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Competing Regionalizations? French/European and Maghreb Views on Regionalization *

Ulla Holm **

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute
Institut de Recherche De La Paix à Tampere
27th November-1st December 1996

Islamic Threat?

In Europe the Muslim is often depicted as the terrorist incarnate, or as a bearded fanatic (le barbu) hiding a hand grenade under his djellaba. In this image lurks the fear of the uncontrollable uprising of the masses--similar to that of the European bourgeoisie from 1830-1871 about an uprising of the urban proletariat. It is correct that the uncontrollable Muslim masses have entered the political scene of the Maghreb. European politicians fear a tidal wave of North African refugees, a fear which will fan the flames of xenophobia. Until now the mass immigration has not taken place, but it may come if the violence in Algeria does not find a political solution, and if the socio-economic situation in the Maghreb further deteriorates. It is quite likely that it will, as a result of the demographic explosion. In 1990 the Maghreb population was 62.9 millions, in 2005 it will be 90.6, and in 2025 it will be 124 millions: a doubling in 35 years even though the fertility rate has been declining since the beginning of the 1980s.

The Muslim Maghreb states do not constitute any military threat to Europe. They are far too weak and vulnerable to be pro-active. They are primarily a threat to each other. They have unresolved territorial disputes such as the question of the future of West-Sahara; they have Libya as a territorial and political troublemaker; they are all vulnerable to the advance of the islamic movements undermining the legitimacy of states. They are weak because of population growth, economic problems, and a huge foreign debt. They all have problems with the cultural difference between westernly orientated elites and impoverished masses who seek refuge in Islam, that is seen as the identity refuge in the turbulent process of modernization.

There is so far no risk of an islamic religious crusade against Christian Europe, as islamism is primarily a defensive response to modernity in the Muslim countries. The main problem for the Maghreb countries, and especially so for Algeria, is to find a solution to the troubled and ambiguous relationship between modernity and Islam. It is therefore the Muslim countries themselves that are threatened by islamic movements, whereas the Europeans are not threatened by movements trying to convert the infidel to the true faith. Most of the islamists know perfectly well that there is no field of mission to cultivate amongst the Europeans. What they want in Europe is to create an 'islamized' social space (G. Kepel: 199l) in which the migrants may reside, thus shielding them against European influence, hence ensuring that they will not be averse to islamism upon returning to their home country.

The relationship between Europe and the Maghreb depends upon how Europe defines itself and its relation to "the others". For the time being Europe, and especially France, is vacillating between viewing the Mediterranean as a Mare nostrum, seeing it as a sea dividing two cultures.

Since 1989 Western Europe has been preoccupied with relating to the Soviet collapse and with the question how to prevent Eastern and Central Europe from becoming a security problem. All its attention was thus devoted to the East. In the south-western part of the Mediterranean basin concerns thus arose among Maghreb elites about whether Europe would forget all about the problems of the region with its wish for a closer collaboration. The European Commission did not forget; but it concentrated primarily on the economic aspects of the situation and on the risk of refugee flows resulting from the growth of population. It did not realize the seriousness of the political situation in Algeria because 1989 was also the year of the introduction of political pluralism in this country. Not until the Algerian regime suspended the parliamentary elections in January 1992 did the European political decision-makers realize that 'something was rotten in Algeria'; but the European political leaders chose more or less whole-heartedly to support the government according to the rationale that 'you know what you have, but not what you get'. The European politicians hoped that the Algerian state and army would be able to uphold the status quo so that Europe need not worry about its southern flank.


French Vacillation

Since 1994 the French government has, however, become increasingly concerned about the escalating violence in Algeria. The hijacking by radical islamists of an Air France aircraft in December 1994 brought the violence onto French soil. In July 1995 a moderate imam was killed in a mosque in Paris. Bombs have been exploding, bearing the trademark of the armed Algerian islamic group GIA. The terrorism of the radical islamists has set itself the goal to warn the French government against supporting the Algerian government.

The French government is politically at a disarray. It has found it difficult to tackle the development in Algeria. It has begun to realize, especially since especially 1994, that the violence is not only a question of social and economic need but also a general uprising against the corrupt Algerian state. But the colonialism of the past means that France has to step gently vis-à-vis Algeria.

If the government becomes involved in the domestic Algerian situation it will be seen as a repetition of the French colonial policy of the past. Not to interfere, on the other hand, will be seen by the French intellectuals and secularized Algerian intellectuals as an abandonment of the French mission civilisatrice with its rallying cry of liberty, equality and brotherhood. A large part of the French intellectuals, as usual with A. Glucksmann and B. Lévy in the avantgarde, are warning against ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian Muslims and against a political surrender to the Algerian islamists. For these intellectuals, Bosnia and Sarajevo before the war symbolized a harmonious multi-ethnic society where people lived peacefully and in respect of their diversity. They have the same black-and-white attitude to Algeria (F. Burgat: 1995).

