Mediterranean Sea: European underbelly

The critical issues of European security and strategies to improve it through the example of the Mediterranean Sea

In the past centuries, the Mediterranean Sea has been one of the most booming commercial, politicians and intellectuals centers on the planet. In particular, in Europe it was a great cultural, economic and strategic opportunity. Not surprisingly, to describe his great potential, we often speak of “highways Mediterranean”[1]. With the escalation of the diplomatic crisis between EU Member States and the Russian Federation, the Mare Nostrum has increased its economic/strategic potential, that, however, become more difficult to exploit due to the civil wars that raging from Libya to the border between Turkey and Iran in the wake of the events of the so-called Arab Springs.

What could be described as the “Mediterranean crisis” highlights several criticalities of the European security system that goes from the cumbersome operation of the institutions involved in the European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), the European Defence Agency (EDA) above all, to the lack of military and political coordination of the multinationals forces (EUROMARFOR[2] especially). In addition, there are some other epiphenomena such as those related to industrial policy, defense policy, the poor implementation of maritime surveillance integrated (CISE) and the European border Surveillance system (EUROSUR).


Crisis in the Mediterranean region and the major European systems to face it: CISE and EUROSUR

The fall of many governments on the southern shore of the Mediterranean brought a chaos of varying intensity on a belt of land that runs from Damascus to Timbuktu. Especially the end of the Gaddafi regime and the Syrian civil war have uncovered two Pandora’s boxes that still affect on the one hand North Africa and on the other the Mesopotamian area, and influence from multiple points of view, the security of several Middle East and European Countries. The repercussion of this wave of chaos going to hit the basin of the Mediterranean Sea, which is a European border as fragile as important. This crisis concerns a very wide range of sectors that goes from environmental issue to the security. The European Union has developed a strategy to deal with any crisis on its borders, which is updated regularly and collaborates with other agencies such as FRONTEX[3] and EDA. One way to prevent crime at the border of Europe and to address the flow of illegal immigration is the EUROSUR; it is structured in three phases: the first has seen a rationalization and simplification of national systems of border control[4], the second stage was acting at the European level trying to coordinate the various European institutions dealing with monitoring, retrieval and exchange information about border control, and a third phase saw the creation of an integrated strategy between EU Countries and European programs and institutions[5]. The national centers of FRONTEX have a central role in analyzing the data collected from Countries centers of migration control about the changing migration routes and international crime in order to implement effective and coordinated responses[6].

While the EUROSUR (and FRONTEX) are directly involved in European border security, the CISE collects[7] data that allow a more effective and efficient action of the first two instruments. In fact, the CISE is set to end the situation in which the various national and EU agencies responsible for different aspects of border surveillance collect data without coordinating and often without sharing. Consequently, some data are collected more than once. The road map for the implementation of the CISE included six steps that should have been concluded in 2013[8], but on 8 July, the European Commission reported a delay in the implementation of the program, which resulting in waste of resources[9]. This is because, Member States are still reluctant to create a common security strategy that count on the doctrine of Network Centric Operations (NCO), and, so, on the “information superiority”[10]. Instead, they tend to keep the old national systems that rely on “reaction” to the problem through systems of patrol rather than on prevention permitted by the superiority of the information.

With the outbreak of the Arab Spring, there was an increase in migration -especially illegal immigrant- and asylum seekers[11]. Furthermore, analyzing data on the number of recruits from European countries to support the cause of the terrorist groups that are fighting in North Africa and the Middle East[12], and the increase in drug trafficking and criminal activity[13], we realize that despite some modest results, the common European Security Strategy presents a situation not so idyllic.


