Department of Political Studies - University of Catania

Jean Monnet Chair of European Comparative Politics

Jean Monnet Working Papers in Comparative and International Politics


Said Haddadi
School of Languages & European Studies, Aston University


The Western Mediterranean as a Security Complex:
A liasison between the European Union and the Middle East?

November 1999 - JMWP n° 24



The political unrest raised by the Gulf War in North African countries (as well as in other Arab countries) and the popular vehement hostility voiced towards the United States and the West in general, the ascent of Islamist movements in North Africa, the isolation of Libya from developmental initiatives in the region, the tragic political massacres in Algeria, daily reports of pateras jammed with North African youth sneaking their way to the shores of southern Europe, have all together raised causes for concern about security in the Western Mediterranean.[1]  South-west Europeans feel particularly alarmed because they are perceptibly more vulnerable to events happening in the region, not least because of their geographical proximity to the Maghreb.

The security question in the Western Mediterranean manifests itself in a variety of ways. North African countries are faced with economic problems partly due to the protectionist attitudes of the EU (especially at the agricultural sector), as well as with internal socio-political instabilities and uncertainties due to changes taking place politically. On the other hand, immigration in its legal and illegal forms adds a societal/social colouring to the issue of security in the region, especially in relation to the societal problems emerging in European countries as a result.  The situation appears pregnant with potentials for explosive escalations.  The need for cooperation between the two sides and for stability in North Africa has progressively grown to be decisive to security in the Western Mediterranean at large.

This paper sets out the beginnings of an argument, namely that the Western Mediterranean can be seen as a region that is starting to develop traits characteristic of security complexes in terms of the security dynamics that are at play within it -- particularly in relation to the interactions (both positive and negative) existing between North Africa and south-west Europe, and especially in light of the agenda generated by the end of the Cold War, by the aftermath of the Gulf War and by the developments taking place within the European Union (EU). My hypothesis is that the security interactions and interdependence existing within the Western Mediterranean warrant the investigation of this region in terms of a security complex that comprises North Africa and south-west Europe as two sub-complexes that belong respectively to the Middle East as a lower-level security complex and the EU as a higher-level security complex. Thus, my contention is that the Western Mediterranean can function as a link between the EU and the Middle East as two parent complexes.[2] Hence I wish to label it a liaison security complex.[3]

First, before considering actual Western Mediterranean security problems, this paper briefly discusses the dominant literature dealing with regional security, focusing in particular on the Copenhagen School.[4] Second, it raises issues that are relevant to the discussion of the Western Mediterranean as a security complex with special reference to the current questions and dilemmas that are plaguing relations in the region at the economic, political, societal/social, military and environmental levels.  Then it seeks to relate them to the nature of the Western Mediterranean as a new genre of security complex, a liaison security complex.  Finally, it evaluates the importance of liaison security complexes and judges their merits in reconciling some of the problems and difficulties encountered on account of the interdependence that exists, often increasingly today, between higher-level and lower-level security complexes.

Security Studies and the Idea of Security Complex Theory[5]

The demise of the Cold War has had various repercussions on world politics as well as on International Relations (IR).  The Cold War structure, with its well demarcated blocs and conventional and fairly clearly understood concepts, has been superseded by a vacillating new world (dis)order.  Security has been both gained and lost; gained thanks to the benefits the world has enjoyed since the end of the Cold War, and lost because of a host of subsequent new worries which have ensued.  The concept of security, which was tightly anchored in Cold War military rivalries and nuclear threats, has re-emerged as necessitating a new meaning, a broader one encompassing matters that were previously thought of as secondary, if not irrelevant to the security equation. Since the end of the Cold War, it has been commonly accepted that the concept of security requires to be revamped for it to respond effectively to the needs and worries plaguing the contemporary international scene.  Indeed, post-Cold War security agenda has stretched from the parochial narrow-military preoccupation to include sectors that range from the environmental, to the politico-economic, the societal and the socio-cultural.  Thus a change in the concept of security has led to a change or at least re-structuration of the features that have predominantly shaped regional security.  Internal as well as external dynamics governing regional security have started to shift considerably, giving birth to new complexes or making "fault-lines" between old security complexes overlap and thus harder to draw.

Before entering the discussion of the concept of regional security complex, it is worthwhile to dwell on the framework within which security complexes generally function.  At the risk of oversimplification, a security complex is set in a context framed by three global patterns, namely density, international society and polarity.  Polarity refers to the number of powers in the international system. International society refers to a group of states which do not simply constitute a system but which have also developed norms of conduct and established institutions to manage and mitigate the anarchy inherent in international relations, especially considering the high density of the international system. Density refers to the frequency of interaction in the region. 

Within this framework, polarity in respect to the Western Mediterranean may initially be largely ignored as a sharper focus is placed on mapping the internal dynamics which contribute to picture the Western Mediterranean as a security complex.  The international society counts for the conclusions that may be made as to the role liaison security complexes might play in its consolidation.  Central to this framework and to the overall discussion of the Western Mediterranean is the element of density.