Before the violence erupted in 1988 the Algerian FLN was the example of a third world regime that had put itself in the service of modernization and secularization, as opposed to ethnicity and religion. Now Algeria is seen as a country about to surrender to the view of a societal view of the fanatic islamists. Many of the French intellectuals therefore hold the opinion that there can be no compromise with islamists/FIS even if they are non-violent. Thus they come to indirectly support the delegitimized government. The conflict in Algeria is therefore often depicted in the French media and amongst politicians and intellectuals as a struggle between barbarism (personified by the islamists) and democracy represented by the secularized regime. The problems with this simplification is that there is no democratic political culture in Algeria (G. Salamé: 1993) and that only a minority of the islamists wants to use violence to overthrow the state. Another polarity is created in public between Berbs and Arabs. The Berbs are depicted as democratically minded because they fight against the islamists whereas the Arabs are preconceived as undemocratic. The problems with this dichotomy is that the Berbs, while fighting against the islamist, are not particularly democratic in the Western sense, as their view of society is built on the clan-system. There are as large differences in the view of democracy amongst the Arabs as there are between Vaclav Havel, the French republicans and the supporters of le Pen.

The result of these simplifications is that some are regarded as the 'good guys' and others as the 'bad guys'. Such a simplification fits in neatly with the Algerian government's interpretation of the conflict. The government sees it as a struggle to the death between order, i.e. the continuation of the regime, and chaos, depicted as the growth of islamism. The French government has lent its support to this chaos-versus-order interpretation of the situation:

Internal order in France is only to be achieved through strengthening the French nation as much as possible against intruding Algerians. There has thus been a dramatic decline in the issuing of visa to Algerians. The hunt against illegal immigrants has been on the agenda, especially since E. Cresson was Prime Minister under Mitterand. The present government only continues the policy of the socialist governments. The right as well as left wing have been under pressure from the popularity of le Pen. In periods where France has been hit by acts of terrorism the hunt of foreigners has been intensified in order to prove that the state does something. President J. Chirac thus announced at the end of August 1995 (according to le Monde, 24 August, i.e. after the acts of terror) that the hunt was to be intensified. The raids have kindled the fire of xenophobia and thus confirmed the prejudice that people with the Maghreb view are carriers of the 'islamist disease', threatening to infect the French blood, as well as spreading terror.

External order has implied that the French government has economically and militarily supported the Algerian regime. In the end of 1994, however, the present Foreign Minister, A. Juppé, began to signal a certain change in this policy with his announcement that France would support the commencing dialogue between the Algerian government and the opposition. Dialogue and continued support for the government became the two pillars of the French policy; but neither as Foreign Minister nor in his present position as Prime Minister has Juppé or his government gone all the way to support the demands of the FIS for legalization. The French government hopes that the Algerian state can be reformed without the FIS coming to play any political role. It looks as if the French government is right, because FIS is more or less crushed after the elections of L. Zeroual. Instead it looks as if Hamas has taken over the task how as defining the relationship between political modernization and the upholding of a cultural Muslim identity.

In the Autumn of 1996 there was a discussion in France, following the cancellation of the meeting between L. Zeroual and J. Chirac, about the conditionality of French economic aid to Algeria. More democracy, more money to Algeria, were the words from Paris. But the French government soon forgot this after the Algerian presidential elections in November 1996. The reason for this political amnesia was surely that France hoped for a change in the political situation because of the legitimatization of the president. If France had continued the discourse about conditionality, some other countries in Europe would almost certainly have adopted a similar position. (A. Pierre and W. Quandt:1996). But the question is whether explicit and outright conditionality would not be counterproductive, as it would be conceived by the Maghreb, as another post-colonial interference. It may, on the other hand, be a constructive European policy to further pluralism by supporting different societal groups who ask for political reforms.

The French lack of understanding and resultant inability to affect the situation is mirrored in Europe as a whole. Europe has had a strong inclination to consider the Algerian crisis as, first and foremost, an economic crisis. Hence European politicians have only recently begun to seriously ask questions about the legitimacy of the Algerian state and the effect thereof on the political future of Tunisia and Marocco. Questions about the relationship between state, nation and society in the Maghreb countries have now come to the European fore, especially after the Barcelona conference in November 1996. The question about the fusion of state-nation-and regime security is seldomly discussed in Europe. The EU thus tacitly supports the Tunisian and Algerian ways of defining national security as tatamount to regime security.


Abortive Maghreb Regionalization

The five countries Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania and Libya in February 1989 signed the regional treaty on the Arab-Maghreb union UMA (Union de Maghreb-Arabe). The North African leaders praised the possibility of good neighbourhood and collaboration. The rivalry between states should no longer prevent the region from becoming a political and economic actor that could exert its influence towards Europe. It looked as if decades of political disagreements might find an institutional form that could dampen the rivalry amongst the states.

