MADRID – The Mediterranean is undergoing a monumental political transformation. Protests on its southern shores have now begun the process of bringing democracy to this region. Less visibly, perhaps, the Mediterranean is also undergoing another revival, equally important in terms of geo-economics.
The changes in the world’s balance of power from the West to the East, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, is making both the United States and Europe apprehensive. Their loss of geopolitical and economic power is evident. Although the future geopolitical behavior of the rising new powers – Brazil, China, and India – remains uncertain, this shift may nonetheless provide an opportunity for the Mediterranean.
With the world focused on the West, the Atlantic region dominated the last three centuries. In a world focused on the East, however, the main linkages are the Pacific and Indian Oceans and, given today’s close relationship between Asia and Europe, the Mediterranean Sea.
Indeed, the container traffic between the Far East and Europe now totals 18 million TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) per year, compared to 20 million TEUs of annual Trans-Pacific traffic and just 4.4 million TEUs of Trans-Atlantic flows between Europe and America. The container flow between the Far East and Europe uses the Mediterranean route via the Suez Canal – far faster than passing through the Panama Canal, circumnavigating Africa, or even taking the hypothetical (for now) ice-free Arctic route.