A rising density is the result of the interplay between a rising population on the one hand, and increasing technological, financial, and organisational capabilities on the other.  Density is about more people carrying out more activities and influencing others, intentionally (i.e. advertising and propaganda) and unintentionally (i.e. traffic accidents, noise), positively (i.e. trade, culture) as well as negatively (i.e. pollution, recession).[6]  Density is "defined by interaction and breeds interdependence.  As it rises, it increases the need for specifically political interaction to deal with its consequences.  This political action may be cooperation or may be conflict."[7]  The need for political interaction to channel density leads eventually to interdependence between states across a large spectrum.  Paradoxically, conflicts do not entirely recede with interdependence; they are likely to increase due to the states' varying positions and interests.  Interdependence tends just to shift the focus of conflicts from the military to the non-military, resulting thus in more importance being given to non-military sectors of security on the foreign policy agenda of the states involved.[8]

To account for the spectrum of interdependence existing between states in the international system, different concepts have emerged in IR theory.  Indeed, concepts such as regional conflict formations, security regimes, and security communities have tried to capture the negative and positive aspects characteristic of interdependence at the regional and international levels. Regional formations come as a reaction to the spreading of power in the world. Regional conflict formation is an intricate blend of intra-national, exo- and endo-regional conflicts of a violent nature.[9] Security regimes are defined as "those principles, rules, and norms that permit nations to be restrained in their behavior in the belief that others will reciprocate".[10] It is a permissive cooperation that involves rules and processes constructed mainly to avoid or balance military threats as well as to control and predict military behaviour. A necessary condition for the construction of a security regime is "that major actors prefer the status quo to the world of possible gains and possible losses that they expect to flow from the individualistic pursuit of security policies."[11]  Karl W. Deutsch's idea of security community refers to a group of people/states which have developed a sense of community, of institutions and norms, and which share mutual interest to insure interdependence, and resort to peaceful resolution and institutional means to settle disputes.[12]  A security community starts with the assumption that military confrontation between its members is ruled out.  Security communities are attainable mainly through political amalgamation; they can be approached through (i) psychological role-taking, (ii) assimilation, (iii) mutual interdependence, (iv) mutual responsiveness and (v) simple pacification.[13]  All the three concepts of regional conflict formations, security regimes, security communities are centred around two dominant elements of International Relations' theory, namely power and peace.

To bridge the gap created by the restrictive nature of both power and peace, Barry Buzan proposes security as an analytical tool and regional security complex as a framework for analysis. He contends that security is broader than power and peace, and as a paradigm, it tries to build solutions to reduce threats and vulnerabilities without leading to a "security dilemma".[14] The security approach accepts the reality and durability of anarchy in international politics and the importance of power among its units; it also assumes the possibility of an international society. Thus, it attempts to construct a management approach that is wary of the national as well as regional/international dynamics of the insecurity question, and that reconciles the differences and concentrates on harmonious interrelations between individuals and states alike.[15] The security complex approach, for its part, helps to capture the security dynamics and the interdependence operating in a region with relation to their impact, both internally and externally, on states and societies.  It allows the investigation of the security relations that exist within the region as well as explains the intricate ramifications and intermeshing of the different security sectors throughout a set period of time.  This permits a historical discussion of security complexes in that it enables one to map their initial stages, actual position, and future direction and development, as well as to analyse the security managements adopted or to be adopted.  A security complex approach also opens the way for the discussion of security as a set of different intricate and intertwined components that need first to be dismantled and accepted before going into building a security regime or community.  In other words, the discussion of regional security in terms of complexes is a first necessary step in clearing the ground for a potential development of security regimes or communities.

Regional Security Complexes: the Western Mediterranean Example

A security complex is defined in terms of power relation and the patterns of amity/enmity. Power relation refers to the local interactions between the states belonging to the complex. Amity covers "relationships ranging from genuine friendship to expectations of protection or support", and enmity, "the relationship set by suspicion and fear."[16]  A security complex is "a group of states whose primary security concerns link together sufficiently closely that their national securities cannot realistically be considered apart from one another."[17]  It originates from the interaction between geographical proximity and the essentially anarchic structure of international relations and its balance of power aspects, as well as between the interrelations of the individual states that constitute the complex.  There are two sorts of security complexes: higher-level and lower-level ones.  A higher-level complex comprises great powers and a lower-level complex contains states whose power cannot extend beyond their immediate surroundings.[18]  The existence of regional security complexes consolidates the interdependence of both rivalries and interests.  There is a higher degree of interdependence (both negative and positive) within a complex than outside it.  A security complex can be defined in terms of (i) economic factors, (ii) the existence of a regional organisation or the need for it, (iii) a perceived security threat and (iv) geopolitical, historical and cultural links that might exist between the members involved.

Economic factors define relations between the members of a security complex and influence the developments these relations might take.  The importance of economic factors to the building of a security complex is downplayed by Buzan as secondary, except for those countries located close to centres of economic powers such as Canada's relation to the United States (and one should add the Maghreb countries' closeness to the EU).[19]  Indeed, "economic factors can affect the prospects for regional integration, which can influence how a given security complex evolves."[20]  Within the Western Mediterranean, economic factors acquire more salience and their impact more preponderance especially since the members involved seem to be intermeshed in an unbalanced interdependence that bears geopolitical as well as historical roots. This is conspicuous in North African countries depending to a large extent on European markets for the commercialisation of some products (mainly agricultural and textile) and the North depending on energy products from the South (mainly gas and oil).  This is also patent in the impact EU economic integration has had on North African economies with regard to export activities, particularly in relation to the EU Mediterranean enlargement and the Single European Market (SEM).[21]

