Globalization as Humanitarian Challenge 1: The Mediterranean Interface

future developments on the ground, judged in retrospect [1].

The area accomplished that unique geo-political and as well geo-cultural centrality thanks to a structure that had already at the end of antiquity created sort of a first globalization, a world interior ("Weltinnenraum") of political and cultural exchange that was organized until well into the middle ages around the Mare Nostrum as a 360 degree interface. Here the Imperium Romanum as a first super power of this first globalization developed - and a rising challenger of the then global south, namely the Arab world.

If the qualities of the area are put into a historical perspective, we perceive today besides the origins of modernity, civilization and progress even more a socio-cultural reality that characterizes it until today: 'the Mediterranean as a place where lives are shared and values are defined within a multiplicity of loyalties and belongings'. [2] This internal differentiation as well as politically meaningful capacity of societies was ever again challenged by invasions from the outside, by which the variety of one's own culture was perceived as threatened (to later on intergrate it, at least culturally). The obsession with the domestication of amorph masses that challenge the governmental order from outside, has a long history in the Mediterranean area. Not realy accidential the concept of the multitude originated from here, from Machiavelli to Spinoza and Negri, the mass as a challenge to souverainty and civil liberties alike, therefore to the Contract Social. [3]

Streams of humans and trade in the current globalization process force that stunningly slack entity that as the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) managed to set up a multilateral institutional framework for itself, to start negotiations, to search for political solutions and to build consensus. Because the causes of present day challenges are often seen as located outside. Whereas problems may materialize in the global South, they are to a considerable extent caused by economic and military activities of the global North, to which the Mediterranean area doesn't belong.  Effects from climate change, epidemics and economic development trigger migratory flows that do not only impact on Europe but on neighboring states of the Arab world even more. At the same time maritime engagement of the expanding Chinese economy generates a huge increase of logistic tranfers in the area. Besides a persisting North-South tension the Mediterranean more and more is shaped as an action space of bargaining polycentric interests. And it is less likely that these development will be helpfull in reducing social divides. On the contrary: demographic trends together with the progression of technologies - rolling labour worlds up - is channeling a considerable portion of today's youth into precarious conditions, which raises concerns already since some time. In this moment of being exceedingly challenged, the federal fabric of Europe seems to show a lack of resilience. Regional upheavals are symptomatic, which differ in motivation but can be seen as an identity discourse that articulates also as a strong reservation against globalization. Not every form of regionalism must be explained as anti-global. But movements promoting regional autonomy nevertheless seem especially prone to isolationist arguments of identitarian movements. [4]

The more so, isn't a perspective beyond one's own nose (of Europe, the Mediterranean) crucial in the current situation? Must Europe, always keen to propagate its own values beyond its borders, not prove those values in dealing with those, who enter from beyond those borders to us? Gunther Hellmann states that "we should refuse to accept those pressumably 'factual' description which insinuate that refugees somehow threaten our European ' way of life' ". [5] And Dirk Messner, as reported, is demanding since some time that future scenarios for Europe should consider global developments much more, with a special urgency regarding Africa. A research project of the Centre deals with this challenge. [6]

Europe that since Greek antiquity, while granting civic liberties inside, refused them at its magins, enters with all its contradictions into a next round. But not only Europe. The Mediterranean as a complex political and cultural action space and medium of global migration and maritime trade flows may define the coexistence of cultural and political loyalties anew.


[1] For the history of political thought and the historic proposition of Alexandre Kojève of a 'L'Empire latin', see Otto Kallscheuer, Zur Zukunft des Abendlandes. Essays. Hannover 2009, 48 ff.

[2] Citation from a CfP, recently published at H-Soz-Kult: Mediterranean Europe(s): Images and Ideas of Europe from the Mediterranean Shores, 9th Annual Symposium of the Research Network on the History of the Idea of Europe, Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici – Naples, 4-6 July 2018 (deadline for paper proposals: 27 Dec 2017).

[3] Niccolò Machiavelli, Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio [written 1517 / published 1531], englisch online:, Baruch de Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus [1670], English translation part of the Gutenberg project:, Antonio Negri, [L'anomalia selvaggia, 1981] The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics, translated by Michael Hardt. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

[4] Bacelona is not only the place of a current plea for independence of Catalans, but also the site of  Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). Dealing with the intellectual instigators of identitarian movements is Claus Leggewie, Anit-Europäer. Beivik, Dugin, al-Suri & Co. Berlin (edition suhrkamp) 2016.

[5] Gunther Hellmann, Professor for Political Science at Goethe University Frankfurt, is currently a Fellow at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research, his statement ist part of a slide show 'The normative power of Europe in view of the refugee challenge' on the Centre's Facebook site.

[6] Our news 'Flows of refugees currently moving Europewards are developing into a formidable challenge for the international community' already documented:

Dirk Messner, A five-point plan for dealing with the refugee crisis: there are no small solutions to big problems, The Current Column v. 11th Sept 2015.

This years three scenario workshops are part of a project, organized by the Centre in Duisburg in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES): Prospective Migration Policy - Scenario Construction on the Relations between Europe and West Africa. The result are to be presented end of this year in Brussels.