Ever since the countries gained their independence there has been repeated attempts at creating a Maghreb economic and political community, but such a project had consistently been blocked by problems concerning the drawing of borders. Wars between the states had not been excluded in the period from 1962 to 1988. 1963 thus saw a three-week war, the so-called "Sand War", between Algeria and Morocco. With the exception of Tunisia all countries have questioned the colonial borders. Libya has undertaken repeated raids into Chad, and Morocco has de facto occupied West-Sahara since 1976, after Spain abandoned its responsibility for this colony in November 1975. Algeria until 1989 allowed the Polisario to operate into Morocco in order to reduce Moroccan power in the region. Tunisia has kept a relatively low profile in these border disputes, but it has always been concerned about Libyan attempts at destabilization of the Tunisian state.

Ever since the independence of the various countries there has thus been a high level of threat between Morocco and Algeria as well as between Tunisia and Libya. The rivalry between Algeria and Morocco has been the basic structure in the various alliance patterns in the region. The two countries have fought over regional supremacy, and the question of the future of West-Sahara has been bone of contention ever since 1976. Since 1988 Morocco and Algeria have, however, downplayed this problem. They have agreed on disagreeing, i.e. agreed on not letting the Saharan conflict influence the building of a regional security system. The borders were thus opened and diplomatic relations, severed in 1976, were resumed. A possible regionalization could thus begin because the primary rivals in the region had a sufficiently strong interest in dampening the societal instability of the states.

The power rivalry in the Maghreb region had not interested the United States particularly during the Cold War. The region thus only had secondary strategic interest. The US were primarily interested in keeping the Soviet fleet out of the western Mediterranean in order to secure the maritime route from Gibraltar to the Suez (I. O. Lesser: 1993). Securing access to Middle Eastern oil was the main security problem. The Maghreb countries were only one station on the route to this oil. Facing west with a geopolitical location at the Strait of Gibraltar, Morocco was invested with strategic importance. However, this importance was diminished when Spain joined NATO in 1982. As long as Morocco was stable the United States was not particularly interested in the security dynamics in the region. Europe was.

Since the 19th century the European powers have been in the Maghreb as colonial powers. The French cultural, political and economic "overlay" of the Arab-Muslim Maghreb brought Europe into the region and homogenized the region from above. The elites became westerly orientated. On the other hand, what came to unite the region from below was Islam and the relation (or lack of relation) to Europe. Because of geographical closeness and cultural and economic bonds between the two sides of the western Mediterranean Europe could not ignore Maghreb problems. After independence Europe has, for instance, become involved in the various border disputes and sovereignty problems, be it in West-Sahara or in the Libyan attempts at changing its borders vis-à-vis Chad. Moreover, Europe has become partly dependent on the gas import from Algeria.

Until 1988-89 Europe did not view the Maghreb countries as a European security problem. The Maghreb countries were a problem for themselves not for Europe; but this situation changed after the violent crisis that erupted in Algeria in 1988. The EC bid the UMA treaty welcome, hoping that regional collaboration would strengthen the intra-regional economy and reduce political tension among states. If the collaboration was successful, Europe would no longer need to remain the driving force behind economic development in the Maghreb. Moreover, the EC would be able to negotiate with one rather than several actor with whom overall strategies for the region could be negotiated.

The purpose of the collaboration for the Maghreb countries was to define rules and norms that would allow the involved states to place restrictions on their behaviour vis-à-vis each other. The union was an attempt at making regional security dynamics peaceful. It further aimed at diminishing the importance of boundaries via collaboration, and sought to achieve a common strategy for dealing with incipient islamization of the Maghreb countries. The aim was thus to establish a security regime, defined as:"those principles, rules and norms that permit nations to be restrained in their behaviour in the belief that others will reciprocate". This "implies not only norms and expectations that facilitate cooperation, but a form of cooperation that is more than the pursuit of short run self-interest (R. Jervis: 1982). The main importance of this concept is that it defines a threshold beyond which a relationship among states changes from the pursuit of short run self-interest to investments in the future. Thus the idea of of building up the security of the other in order to improve ones own security is the main point in this concept. The establisment of UMA served these principles.

There was also an important external factor at play in establishing UMA, namely the incipient dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Maghreb states feared that Europe would increasingly focus on Russia and Eastern Europe, thus forgetting about the Mediterranean. Moreover after Portugal and Spain joined the EC in 1986, concerns arose that the their agricultural and textile production would hamper Maghreb exports of the same commodities in the EC as a whole. The purpose of the UMA was thus to develop an economic collaboration that would make the countries less vulnerable to changes in the international economy. Moreover governments hoped that economical collaboration would have a political side effect in the form of integration that might develop into a Maghreb confederation. At the same time, the Union should also alert Europe to the fact that the countries had economic and political problems that they were unable to solve on their own. However, UMA functioned poorly for several reasons. First of all, Algeria slided into a deep political crisis. Secondly, the UN Security Council decided to introduce sanctions against Libya because of the terror action over Lockerbie. Thirdly. the envisaged intra-regional economic collaboration has hardly commenced. Intra-regional trade only constitutes three percent of the total trade (G. Joffé: 1994) whereas it amounted to 1.5 percent at the attainment of the independence (C. Spencer: 1993). Horizontal links between countries have thus only developed to a small extent. The Maghreb economies are still oriented towards Europe which accounts for 70 percent of their exports and provides 60 percent of their imports. The already small intra-regional economic collaboration is further hampered by the Moroccan and Tunisian border controls vis-à-vis Algeria.