Another criterion set forward for defining patterns of regional rivalry and/or interest as a feature of security complexes is the existence of regional organisations.[22]  Regional  institutionalised cooperation bespeaks undercurrent latent security worries and represents a way of managing the growing interdependence witnessed within security complexes.  In the Western Mediterranean, one can recognise different organisations and agreements.  Regional organisations can be seen as a means to handle the growing density and interdependence and to open new forums for cooperation.  For example, the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) was, amongst other reasons, built in February 1989 so as to ease diplomatic tensions related to the Western Sahara.[23] Also, the Italian-Spanish call for a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean (CSCM), which was launched during the Palma de Mallorca meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (C/OSCE ) in 1990, is a sign of the collective security perception emerging in this region, not least as a political awareness.  The building of the Euro-Maghreb Partnership[24] as well as the subsequent 5+4/5 Dialogue[25] also instantiate this awareness.  Building on these associations, the Euro-Mediterranean Barcelona Conference saw light in November 1995 as a culmination of all previous efforts. It comprised all EU members and twelve southern Mediterranean countries.[26] Successful or not, these regional organisations translate the emergence of an awareness to institutionalise interaction between the two flanks as part of the overall need to build security in the region.

A central feature for identifying a security complex is the ability of the states[27] to perceive their security as a common interdependent issue.  Security perception coupled with other cultural, historical and geopolitical roots, and also with geographical proximity are advanced as criteria for the identification of security complexes.  These criteria appear largely adequate to identify the Western Mediterranean as a security complex.  Security interdependence is usually reinforced and made obvious by geographical proximity.[28]  Indeed, only some fourteen kilometres separate Morocco from the southern shores of Spain.  The logistics of the project to link the two regions through a tunnel are still being discussed.  Also, one can fairly easily recognise the historical and geopolitical links between, as well as within, North Africa and the south-west European countries.  North africa is united culturally by its common cultural and linguistic identity (Le Maghreb des Peuples) as well as related politically by its shared colonial experience and the political objectives of its individual states (Le Maghreb des Etats).[29] The creation of the UMA, despite its "crippled" performance as a regional grouping, seems to materialise these links.  South-west European countries belonging to the Mediterranean basin as well as their membership of the EU substantiate to a large extent their political and cultural ties. 

Colonialism as well as colonial legacy are tokens for the historical and geopolitical interactions that link North Africa and the south-west European countries.  "Special relations," be they of amity or enmity, do exist between the two sides: France's relations with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia; Italy's relations with Libya; Spain's relation with Morocco. All these together underline the fact that the region is indeed involved in a "mature" historical and geopolitical interaction. These interactions are patent in Maghreb countries remaining committed to their EU policies, despite the somewhat disappointing achievements reached so far (and partly because they consider their relations with the EU more rewarding economically).[30]  These ties are now growing even stronger in terms of the number of Maghrebi migrants living mainly in France, Spain and Italy.  These relations are once again being confirmed as witnesses the recent Western Mediterranean Summit hosted in Algiers on 19-20 June, 1999, with the participation of the Foreign Ministers of Algeria, France, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, and Tunisia.[31]


The odd element out in the above mentioned criteria is the cultural one.  Nonetheless, within a security complex cultural differences can and do fuel the internal flames of interdependence, especially that culture caters for a different vision of the world and, more importantly, a different perception of threat and security.  Cultural similarities are not a guarantee for the existence and development of cooperative security within a security complex.  Indeed, though cultural differences have been secondary for the consideration of security complexes in general, it seems important and pertinent to mention them, without, however, pushing them to the extent of making the Western Mediterranean appear a civilisational "fault-line", to borrow Samuel Huntington's terms.

The above criteria should not convey the impression that security complexes are easy to find, or delimit (when they are self-obvious).  Buzan gives two main reasons why it is difficult to find a security complex.  One is related to the weakness of the states involved in the sense that their security worries are mainly projected internally towards domestic security and their security interactions are not powerful enough to generate a local complex.  The other reason is related to overlay, this being the result of an extensive involvement of the great powers that tend to suppress the regional security dynamics.[32]  There are also difficulties in locating the boundaries of clearly established complexes. These difficulties relate to (i) the existence of security interdependence nodes between states where there is ground for thinking of them in terms of a single complex, (ii) the "melting" nature of inter-complex boundaries, and (iii) the existence, in case of physical proximity, of an unbalanced interdependence between lower- and higher-level security complexes.[33]

These difficulties remain pertinent to the discussion of the Western Mediterranean as a security complex.  Examples of the first difficulty can be found in the security nodes existing between Morocco and Spain over Ceuta and Melilla, between France and Algeria with regard to their historical colonial ties and the number of Algerian immigrants in France.  These examples of inner interactions together with the closeness (particularly geographical) between south-west Europe and the Maghreb instantiate the second difficulty, viz. the melting nature of borders between the Maghreb and south-west Europe. The third difficulty bears particular relevance to the Western Mediterranean: interactions within this region involve two adjacent sub-complexes of different ranks, namely south-west European countries and the Maghreb as higher-level and lower-level sub-complexes respectively. A question that has yet to be answered so far is whether the Maghreb and south-west European countries can indeed be described as security sub-complexes.

The Maghreb has been reluctantly accepted as a sub-complex security region,[34] because of the weakness of its security nodes compared to other Middle Eastern security sub-complexes. The Maghreb has however distinctive security dynamics of its own.  One can mention, for example, the security question of the Western Sahara, or Libya's involvement in conflicts with Chad and Niger and its repercussions on the whole region.  The Algerian massacres also raised worries about the possibility of a spill-over of violence to Morocco and Tunisia, as witnessed the shooting incident in a hotel in Marrakech in August 1994. Another example which might build up into a security node is the exclusion of Libya from European and Western initiatives in the region.  This raised some fears about the impact of this exclusion on radicalising the Qadhaffi's regime, though these fears are starting to dissipate with the removal of sanctions over Libya after the handing over of the two citizens suspected of the Pan-Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the invitation of Libya as an observer in the third Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Stuttgart, Germany, in 15-16 April 1999.

