Why the European Union has to take back control in the Mediterranean

In 2020, we saw rising tension between Greece and Turkey over gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean. While de-escalating efforts are the immediate diplomatic focus of EU leaders, this conflict brings to light deeper looming concerns for European defence orientation.

The groundwork for security in the Mediterranean is based on the Barcelona Declaration in 1995. In this European Declaration, signing Members expressed their conviction that the peace, stability and security of the Mediterranean region are a common asset which they pledge to promote and strengthen by all means at their disposal. However, 26 years later, not much is left of the Barcelona Declaration.

Instead, security policy in the Mediterranean is characterized by crisis management and a gaping void of any fresh ideas how to respond to challenges in the area. This can be seen in the reluctant actions of the European Union in the Greek-Turkey conflict, but also in the persevering humanitarian migration crisis where some countries opened their arms, others erected fences and closed their borders. Not to mention that thousands died in attempting to reach EU shores as a result.

This misaligned of EU Member visions in the Mediterranean causes the incapability of keeping peace, stability and security in EU’s own region. It keeps the door open for more security crises to come and makes the EU an easy target to be pushed around by other players.

As the US military withdrawing message finally descended to EU leaders, it’s time to take back control. While Germany has in some ways taken over the leadership role, an European comprehensive vision for regional security is clearly needed. Diplomatic talking points have to convert into concrete actions and European defence orientation has to be redirected to its own region.