UMA is only a security regime up to a point, as it has been powerless vis-à-vis the Algerian crisis. Whether the Maghreb has developed into a security community - defined as a group of countries among which war has ceased to be conceivable- is debatable; while inter-state war may have become extremely unlikely, minor border skirmishes certainly are not, nor is a transborder spread of internal conflicts (e.g. from Algeria).

The more chaotic the situation becomes in Algeria, the more the neighbouring countries will close their borders to this country. This will result in even further reduction of economic and political collaboration amongst the states, which, in its turn, will produce an even stronger orientation towards Europe.


The Maghreb: the Periphery to the Periphery of Europe.

In 1972 the EC agreed on a Mediterranean policy, the primary goal of which was to provide greater economic support for all Mediterranean countries. This policy consisted more of traditional development aid and trade concessions than of true reform measures. Not until 1986 (with the entry of Spain and Portugal into the community) did the economic problems of the Maghreb countries really enter the EC agenda. The reason was that the agricultural production of these two South European member countries would crowd out the Maghreb export possibilities, as mentioned above. Since 1990 the South European countries have put pressure on the EU to develop a unified Mediterranean policy. The Commission in 1990 thus produced the large report Towards a new Mediterranean Policy: Proposals for the Period 1992-96. At the European Council meeting in Corfu in 1994 the ministerial council received the mandate to evaluate the previous Mediterranean policy in collaboration with the Commission, as well as to set the guidelines for strengthening the short and medium-term Mediterranean policy. This mandate was concretized at the European Council meeting in Essen in December 1994 with the adoption of the report Strengthening of the European Union's Mediterranean Policy: the Establishment of a Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. This report was followed by yet another that was adopted by the European Council meeting in Cannes in June 1995. The report formed the point of departure for the negotiations in preparations of the Mediterranean conference that was held in November 1995 in Barcelona with the fifthteen EU countries and twelve non-EU countries as participants. The afore-mentioned report formed the basis of the conference.

From the first major report in 1990 until the most recent one in 1995 there has been a serious deterioration of the situation in the Maghreb. This is clearly mirrored in the policy recommendations of the reports. The first was concentrated on the need for economic reforms that should, in the long run, be combined with the development of the Mediterranean free-trade zone. The emphasis was thus on the economy. In the 1994 report it was declared that the Mediterranean region should receive no preferential treatment, as compared to Eastern and Central Europe; further that the goal of the policy would be to improve living conditions, support political reforms and the respect for human rights and the freedom of speech with a view to reducing violence and emigration. The report from the Cannes meeting underlined the need for concretization of the 1994 proposal for Euro-Mediterranean partnership. The report recommended that the building blocks of a partnership should be political dialogue about security threats; the creation of states based on the rule of law in the southern Mediterranean basin; a strengthening of the civil societies; and, in the long run, the development of a free-trade zone.

The European policy towards the southern shores of the Mediterranean is thus undergoing qualitative change. The economy remains the central focus, but greater considerations is being given to the development of civil society in the last reports, thus also to relationship between state, society and democracy. In the 1970s the countries were regarded as objects of European economic support. As a result of the Gulf War, the peace process between Israel and the PLO and the chaos in Algeria, however, it has since 1994 been attempted to draw these countries closer to Europe partners in a common security project. Thus far, however, the concrete results have been meagre, for several reasons for this.

One reason is that the development of a free-trade zone encounters resistance from the southern European countries. Nevertheless the EU has signed association agreements with Morocco and Tunesia, implying a certain opening up of the European market albeit only in a very controlled way. In order to avoid that Algeria feels humiliated and abandoned, the EU has decided to conduct exploratory talks with Algeria pointing towards future negotiations on association agreements.

The southern European countries would rather see the free-trade area as a very long-term goal, whereas they want the EU to be equitable in its economic aid for East and South. The south European countries have constantly complained that the Maghreb receives far too little economic aid in comparison with Eastern and Central Europe.

As the great treasurer as far as Eastern Europe is concerned, Germany is reluctant to see the EU taking on heavy economic responsibilities for yet another region. On the other hand, the German government has repeatedly declared the Mediterannian region to be of no lesser security political importance than Eastern Europe. In 1995 Germany supported both the French and subsequent Spanish chairmanships in their giving top priority to the Mediterranean. Politically there is thus agreement to draw Magreb closer to Europe, but the question remain who is supposed to pay the costs. In any case there will be a discussion about the parallellity between Maghreb and the eastern countries with regard to trade and quota agreements for various commodities and tarrifs. But the Barcelona conference did not solve the main economic problem: the future of the Maghreb agricultural production, because the conference decided to exclude thise products from the free trade-zone. This stance increased the Maghreb suspecion asbout European willingness to take the fundamental problems of the Maghreb seriously.