Furthermore, North Africa's geographical distance from the sensetive explosive spot of the Middle Eastern security complex, its physical proximity to the EU and its close economic ties with it, its historical and geopolitical links with the south-western European countries, all combine to suggest that it is a half-loose sub-complex leaning more towards Europe than towards the Middle East.  This leaning has become even clearer at the aftermath of the Gulf War and the launching of the Peace Process.  North African governments are, for domestic and other reasons, wary of being too much involved in the developments taking place in the Middle East; they fear being marginalised even further as an all-Mediterranean cooperation scheme would focus on the peace process at the detriment of the Maghreb.[35]  Thus they seek to have distinctive relations with the EU and represent their cases as separate from those of the Middle East. Also, the Cairo meeting of the Arab League on 10 August, 1990 led to the demise of this institution as a regional engine of Arab integration and speeded up the already developing proclivity for sub-regional organisations to supplant its role.  Indeed, the already established AMU and the nascent Arab Cooperation Council (ACC) have started to voice their independent opinions as a result of the diplomatic frictions generated by the Gulf War.[36]  A similar conclusion was reached by Michael N. Barnett, namely that the Arab world is involved in a new tendency of regional security groupings after the Gulf War.[37]  The undermined role of the Arab League as a regional organisation together with the Peace Process have contributed to North Africa's need for closer distinctive relations with the EU and southern European countries. Besides these internal factors, the European Commission through its communications to the Council of Ministers considers North Africa and the Middle East separately.[38]  This tendency was once again confirmed recently at the Stuttgart Euro-Mediterranean Conference, stressing more support for regional development and a balance of treatment between the Middle East and North Africa.[39]

On the other side of the Western Mediterranean, the remoteness of the south-west European countries from the turmoil of Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs), the common perception and fear of "rising Islamism" in North Africa, problems of immigration, geographical proximity to the South, all contribute to push the way for south-west European countries to ally together in what Stephen M. Walt calls a balance of threat relation,[40] especially if problems in North Africa grow serious and threatening.  In an anarchic international system states are more responsive to threats that are closer to home than those emanating from farther regions[41] and they ". . . may balance by allying with other stronger states, if a weaker power [or powers] is more dangerous for other reasons."[42]   Within this line of thought, south-west European countries would be more concerned about what is happening to their southern rim than about immigration waves from eastern European countries, for instance.  Despite the ongoing integration of the EU, particularly at the political level, there are trends towards a (re-)nationalisation of the European national foreign and security policies.  As a matter of fact, there are some security priorities that remain the domaines réservés of the nation-state. The impotent European Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) changes virtually nothing in this respect, as EU member-states still view the CFSP "as one option among others, which should be used or left aside according to circumstances".[43]  With relation to North Africa, the EU is split between southern and northern views, not so much in terms of the ends to be achieved as in terms of the means to achieve them.[44]

There are a number of elements that can be taken to attest for the awareness of south-west European countries of the need to tackle the problems and uncertainties arising in the Maghreb. There is an often expressed enthusiasm to support developmental projects for the region, be they political or economic.  Preferential treatments sought by France from the EU for the countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are one example of this tendency.  This preferential approach became even more vividly outspoken after the Spanish and Portuguese accession to the EU, and their awareness of the difficulties their EU membership would create for their neighbours in terms of export, especially of agricultural products and textile.  The continuous lobbying, for or against North Africa, displays features of alliance to respond "effectively" to events happening in the region.  This lobbying translates a competitive attitude from the south-west Europeans in terms of encouraging more financial support (i.e. aid) for the Maghreb than more concessions to access EU markets (i.e. trade).  This is also patent in these countries defending the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) despite the fact that it constitutes an obstacle to agricultural export from North Africa.  Yet, the southern European countries have started to view the Mediterranean in general as a common foreign policy priority.[45] 

The French cri au secours to marshal the waves of immigrants and the Spanish-Italian request for the establishment of a security policy in the region bespeak an emerging pattern of a south-west "inter-regional Mediterranean solidarity", to borrow Roberto Aliboni's words.[46]  It is noteworthy that most Mediterranean initiatives were proposed by south-west European countries initially for the Western Mediterranean and then were extended to the Mediterranean at large.[47] For example, the Euro-Maghreb Partnership (which started above all as a response to a loan problem with Morocco)[48] was intially a cooperation policy for the Maghreb countries. Then it was stretched and baptised the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership to embrace the other countries of the Mediterranean at large (see footnote 24).

Security Interaction in the Western Mediterranean

As mentioned earlier, one central element within the interactional context of security complexes is rising density.  Density is a neutral concept whose value (cooperation or conflict) is contingent on the actions taken by the parties involved in interaction and interdependence.  The preservation of security requires that a rising density be concomitant with a rising political interaction and cooperation at all security sectors.  That is, for the impact of density to be positive it requires the continuation and cementing of interaction as well as a constructive dismantling of interdependence into a more symmetrically balanced relation.  What is particularly interesting about density in the Western Mediterranean is that it involves an unbalanced interdependence between a higher-level south-west European security sub-complex and a lower-level North African security sub-complex.  The unbalanced nature of interdependence as a product of density is conspicuous because it involves entities that are unequal and different in all of the security sectors.  Higher-level sub-complexes are powerful in terms of economy, political stability and the military.  Lower-level sub-complexes are "negatively powerful" in terms of the threats they represent both politically through internal political instabilities, and socially/societally via their demographic growth, poverty and immigration. More significant, with geographical proximity the impact of density becomes ore visible as the spillover of problems and threats across borders becomes easy, and subsequently difficult to harness. This is clear now in the waves of illegal immigrants and political refugees and the difficulties which they create for governments from both sides of the Western Mediterranean.