Overcoming the crisis of the Mediterranean and EU through an updated European security system

The criticalities, deducible from the situation discussed above, can be easily outlined in two point: 1) exclusion of many key stakeholders; 2) high fragmentation of the scenario related to the common European security due to lack of good-will and political foresight of the Member States. Starting with the latter, keep in mind that to a higher number of agencies, correspond more economic inefficiencies and low political efficacy. In this situation, it is needed a regulatory top-down action from the European institutions (from the Commission with the suggestions of the EDA) that allows EU Countries and agencies to work towards a simplification and harmonization of the various decision makers of European security. This would benefit not only the political aspect but could have major repercussions in terms of industrial policies of security and the social point of view. This led to the creation of 27 different markets, divided internally in many areas and therefore to a difficult situation on the European security market because of high barriers to entry, the inability to take advantage of real economies of scale and the lack of competition between suppliers, which leads to a low efficiency in the use of money and an even less competitiveness in the European market (inside and outside). This also creates a negative correspondence between research and development and economic returns in international markets. Simplify, coordinate and harmonize European security policies and industries would lead to a better perception of personal safety on the part of European citizens[14]. In the example of the situation in the Mediterranean, the EDA should be the mind of a strategy that sees the CISE as a collector of information, the FRONTEX as a processor of tactics in the light of the data collected and EUROSUR as the perpetrator of such tactics and strategy.

At the second critical point, particularly related to EU policy process, is added, by reflex, the first. In fact, returning to the case of the security crisis in the Mediterranean basin, the EUROSUR requiring immediate enlargement to the countries of the South. Without the involvement of these countries is not possible to provide an efficient strategy for Euro-Mediterranean security[15]. In addition, with the consent of the countries in political and social crisis, the EU could develop a strategy of peacekeeping[16] and peace-building that predisposes the involvement on the ground of the EUROMARFOR and others ad hoc or existing European Joint Forces. Strategies described above are being implemented within some emerging regional security organizations (e.g. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation); similarly to these organizations, the European Union has all the political, economic and technological tools to face the crisis erupted beyond its borders and, beyond what has already been analyzed, another major obstacle to overcome is the shift from a policy of “reaction” to the chaos to a strategy of “action” for prevent it.



[1] Sometimes, we heard about “motorways of the sea” in reference to the European Union’s policies relating to the development of transport routes in the Mediterranean Sea.

[2] Military project that involving Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. See:

[3] From August 28th updated in FRONTEX Plus. See: Immigrazione, Frontex Plus: ecco cosa prevede la missione europea nel Mediterraneo, “RAI News”, 2 September 2014 –

[4] In this framework would also include the fundamental action of the CISE, after-written. See: European Commission, Integrated Maritime surveillance. Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE), Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2010 –

[5] European external border surveillance system (EUROSUR), “Summaries of EU legislation”, 14 March 2008 –

[6] The strategy is planned through the splitting of the lines of the border; in each fraction is assigned a “level of impact” depending on the criticality.

[7] In this case it would be better to use the conditional for the reasons which will be seen later.

[8] European Commission, Integrated Maritime surveillance. Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE), Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2010 –

[10] Although the doctrine of the NCO is particularly important for the field of modern military operations, it is also growing in other areas related to homeland security.

[11] Ce.S.P.I. (eds.), L’impatto delle primavere arabe sui flussi migratori regionali e verso l’Italia, “Osservatorio di Politica Internazionale”, 59, July 2012 – Relazione sulle Migrazioni e la Cooperazione nella Regione Euromediterranea, “European Economic and Social Committee”, July 2011 – Although Eurostat data confirm a decline in not illegal immigration (all data updated at the end of 2012). See:

[12] European Jihadists. It ain’t half hot here, mum, “The Economist”, 30 August 2014 –

[13] Arab Spring fallout fuels Mediterranean smuggling rise, “Reuters”, 8 November 2013 –

[14] For over two year this kind of concerns are discussed by the European Commission as evidenced by the Action Plan for an innovative and competitive Security Industry (July 2012). See:

[15] Recommendations like this also came from the European Organization for Security (EOS) Recommendations for an integrated surveillance of the EU maritime domain (June 2012). See:

[16] Through Effects Based Operations and the right security policy based on the doctrine of the NCO, the EU could achieve great results without economic waste.

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