Another problem in the EU's relation with the Maghreb is how to define an EU policy towards the region. Since 1990 the EU has been in favour of a unified European Maghreb policy, intended not to replace but supplement the bilateral agreements that various south European countries have with Maghreb countries.

However, the South European countries are promoting the elevation of as many policies as possible to the EU level. This is due to concerns about their particular vulnerability to further North African destabilisation that could produce refugee flows from the Maghreb. Particularly the French government is interested in elevating the policy towards the Maghreb to a European level because of its tainted reputation in particularly Algeria and because of the huge Maghreb economic problems that cannot be solved by one European country. But at the same time, France wants to continue its 'special relationship' with the Maghreb because of its quest for international political status. Thus France vacillates between advocacy of French bilateralism and multilateralism via the EU . Spain also wants a europeanization of the policies, because of its three little enclaves in Morocco and its involvement in the West-Sahara problem. So far the EU has, however, been unable to develop a unified multilateral approach to the region because of the crisis in Algeria and the problem with Libya. The EU contries have thus increasingly pursued bilateral policies towards the region. The purpose of especially economic bilateralization has been and remains to strengthen Morocco and Tunesia so as to prevent an islamization. These two states are envisaged as a kind of buffer zone vis-à-vis Algeria that are supposed to prevent an islamic 'domino effect'. The result of this bilateral containment policy vis-à-vis Algeria may well be an intensified competition among the Maghreb countries about the access to European resources (C. Spencer: 1993). This will further weaken the possibilities for regionalization and common security strategies. One consequence may be that Algeria becomes concerned about Morocco's rise to hegemonial status in the region.

The European policy has thus far tended towards a regional imbalance that could become a security problem unless Europe faces up to the Algerian problem. Pending that the EU can speak as much as it wants about the need for a multilateral approach to the Maghreb. It cannot be implemented without a termination of the containment and status quo policy towards the Algeria. As long as Algeria is seen as a security problem by the other Maghreb states, neither can the Maghreb present a unified policy vis-à-vis Europe, not will Europe be able to develop a unified Maghreb policy, even if it were unified internally.

The mutual cultural suspicion between Southern Europe with its colonial past and the Maghreb means that Maghreb must not be allowed to become an object of EU policy. There has to be reciprocity so that the cultural suspicion is not further nourished. There is thus deep scepticism in the Maghreb states and societies about any NATO or EU talk about the Maghreb as an "out of area" region. A concept of "out of area" will signal that the region remains a threat from the outside to a Europe that does not see it as its potential extension. What matters for NATO and the EU will therefore be to develop forms of collaboration that do not allow the Maghreb countries into these organisations, but where a dialogue about reciprocal threat perceptions takes place. This might prevent the Maghreb states, NATO and the EU from perceiving each other as threats and thus be a confidence-building measure in its own right.

Since 1992 the EU has, on French initiative, held meetings with Maghreb security experts. But so far it has not gone beyond concluding that the parties have unable to agree on a definition of threats. NATO, at its summit in January 1994, declared that security in Europe is very much influenced by security in the Mediterranean area because of Algeria and the politization of Islam. It was agreed that bilateral ad hoc meetings should be established between NATO and the southern Mediterranean countries from the beginning of 1994--especially with Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. In March 1995 the first talks between NATO and Maghreb were launched. However, Algeria was not invited to the first meeting because of its unsettled situation.

Up to now ( winter 1996) no confidence-building between NATO and the Maghreb has been established. As for the establishing forces answerable to WEU - such as EUROFOR and EUROMARFOR, formed by France, Spain and Portugal, they tend to objectifying the southern shores of the Mediterranean. It remains to be seen to what use these forces are applied: In suppport of the existing regimes thereby threatening the Muslim masses? For interventions in border conflicts? If so, on behalf of which state? The rapporteur for the WEU on security in the Mediterranean region, Yves Robin, puts into question the use of these forces:" If these forces are to carry out Petersberg-type missions (humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping and peace-enforment missions, prevention of armed conflict, etc.),-- the southern countries may well speculate as to whether such missions are in anticipation of possible conflict between North and South or, on the contrary, whether they too could benefit from the assistance of these forces should the need arise, and even take part in their activites." (WEU: 1996, 1.6.) The EU and the WEU are thus staggering between two ways of considering the Maghreb. Either as a region in the outer circle of Europe, in a circle where cooperation is going on between the two parts, or as a region outside Europe, threatening the stability of the European core.