Being inherently unbalanced and centred more on non-military security, interdependence in the Western Mediterranean involves different sources and directions of threat/vulnerability. Thus this difference comes at the heart of the Western Mediterranean security problématique. Threats become conspicuous with varying degrees at the levels of all five security sectors in terms of both intensity and urgency. This disparity affects adversely interaction at various levels and shapes the perceptions of security for each side.  The economic, political, societal/social and cultural divide between the two sides wedded to their geographical propinquity confers more relevance to the discussion of the Western Mediterranean as a security complex.

This picture drives home important questions. How does the disparity in interdependence influence security in the Western Mediterranean at the different levels of interaction and what is it that is at stake in the region as a whole? What are the various security dynamics at play in the region at the five sectors of security?  How does this perception affect security itself and contribute to the understanding of the Western Mediterranean as a security complex?  How can the different approaches and priorities of each side be reconciled on the Western Mediterranean security questions so as to come up with a framework that accommodates the worries of one side and accounts for the priorities of the other?  Thus, it becomes relevant at this level to raise the questions, difficulties and security challenges (in the five security sectors) that highlight the main traits of the Western Mediterranean as a security complex.

 The economic sector

Economic security depends on the ability of states to have access to external markets, credits and resources. At the regional level, economic security is related to the impact economic interactions have on actors within the complex. In the Western Mediterranean, economic security is a factor at play between North African countries themselves and between them and the south-west European countries. On the one hand, there is an internal competition between the Maghreb countries over EU markets and over securing special financial assistance from it (especially between Morocco and Tunisia). On the other, the dual role of south-west European countries as both partners and competitors with North Africa coupled with the EU's protectionist policies represents an important factor in the economic security equation in the region.  The question here is how to reconcile this competition and protectionism as they constitute major constraints to economic development in the Maghreb.  Furthermore, it is argued that interdependence leads states to highlight more the economically oriented notion of "specialise" rather than the traditional "look after yourself" approach.[49]  Thus, it is important to look at who is specialising in what and how this decreases or increases economic security for the Maghreb countries especially.

The Political sector

What is at the heart of the political sector is an interplay in North Africa between a tense status quo involving varying degrees of legitimacy crisis and a need (or internal and external pressures) to establish democratic systems in the region.  Issues such as the impact of change in the political climate on relations in the region, human rights, and democracy constitute major causes for concern.  An important issue here is to see how and to what extent the political dialogue, especially as established by virtue of the Barcelona Declaration, can contribute to subduing security threats in the political sector.  Another question related to the first one is whether the current political dialogue has improved political stability, or whether it is simply pressing for "more of the same" and the maintenance of the actual status quo.  In which case, the oppressed political parties may look to the EU countries involved as an instrument of oppression and thus start to develop feelings of hatred towards them (as was the case in the Shah's Iran vis-à-vis the United States).  Such a situation might have great potential for the rise of political violence.  The other side of the coin is that the very political dialogue itself might be jeopardised if opposition parties, which have viewed the EU as an instrument of political oppression, come to power.

 The societal/social sector

The rise of societal violence and social problems, population growth in North Africa, immigrants illegally "sailing" towards south-west European countries, all together take the centre stage in the societal/social sector of security.  The societal/social security issue is particularly intense because it currently manifests threats to security in the region.  The most alarmist approach to the Mediterranean security in this sector revolves around population growth as detrimental to relations between the two sides.  It is true that the discrepancy between demographic growth on the two sides together with the huge gap between demographic growth and economic development in North Africa explains a rise in immigration rates to the North as a consequence of unemployment and social problems.  However, one should be circumspect as to the shifting characteristics of demographic trends.  One of the major questions in the societal sector is whether there is any willingness within the EU in general to develop a common immigration policy/charter that would regulate immigration issues both in terms of the types and periods of immingration (especially that the Western Mediterranean witnesses the highest South-North immigration rates in the whole Mediterranean basin); and how this "common" policy would affect their relations, externally with other European countries, and internally in relation to the rise of far right parties with xenophobic programmes.

 The military sector

Arms control and confidences builiding measures together with the role NATO and the WEU (or the EU with a proper defence competence) are to play in this respect constitute major security nodes at the military sector.  The 1986 Libyan missile attack on the Italian island of Lampedusa is often mentioned as an example of future threats caused by the proliferation of conventional arms.[50]  Aliboni contends that southern European solidarity may emerge precisely in the military sector.[51]  Indeed, European military establishments are becoming more sensitive to the issue of conventional arms proliferation.  The first proposal for cooperation in the Western Mediterranean was made in October 1991 by the Portuguese Minister for Foreign Affairs after the meeting of the 5+5 in Algiers.  Consequently, WEU ministers asked the Mediterranean sub-group to start investigating the question of developing contact with the Maghreb countries. Relations between the two regions at the military level were also emphasised in the CSCM.  This conference has built on the security cooperation already existing between Spain and Morocco especially over air defence.[52]  Also, NATO considers establishing improved relations with the southern Mediterranean countries as one of the primary steps to guaranteeing security and stability in the Mediterranean at large.  Thus, NATO established initial contacts with six non-European countries called the Dialogue countries, namely Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, and a first series of meetings was held in May 1995.[53]  The miliary sector in the Western Mediterranean is dominated by low intensity violence, not least when compared to the Middle East and its huge conventional and nuclear military arsenals. The existence of North Africa as "out of area" for NATO and the impotence of the WEU still raise questions concerning the issue of intervention in cases of internal instabilities. A clear example is the political violence in Algeria and the absence of intervention either from NATO or the WEU.  Another feature of low violence is the struggle against organised crime, terrorism, and drug trafficking.  These issues are likely to raise contentions between the two sides, especially with regard to conflicts of vision on issues of human rights and political opposition with regard to political extradition.

