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Mediterranean Quarterly 11.1 (2000) 75-90

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Order and Change in the Euro-Mediterranean System

Dimitris K. Xenakis

The transformation in world politics since the end of the Cold War and the removal of the bipolar overlay has led to a state of unpredictable change and, as often suggested, disorder. An increased perception of instability has resulted from the collapse of the Cold War deterrence regime--itself based on the promise of mutually assured destruction--which provided balance in the international system. The new international order is being shaped by regional dynamics that had operated all along under the surface of superpower confrontation.

Defining and recognizing conditions of stability in both the international and regional systems during the bipolar era was comparatively easy. During the past ten years, however, as international monitors have reported wars on a daily basis or, to borrow from the BBC, every fifteen minutes, the turbulence of the world demonstrates great difficulties arising from the debris of its Cold War past. In the new era, seismic changes transform regional and international politics, and the prospects for order, governance, and change have become transcendent issues. 1 Today's world needs stronger and more efficient regional institutions. The problems the international community confronts in coping with global insecurity are easily identified in the ongoing tragedy under way in the Balkans, demonstrating that available [End Page 75] tools are thus far inadequate to deal with the threats of an ever more complex area. 2

Embedded in an international system of regions, the genesis of a considerable global power vacuum offers the European Union the opportunity to secure its territorial integrity from unnecessary instability, while making an impact on the international scene by preserving peace and prosperity in its southern and eastern peripheries. The post-1989 explosion of political liberty in Central and Eastern Europe has paradoxically inflicted upon this transformative European order signs of regional anarchy of the most traditional type. Issues of integration, disintegration, internationalization, balance of power, and the struggle for power have all contributed to the formation of a new pan-European architecture. The replacement of the Cold War overlay by multidimensional security challenges has also lent great fluidity and instability to the Euro-Mediterranean system. The latter was not well equipped in terms of policies, competencies, and institutions to transcend international change. Although the European countries of the Mediterranean have reached a high level of political stability, their Mediterranean neighbors are subject to a variety of acute clashes and challenges that severely affect regional cooperation. This is especially so if one considers the myriad possible negative combinations of sources of tension in the Mediterranean, a region of cultural and religious diversity, prone to clashes founded on longstanding nationalistic and ethnic tensions. It is evident that the recent proliferation of crises and the widening of the structural, institutional, and developmental gap between the northern and southern Mediterranean rims are causing dramatic instability in the European international politico-economic system and have a substantial impact on Europe's international identity.

At the dawn of a new millennium, the EU has considerably better prospects for forestalling large-scale instabilities than Europe had during all preceding periods in its history. Acknowledging the importance of developing regional and world trading blocs, the EU finds itself in a position to consolidate its international stance as the world's strongest economic union of states, not least because of the enduring predominance of economic [End Page 76] issues in world affairs. As the union has become the center of gravity for all the countries in its periphery, one may legitimately expect that its leadership will face up to its growing international responsibilities, including the application of good governance in the management of the Euro-Mediterranean system. In this framework, the question of whether the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP)--a three-basket arrangement aimed at fostering cooperation between the EU and twelve Mediterranean countries--will be given the capacity through mechanisms and institutions to structure successfully the nascent Euro-Mediterranean order has become central, especially since 1995, when the EU began more seriously investing in...


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pp. 75-90
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