The EU tries to draw Maghreb further into Europe, but the Maghreb countries are not eligible for the same sort of association with the European 'anchor' as are the Eastern countries. They have received no promises of political membership 'sooner or later', as have the Eastern and Central European countries. They can get money and, in the long term, a free-trade zone; but money is no ticket of admission for political membership of the EU. In reality the Maghreb comes a little closer to the EU than the CIS countries because of the prospects of a free-trade area, to be established sooner or later. They can be woven into the various institutions that are more or less closely related to the EU, but neither the EU nor large parts of the Maghreb societies want a genuine membership of the EU. The Maghreb may become the periphery of the periphery: More distant to the European core than Eastern and Central Europe but closer than the CIS. Maybe at about the same distance as Turkey.


The Maghreb and Europe: Security Complexes.

One explanation of the European vacillation over the Maghreb question is that the region itself is undergoing transformation, hence that its delimitation is unclear.

With the collapse of the bipolar system of the Cold War the Mediterranean emerged as a region in itself. But which countries belong to the Mediterranean space? Is it a space which reaches from the Atlantic to the Gulf, including the problems of the Middle East? Or should it be subdivided into various subregional spaces? This is what Abdelwahab Biad suggests, writing that "since policies which have attempted to involve the whole of the Mediterranean region have failed, it has become essential to concentrate on promoting co-operation and security on a sub-regional level. This will mean considering the Western Mediterranean, the Balkans and the Middle East as separate areas."( A. Biad:1996, p. 47). If one is in agreement with this way of thinking regional security, one is conceptually close to Barry Buzan's notion of regional "security complexes", connoting a "local set of states whose major security perceptions and concerns link together sufficiently closely that their national security problems cannot realistically be considered apart from another". Security complexes are defined "in terms of patterns of amity and enmity that are substantially confined within some particular geographical area and rest, for the most part, on the interdependence of rivalry rather than on the interdependence of shared interests." (B. Buzan: 1991. chap. 5) The problem with this definition is where regions end and where they begin. The three big Maghreb countries have coopted Mauritania and Libya in order to downgrade their latent rivalry, especially over border problems. But what about Egypt? It does not belong to UMA, but it conceives of itself as belonging both to the Middle East (because of the Arab-Israeli conflict and wars) and to the Maghreb--because of the vicinity of Libya as well as due to the fear of spill-over effects from islamists in the Maghreb. Thus Egypt has one foot in each camp. Hence, regional security complexes may best be conceived as essentially political constructs which have less to do with culture than with political involvement.

An implication of this view is that security relations can change over time. Maybe we are witnessing such a change in the Maghreb region. The countries both consider themselves as part of the North-Western African region--with weak links to black Africa and, even more so, as a subregion of Europe. The more the Maghreb see itself as a (peripheral) part of Europe the more Europe has to deal with the region as a subregion of the European security complex. The way the Europeans define themselves thus influences how they consider and conduct politics towards the Maghreb and vice versa.



There is no agreement among Southern European countries about how to geopolitically think the Mediterranean. In Italy and Spain the Mediterranean space is viewed as large lake across which the problems of the Middle East and the Gulf may spread to the Western Mediterranean. France and Portugal, however, prefer to see the Western Mediterranean as a separate security space. The two views in 1990 were manifested in two different institutional proposals for embedding the Mediterranean. Spain and Italy proposed the establishment of a Conference on Security and Collaboration in the Mediterranean (the CSCM), which was to be a carbon copy of the CSCE (now OSCE). France and Portugal supported this without great enthusiasm. Instead, France with the support of Portugal proposed "a five-plus-five dialogue" that should include Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The dialogue was to be about energy resources, economic and financial development, migration and cultural exchange. The military aspects of security, on the other hand, were not to be discussed in this forum.

None of these initiatives have met with any great success. The five- plus-five dialogue has encountred problems with Algeria, and with the question of West-Sahara, with Libya's international isolation, it has further been hampred by the internal disagreement among the Maghreb countries about whether to discuss all these problems with the European partners at all, or to limit the dialogue to economic problems. Since 1992 the dialogue has been dormant. Because of this and because of the partial failure of the UMA the south European countries have continued to put pressure on the EU to accept the Maghreb as an EU question. The EU was supposed to solve whatever problems neither the south European countries nor the Maghreb itself had been able to solve.

Neither has the CSCM initiative been particularly fruitful. The reason is that all problems of the entire region are being discussed at the same time: the Balkan, the Gulf, the Middle East and the Maghreb are treated on equal footing even though their security problems differ. The reasons why Italy and Spain wanted a comprehensive security concept for the entire Mediterannian was that the Israel-Palestine conflict had reverberations in all directions. Now with the peace process in motion there is a tendency to decouple the various regions from the Israli-Palestinian problem. Furthermore, the attitudes of the various states to the Gulf War varied, which has produced new regional patterns of amity and enmity that have nothing to do with Israel-Palestine conflict. Rather they are the result of the vulnerabilities of the state, both internally and in their relation with their respective neighbours.