 The Environmental sector

The nature of environmental problems as a long term danger makes the environmental security node very weak in comparison with the other security sectors.   Nonetheless, Marc A. Levy has pointed to a large number of cases where environmental degradation is the principal cause of regional conflicts.[54]  It should be made clear that not all environmental dangers engender security worries; however, environment problems possess the potential to raise conflicts between states. The major environmental issues in the Western Mediterranean are related to environmental degradation as well as to threats to supply.  The question of degradation concerns deforestation and desertification; threats to supply are related mainly to water supply. The need here is not to list the environmental dangers in the Western Mediterranean, but rather to investigate the effects produced by environmental changes and how these effects influence security relations in the region.  One important question in this respect is how degradation affects security relations in the Western Mediterranean in terms of human movements and how stock supply can create major frictions between the members concerned, especially when it is at the basis of human security, i.e. survival.  Indeed, security is more serious and less cooperative in relation to threats to supply.  Water scarcity might cause internal as well as external conflicts and migration.

The separation of the above sectors should not give the impression that they are separable. Indeed, they are intertwined in their impact and consequences on each other.  Whether one chooses to write about the security of the state or the security of individuals, the ramifications of the question become so intricate that all sectors appear hard to disentangle.  Security blurs into one blended bloc and grows into a vicious circle.


What are the conclusions that might be drawn about the importance of the Western Mediterranean as a liaison security complex in the context of the study of security complexes and regional security in general?  This is a quite perplexing question.  However slippery the nature of the dynamics of security complexes, some preliminary concluding remarks may be put forward.

First, the elements presented in respect of the various sectors of security have underlined the interdependence and the density developing in the Western Mediterranean.  The various agreements concluded and organisations set up represent cognizance of this interdependence and of a need to manage and monitor the security situation in the region.  This preliminary investigation of the security sectors indicates that there are, in fact, nodes of security developing between the two regions, albeit at different speeds and with different degrees of intensity.  For example, security nodes around the societal sector are growing very fast, as questions of migration and societal violence are often pressing their way onto the political agendas of both sides.  The node of political security, though very important, has been overshadowed by the importance given to economic development as a necessary basis for political change.  That is, political change is being mediated and supported by advancing economic development.  The military sector, on the other hand, remains of primary importance, and has been attuned to new worries generated by low violence and the need for humanitarian missions.

Whether these security nodes will grow more intense and link together so closely to make the Western Mediterranean a "self-contained" full-fledged security complex is hard to predict.  The direction that the Western Mediterranean security problem will take is heavily contingent on internal as well as external dynamics, i.e. on the degree of growth in security interdependence between the two sub-complexes as well as on the degree of their involvement within their own parent security complexes.  In this respect, there are two scenarios that might develop. One concerns the Western Mediterranean developing into an autonomous security complex; the other concerns the reinforcement of the Western Mediterranean as a liaison security complex.

The first scenario is less probable.  The developments taking place in the EU, at various levels of integration, tend to drag the south-west European members more towards the EU than leave them to interact freely with the Maghreb.  Indeed, most of the initiatives of the south-west European countries for the Western Mediterranean have been taken within the framework of the EU.  The challenge facing those countries, therefore, relates to their ability to balance between their closeness to the problems of North Africa on the one hand, and their EU integration and concern for the Eastern European, on the other.[55]  Could there arise a sort of co-ordinated division of labour within the EU to enable regions to deal with problems closer to home? That is, could the south-west European countries, in coordination with the EU, be encouraged to deal with the problems emerging from the South, as would EU member states to the East tackle problems that might emerge from Central and Eastern Europe?  These are questions relevant to the investigation of the impact which the Euro-Mediterranean policy has on the EU internally.

The second scenario is more probable.  The Western Mediterranean has proved to move in the direction of a liaison security complex.  Most Mediterranean initiatives were devised primarily for the Western Mediterranean, and then were extended to the Mediterranean at large.  The extension of the original Euro-Maghreb partnership to the eastern Mediterranean made the whole Mediterranean project more interesting to other members of the EU, especially to northern members.  Thus the extension of Western Mediterranean initiatives to the Mediterranean at large seems to bring together not only the southern non-EU members but also helps reduce the disparities within the EU itself between North and South.

