• Demetrios Tsailas Retired Rear Admiral of the Senior Naval Command of Northern Greece and former director of the department of the Supreme Joint War College for Security and Strategy & Senior Research Fellow INIS
Keywords: Security, Mediterranean, Conflict, Terrorism, Illegal migration


Original Research Paper


The Mediterranean has never been, conceptually or politically, a homogenous and organic space. From antiquity till the modern era, the surrounded littoral nations looked at their neighborhood through the lenses of a cooperative Euro-Mediterranean region, seeking to extend their norms, rules, and values through the deployment of soft power, from trade and aid to security cooperation and political dialogue. Today, instead, there is a great power competition that divided the region between North Africa and the Middle East especially in the eastern Mediterranean, heavily prioritizing the latter over the former in diplomatic and military outreach and viewing it through the prism of the strategic relationship, of EU nations and NATO allies. In addition, the Arab state system of the region is in standoff now, with many (if not most) states featuring existential fragilities or have collapsed altogether. State fragility has created areas of limited statehood, in which alternative forms of governance—from militias to municipalities, international donors to civil society—have stepped in and in which foreign powers have meddled. Through such interference, global and regional rivalries have exacerbated and have found fertile ground. All major global and regional cleavages are now tragically on display in the region: from the Russia-West and Israel-Iran confrontation in Syria to the Turkish-Greece tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, from the Turkey-UAE/Egypt struggle over political Islam in Libya, to the Iran-Saudi conflict in Yemen, or the Gulf and Israeli skepticism of the Iran nuclear deal. Also, energy has become a proxy for confrontation—as evident in the configuration of the East Med Gas Forum from which Turkey is excluded—and migration has become both a dramatic consequence of fragility and conflict, as well as a tool through which origin and transit countries have arm-twisted Europe. The only cleavage that appears to have temporarily abated is the Arab-Israeli one, with the Abraham accords crystallizing normalization between Israel and some Arab states. Consequently, the region has become far more porous than it once was. It has become impossible to read conflicts in the Mediterranean in isolation, as regional powers like Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, France, and Turkey weigh in across the region. Likewise, illegal migration, energy, security, terrorism, and climate dynamics have generated indissoluble ties to the Eastern Mediterranean and the broader Middle East