If the CSCM model is to stand any chance of becoming the overarching framework for security discussions involving the entire area, it must be supported by specific regional security arrangements. These have to take into account the dynamics in specifically delimitated areas. Such an approach to security in the Mediterranean was proposed in 1991 by Egypt that had not been invited into the five-plus-five dialogue, being regarded as part of the Middle East rather than of North Africa. The Egyptian government in 1994 proposed the creation of a Forum for Dialogue and Collaboration in the Mediterranean. It was to concentrate on cultural and political dialogue and economic and social collaboration between both states and private organizations. The institutional framework of these dialogues was to follow the géometrie variable principle, i.e. it should be a forum in which the members might enter into ad hoc collaboration. This forum is distiguished by its close collaboration with the EU's EPC and by allowing for flexible forms of collaboration. For instance, if a member of the forum should come to be conceived as a security political problem to others the structure will not be destroyed. The country in question simply withdraws from the collaboration or is isolated. The weakness of this construction is its lack of conflict-solving structures and the ill-defined role of the EPS.

The five-plus-five dialogue, the Forum for Dialogue and Collaboration, the CSCM and the Europe-Mediterranean Partnership! There are lots of proposals for institutional embedment, but insitutions are weak and there is no committing collaboration. The future problem will therefore be how to define the institutional relationship between the various Mediterraneans regions and how to devise connecting links between the various institutions and the EU.


The Maghreb State/Society Divide

The two most westernly orientated states, Morocco and Tunisia, look to Europe as a anchor of stability. This they have done increasingly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and particularly after the Gulf War, where Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco all supported Saudi Arabia and thus the West. This became costly for them in the form of mass mobilization against Western interference in the war. Governments had to moderate their support for the West because of demonstrations in support of Saddam Hussein. The Islamists drew the conclusion from the Gulf War that the West was ready to fight for the rich Muslims at the expense of the poor and that the West was now more willing to intervene militarily in the Muslim world than it has been during the Cold War (G. Salamé:1993, p. 28.) The same conclusion has been drawn with regard to Bosnia. The West is apparently ready to intervene when Muslims kill other Muslims, as in the Gulf war, but it remains passive when Bosnian Muslims are killed by Christians. The protest is thus both a social one, directed against an uneven distribution of wealth in the Arab countries and a protest of identity directed against the militarily and culturally superior West and its indigenous supporters. If another Gulf War should occur, the Maghreb states will find it extremely difficult to support the West because the islamist movements and the great unemployed masses will see Western involvement as an affront to islamic values. An intervention in the Gulf will thus have a contagious pan-islamic effect. However, there will not be any pan-Arabic effect because the protest will be directed inwardly against each state's lack of legitimacy. This will be a cultural reaction emphasizing common islamic values across state boundaries and directed against the westernly orientated Muslim states. The Maghreb rulers have thus ended up in a 'Catch 22' problem: If they appeal too much to the West for economic and political help for modernization whilst lacking legitimacy it will strengthen the societal protest. If they do not get any help from the West, they risk an economic disaster that will also call forth a massive societal protest against the state. If the Maghreb states will approach Europe, it will have political costs as far as the relationship of the states to their societies is concerned. The states will have to adapt to the European democratic rules of the game. If they reject these rules of the game they will expelled from 'the good company'. If they open up to democracy the Muslim masses will float the political scene. If they do not, populations will protest against the lack of democracy. The ruling elites will be forced by Europe to pay more respect to human rights, but this in its turn means that weak governments will be subjected to criticism. This will destabilize them further, because there is no democratic culture which can channel and develop the societal debate.

The wish of the states for close economic cooperation with, and a better access to the foundations and the markets of the West is confronted with society's demands for the preservation of a Muslim identity. The European and Maghreb policies thus have to steer a course between Schylla and Charybis: If the Maghreb comes too close to Europe protest against the westernization of Muslim societies will erupt. If it does not, it faces the prospects of continuing underdevelopment (Y. Lacoste:1993).

An economic and political concept is needed which at one and the same time satisfies the westernly orientated consumerists needs of the Maghreb societies and the demands for a unique combination of Muslim identity with political modernity.


Securitization of Culture and regimes

If a destructive cultural clash is to be avoided the EU has to take the threat perceptions of the Maghreb countries into account. The policies of the individual EU states vis-à-vis the Maghreb have been characterized by anxiety about the prospects of (illegal) migration, dealing with organized crimes, and drugs.

The EU states have not been particularly alert to the fact that the Maghreb feels threatened by the restricted immigration policy of Western Europe, the growing xenophobia in Europe, and the widespread western perception of Islam as a cultural and political threat. The Maghreb countries fear that the northern part of the Mediterranean will launch a cultural cruisade against the southern part. If the EU countries choose a containment policy towards the Maghreb and close their borders to this region, the two parts of the Mediterranean space will drift apart. In this case political reforms will become even more difficult to implement in the Maghreb, as large parts of the population will regard democracy as a western invention that will spoil their culture.

