. foreigner close to Europe, the Maghreb to the south, and even Ukraine to the east. The recent potential opening of access to more credits from the International Monetary Fund through Special Drawing Rights is good news, but it is not enough.
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