At the practical level, a liaison security complex helps to reconcile parent complexes through the initial involvement of their sub-complexes, partly due to geographical proximity, and partly through economic, political and other ties -- thus facilitating interaction with a broader reach.  At the theoretical level, a liaison security complex contributes in bridging the gap between higher-level and lower-level security complexes as well as accounts for the elements of interaction that link sub-complexes together and lead to the overlapping of boundaries.  In filling the gap and capturing the link between Third World (lower-level) and developing World (higher-level) security, a liaison security complex also brings together (and analytically profits from) the great bulk of literature on security as belonging to two relatively separate fields, Third World Security Studies and Developed World Security Studies.  In short, a liaison security complex may play a potential role in filling the gap between security complexes (a gap that is often presented as a blurred boundary or a gray area) and thus linking parent security complexes.  It also reduces the rigidity of the distinction set up between higher- and lower-level regional complexes.  This is importantly so in relation to the developments in the new international order and the accelerating process of globalisation.  A liaison security complex is evidence for the necessity to reconcile differences and to manage security as a step forward towards a consolidation of international society.

 [1] I take the Western Mediterranean to be the countries of Algeria, France, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Spain and Tunisia.

 [2] A parent complex refers to the large security complexes of the Europe and the Middle East to which south-west Europe and North Africa respectively belong as sub-complexes.

 [3] Calling the Western Mediterranean a liaison security complex has three merits.  First, it de-mystifies the often idealised nature of security complexes as autonomous entities whose interactions have more to do with the internal closed dynamics of their members than with outside interrelations and influences. Second, it emphasises the relational nature existing between complexes and sub-complexes that belong to different ranks (as higher-level and lower-level), catering thus for the security relations between south-west European countries and the countries of North Africa.  Third, the term liaison captures the "illegitimate" aspect which the Western Mediterranean embodies as a security complex linking two opposing security sub-complexes that belong to the already established parent complexes of Europe and the Middle East.

[4] The name Copenhagen School was used by McSweeney to refer to those who have been writing with Barry Buzan and Ole Wæver under the auspices of the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (CORPI).

[5] The analysis in this article uses the classical security complex theory (CSCT) as developed in chapter five of Barry Buzan, People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era, 2nd. ed. (London: Harvester Wheastsheaf, 1991). However, it adopts a broader approach to security, i.e. beyond the military-political emphasis of the CSCT.

 [6] Buzan et al., The European Security Order Recast: Scenarios for the Post-Cold War Era, (London and New York: Pinter Publishers, 1991), 23.

 [7] Ibid., 23.

 [8] Ibid., 24.

[9] See Raimo Väyrynen, "Regional Conflict Formations: An Intractable Problem of International Relations," Journal of Peace Research 21, no. 4 (1984): 344.

 [10] Robert Jervis, "Security Regimes," International Organization 36, no. 2 (1982): 357.

 [11] Ibid., 373.

 [12] Karl W.  Deutsch, et al., Political Community in North Atlantic Area (Princeton Univ. 1957), 5.

 [13] Deutsch, Political Communities at the International Level, (NY: Doubleday & Company, inc., 1954), 34-38.

 [14] Buzan, "Peace, Power and Security: Contending Concepts in the Study of International Relations," Journal of Peace Research 21, no. 2 (1984): 112.

 [15] Ibid., p. 120.

 [16] Buzan, "Third World Security in Structural and Historical Perspective" in The Insecurity Dilemma: National Security of Third World States, ed. Brian L. Job, 167-89, (London: Lynne Reinner, 1992), 168.

 [17] Buzan, People, States and Fear, 190.

 [18] Ibid., 195.

 [19] Ibid., 135.

 [20] Ibid., 202.

 [21] The granting of full membership to Spain and Portugal has adversely affected Moroccan and Tunisian agricultural exports to the EU.  The SEM, for its part, has caused two major restraints on the Maghreb countries. One is related to industrial exports facing serious non-tariff barriers, particularly over European industrial standards. The second concerns the control of the immigration of North African labour as a consequence of the Schengen and TREVI (Terrorisme, Radicalisme, Extremisme, et Violence Internationale) agreements.  See George Joffé, "The Western Arab World: Background Assessment," in The Middle East and Europe: The Search for Stability and Integration, ed. Gerd Nonneman, 197-201, (London: Federal Trust,  2nd. 1993).  Of course, the GATT Uruguay Round Agreements have also created difficulties for North Africa, especially for the price of cereal products due to the opening of domestic markets to free competition.

[22] Buzan, People, States and Fear, 194.

[23] Joffé, "The European Union and the Maghreb," Mediterranean Politics 1 (1994), 25-28; and Stephen Zunes, "Algeria, the Maghreb Union, and the Western Sahara Stalemate," Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ) 17, 06-01-1995, pp 23 (14) [www-source].

[24] One might argue that the Euro-Maghreb Partnership involves all the EU members plus the Maghreb countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, and that it is not restricted to the south-west European countries only. However, it is noteworthy to stress that this partnership was proposed by the Spanish government, supported by Abel Matutes, the commissioner in charge of the Mediterranean policy, and agreed upon by the European Council at its meeting in Lisbon on June 26-27, 1992.  Also, the Lisbon Report on the CFSP presented to the Lisbon European Council divides the Mediterranean into two areas for prospective joint actions: the Maghreb and the Middle East.  Though this distinction was later abandoned, it still reveals the south-west European countries' tendency to treat the Maghreb and the Middle East distinctly. Indeed, the recent Stuttgart Euro-Mediterranean Conference stressed once again the need to deal with the Maghreb and the Middle East separately in order to create a balance of treatment in the Euro-Mediterranean relations.

 [25] This project was initially called five plus four (comprising the five Maghreb countries of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, and the European countries of France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain). With the accession of Malta, the project became the 5+5.