The future development of the relationship between Europe and the Maghreb will depend on whether the West and the Maghreb islamists will be able to consider Islam as a cultural rather than a political identity. If the West regards Islam as the great threat to its fundamental values, collaboration will become impossible, as every conflict in the Maghreb will be regarded as an islamic threat rather than as a result of political and economic transformation processes. In these processes Islam serves as a force of mobilization against the authoritarian states. If western politicians and media continue their distrust of the ability of the European Muslims to play their democratic role, it is to be expected that Muslims on both sides of the Mediterranean will react by distancing themselves from the European political culture. The institutionalization of political and cultural dialogue between the two parts of the western Mediterranean must therefore have a high priority in the EU's future Maghreb policy.


Postscriptum: A preliminary attempt to outline future debates about the relationship between state, regime and nation

Underlying much of the political confusion and vacillation recorded above is a conceptual 'confusion' stemming from the fact that the very concepts of 'security', 'nation' and 'Europe' are undergoing transformation. Why does Europe, for instance, increasingly treat migration and Islam as security problems with dramatic connotations and threat/defense implications, rather than as ordinary political problems? (O. Wæver: 1994). And who speaks for Europe?

How does the Maghreb conceive of security? On whose behalf do the Maghreb states conduct security policy? Are they speaking in the name of the state, the nation or the regime? How and why do they suppress the notion of the security of the regime? Why and how do they securitize (ibid.) the question of Islam? Unless Europe (however defined) addresses these questions it risks misunderstanding the Maghreb's deliberate use of the term state rather than regime security.

If Maghreb leaders spoke openly about the need to 'securitize' their respective regimes, they would lose legitimacy to an even greater extent, because 'regime' is ephemeral in comparison with the strong and stable, almost perennial, state structure. They have to couch their security discourse in terms of state security because the Maghreb states (like other third world states) are weak states (M. Ayoob: 1995, F. Faria and A. Vasconcelos: 1996). In the terminology of Barry Buzan a weak state is one with a low degree of socio-political cohesion, hence with a high level of concern with domestically generated threats to the security of the respective government. In other words, weak states lack the domestic political and societal consensus required to eliminate the use of force and violence as a constituent element in the political life of the nation. Hence, the security of the government becomes confused with the security of states.

An explanation of the unclear relation between state and nation is unfortunate timing. Whereas the earliest modern states of Europe became states before they became nations, states and nations were constructed simultaneously in the Maghreb as well as in the rest of the Third world. As Stein Rokkan has pointed out, 'What is important is that the Western nation-states were given a chance to solve some of the worst problems of state-building before they had to face the ordeals of mass politics.' (S. Rokkan: 1987) The Maghreb did not have such luck, but state construction, nation-building and the involvement of the masses in politics occurred in parallel. By means of coersion and by providing a minimum of welfare to the populations the Maghreb regimes succeeded until the mid-1980s in keeping the masses out of the discussion about state construction and nation-building. After the crumbling of the Wall and the accompanying spread of Western democratic values and demands for national self-determination, however, the masses have demanded pluralism and new forms of nation/state constructions.

La culture d'emeute (B.Badie:1993) against the unjust ruler has produced diffuse riots and political demands for democracy, social and economic equality. Time has thus become a crucial factor in the further building of state and nation. The regimes have lost their legitimacy with regard to state and nation building and the masses have come to stay, demanding influence on the definition of national identity the choice of state.

However, given the short amount of time at the disposal of state makers and the consequent acceleration in their state-making efforts, crises erupt simultaneously, become unmanageable as they overload the political and military capabilities of the state, and lead to a cumulation of crises that further erodes the legitimacy of the fragile post-colonial state. (Ayoob: 1995. p. 30)

As a result, regimes perceive themselves as being besieged by the populations in all of the Maghreb with the exception of Morocco. As a reflection of this siege mentality the Maghreb regimes finds it immensely difficult to handle fundamental change in regime-state-nation relations. Any change is seen as entailing the risk of a complete breakdown of both the regime and the state. The states therefore cling to the status quo, stressing the unacceptability of European interference with their way of dealing with the problem of legitimacy. How to bring about a change is thus the great headache for both Europe faced with a Maghreb in obvious crisis and for the Maghreb regimes themselves.

Not only are relations between the EU and the Maghreb thus disturbed by the Maghreb confusion between state, regime and national security and by the fact that the chosen construction differs from that to which Europe subscribes. They are further complicated by the fact that three kinds of state construction are confronting each other. The EU is not a 'normal' state, but nevertheless an actor sui generis; France, the main actor in relations with the Maghreb, is en route to becoming a postmodern state (Buzan and Segal: 1996); and, finally, the pre-modern Maghreb states retain a patrimonial state-structure. The confrontation between these three types of actors inevitably produces conceptual confusion, as all are susceptible to misunderstanding in their perception of respective Other. To further explore these problems is, however, beyond the scope of this paper.



*: Paper for the conference on: La Méditerranée une année après le Sommet de Barcelone, The Mediterranean One Year After the Barcelona Summit. Back.

**: Ulla Holm
Research Fellow
Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI) Back.