The Mediterranean Crucible

BERLIN – For most Europeans, the Mediterranean is an annual object of longing – the holiday idyll where they spend the best weeks of the year. But many Europeans’ sunny view of the region has yielded to lowering clouds of pessimism.

Inside the European Union, the ugly term PIGS (Portugal, Italy/Ireland, Greece, Spain) is now a commonplace, denoting countries that have endangered the euro’s stability and are forcing northern Europeans into costly bailouts. Where not long ago sunshine and solidarity were the order of the day, depression and confrontation are now the rule. Worse still, Europe’s debt and confidence crisis is also the EU’s gravest political crisis since its inception: at stake is nothing less then the future of the European project itself.

And now the crisis has reached the southern shore of the Mediterranean, in the form of a revolution in Tunisia and a political showdown in Lebanon that has once again brought the country to the verge of war and disaster. With the EU’s Mediterranean member states simultaneously faltering, great changes are afoot in Europe’s southern neighborhood.

So it is time to think geopolitically, not just fiscally, about the Mediterranean. What the EU is facing in the Mediterranean isn’t primarily a currency problem; first and foremost, it is a strategic problem – one that requires solutions urgently.