 [26] The southern Mediterranean countries that participated in the Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean Conference were: Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, the Palestine Authority, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

 [27] Buzan here does not mention the importance of society's perception of threat in identifying security complexes.  It is beyond the scope of the present paper to discuss the societal perception of threats at this stage or to see how they contribute to building and reinforcing security complexes. However, this will be discussed, though briefly, in the Western Mediterranean security interaction at the societal level below.

 [28] Muthiah Alagappa, "Regionalism and Conflict Management: A Framework for Analysis," Review of International Studies 21, no. 3 (1995): 363.

 [29] Joffé, "The Western Arab World: Background Assessment," in The Middle East and Europe: The Search for Stability and Integration, ed. Gerd Nonneman, 197-201  (London: Federal Trust, 1993, 2nd.), 197.

 [30] Roberto Aliboni, "Collective Political Co-operation in the Mediterranean," in Security Challenges in the Mediterranean Region, ed. R. Aliboni, G. Joffé and T. Niblock (London: Cass, 1996), 55.

 [31] See, The North Africa Journal, (Maghreb Weekly Monitor), no. 60, 4 June, 1999, (http://www.north-

     [32] Buzan, People, States and Fear, 197-98.  It should be noted in passing that the relevance of overlay to the post-Cold War era becomes suspect as it is difficult to perceive a rivalry between great powers as it was understood during the Cold War.  Thus the impact of overlay on the local dynamics governing security complexes becomes less and less significant.

     [33] Buzan, People, States and Fear, 197-99.

 [34] Buzan, People, States and Fear, 199.

 [35] Aliboni, "Collective Political Co-operation in the Mediterranean," 55.

 [36] Joffé, "Middle Eastern Views of the Gulf Conflict," Review of International Studies 19 (1993): 190-91.

 [37] Michael N. Barnett, "Regional Security after the Gulf War," Political Science Quarterly 111, no. 4 (1996-7): 597-618.

 [38] See for example the communications of 30 April, 1992 "Future Relations between the European Community and the Maghreb" and 8 September 1993 "Future Relations and Co-operation between the Community and the Middle East".

 [39] Communication of Antonio Badini, Embassador, Coordinator of the for the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, Italian MFA, in Malta 15 May, 1999.

 [40] In The Origins of Alliances Stephen Walt concludes that states ally to balance against threats through increasing their internal efforts so as to reduce their vulnerability.  He finds that alliance is more likely when combined with geographical propinquity.  In fact, the degree of threat a state or a number of states may generate depends on their aggregate power, their geographical proximity, their offensive capacity, and their aggressive intentions.  Of course, these threats are very slim for the south-western European countries at present.  However, taking the unlikelihood of military assaults from North Africa, other threats remain perceptible, especially in relation to the escalation of violence and immigration. Stephen S. Walt, The Origins of Alliances, (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1987), 265.

 [41] This reasoning is mainly expressed in John J. Mearsheimer's "Back to the Future: Instability in Europe after the Cold War" in The Perils of Anarchy, Contemporary Realism and International Security, An international Security Reader, eds. Michael E. Brown, Sean M. Lynn-Jones & Steven E. Miller, 87-129 (Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1995).

 [42] Walt, "Alliance Formation and the Balance of World Power," in The Perils of Anarch, 214.

[43] Jacques Santers, cited in John Peterson, "Introduction: The European Union as Global Actor," in A Common Foreign Policy for Europe? Competing Visions of the CFSP, ed. John Peterson and Hele Sjursen, 3-17, (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), 10.

 [44] For a more detailed discussion of the differences between the southern and northern views of North Africa and the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, see Richard Gillespie,  "Northern European Perceptions of the Barcelona Process," Revista CIDOB d'Afers Internacionals no. 37/1997: "Estabilidad y conflictos en el mediterráneo"


[45] Alvaro de Vasconcelos, "Disintegration and Integration in the Mediterranean," International Spectator 28, no. 3 (1993): 69.

 [46] See Aliboni, "The Mediterranean Dimension," in The Dynamics of European Integration, ed. William Wallace, 155-67  (London: Pinter Publishers 1990).

 [47] It should be born in mind here that south-west European countries enjoy more weight politically compared to the south-east EU members, which also makes the Western Mediterranean more active in terms of making and supporting initiatives for the Mediterranean at large.

[48] The problem with Morocco relates to the vote against the "fourth generation" financial protocols for the 1992-1996 period; see Michael Sutton, "Euro-Maghreb Partnership: A New Form of Association?" The Economist Intelligence Unit: European Trends no. 3 (1992): 62-63.

 [49] Buzan, et al. The European Security Order Recast, 25.

 [50] Ghassane Salamé, "Torn between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean: Europe and the Middle East in the Post-Cold War Era," in The Middle East and Europe, fn., 3.

 [51] Aliboni, "The Mediterranean Dimension," 162.

 [52] Joffé, "The European Union and the Maghreb," 29.

[53] Stephen F. Laarabee, et al., NATO's Mediterranean Initiative: Policy Issues and Dilemmas, (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1998), iii, preface.

 [54] Marc A. Levy, "Is the Environment a National Security Issue?"  International Security 20, no. 2 (Fall 1995): 37.

 [55] I have in mind here France's historical interest in Poland and Italy's involvement in the Balkans. In fact, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent rise of problems in Central and Eastern Europe were immediately seen by France and Italy as an opportunity to exercise and assert some national foreign policy in the region.


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ã Copyright 1999. Jean Monnet Chair of European Comparative Politics 

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Said Haddadi, School of Languages & European Studies, Aston University