On 28 November, the world marks the First Mediterranean Day in history. This day celebrates the richness of history and natural resources as well the cultures and people of the Mediterranean.
To celebrate the Mediterranean is to celebrate the diversity and abundance of life in its full amplitude and plenitude. This ancient sea around which we live has been home to the greatest civilizations in the world: its earliest universities; its first dramatists; and its most well-known trade centers.
In November 2020, the Union for the Mediterranean’s 42 Member States declared the 28th of November as the Official Day of the Mediterranean. It is open to all Mediterranean communities to commemorate the centuries-old legacy that includes wisdom, culture, humanity, and other ancient agoras.
Today, the Mediterranean evokes many emotions. It is a fascinating land and provides many people with their livelihood and homes. The Mediterranean is where history is eternally present. It is time to be proud of and remember the wealth of the Mediterranean region’s history, natural resources, people, and culture, as this region holds immense potential to help us create the future we desire.
Why the 28th of November?
On 28 November 1995, 12 countries of the Southern Mediterranean, along with the EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs, hosted their first Euro-Mediterranean Conference. During this conference, they signed an accord to establish the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Process (EUROMED).
This agreement made the basis for the Union for the Mediterranean on 13 July 2008. As a forum for dialogue, it created the Barcelona Process to promote a common determination to transform the Mediterranean region into a zone of peace and stability. Therefore, the Day of the Mediterranean reminds of this commitment and helps to move forward, regardless of the many obstacles.
Tackle Climate change
Because of its diversity, Euro-Mediterranean is not homogeneous. Let’s not forget, it is at a crossroads among three continents.
The historic momentum built in October was evident as 42 member countries, with wide differences in their priorities and development, signed ambitious and common political commitments to protect and sustain unique Mediterranean biodiversity in contempt of climate change.
Moreover, the Mediterranean region is facing a 20% increase in temperature than the rest. It will suffer devastating effects on its ecosystem, and way of life, if it does not take immediate action.
However, Green Energy could be the future and it would be a joint investment. This is good news both for regional integration and climate action.
Together in the fight against the Covid-19
Gradually emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, with ever-increasing challenges, Mediterranean enthusiasts are fighting every day for a better tomorrow.
The pandemic has swept the Mediterranean economies, which have been under severe stress because of the 2008 financial crisis. These hardships caused a weakening and exposure of economies to the economic consequences of the pandemic. They also contributed to the death and rise of Covid-19. It mainly caused these by years of austerity, budget cuts, and the healthcare system that struggled for years prior to being overthrown in the pandemic’s wake.
The crisis revealed years-old unsolved structural and systemic problems. The complex circumstances in which the pandemic emerged were the fragility of economies still shaking from financial crises, doubtfulness in public institutions, and a weakening of political legitimacy for the ruling class.
More important, the fatality rate shows that, although in the northern Mediterranean there were many people infected and died of COVID-19 as it recorded 75,139 cases per million inhabitants in northern Mediterranean countries on 1 July 2021, whereas, 33,226 per million in the south Mediterranean. Covid-19 victims were 1.5 times more likely to die in Southern Mediterranean countries.
Therefore, we saw member states’ unity in the common effort to end COVID-19 during the pandemic. This has enabled the creation of an inclusive and sustainable recovery.
Aims of Mediterranean Day
To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the 1995 Barcelona Declaration, this declaration set the foundations for the Union for the Mediterranean. The Day of the Mediterranean aims to act as a reminder that nations often have more in common than differences. It also highlights the importance and value of the cultural aspect as an integral component of who and what we are. It allows the nations to celebrate their successes, embrace differences, strengthen ties between countries, and deepen each other’s understanding.
The region is unique in its combination of natural and man-made diversity, incomparable to the rest of the world. The Mediterranean shows 15% of the global GDP, which exhibits the importance and potential of this region.
Moreover, for centuries, different cultures and communities have been exchanging ideas and knowledge across the ocean. Therefore, this day aims to nourish these ties, encourage dialogue, highlight the region’s issues and attainments as well as assemble political will and resources to convey shared challenges.
Mediterranean Day, great importance for Slovenia
Slovenian Foreign Minister, Anze Logar, on Mediterranean Day stated that “I hope the Mediterranean becomes a region of security and stability, progress and prosperity that will ensure a bright future for all of its young people.” Besides this, he added, we are commemorating Mediterranean Day’s importance in terms of culture, traditions, biodiversity, and the fact it is home to many endangered animal species and plants.
Slovenia lies on the shores of this important sea, where they are establishing universities, developing science, and creating some of the most renowned trading centers. So, on Mediterranean Day, Slovenia wishes to stress the importance of the shared Mediterranean history, and the similarities that transcend differences between countries and peoples. Therefore, the nations have come together to show the value and benefits of cooperation in trade, culture, and other areas.
In September 2021, when Slovenia officially became a member of the club of Mediterranean EU countries and joined the EU MED 7 group in Athens, this was its main step towards increasing Slovenia’s visibility in the region, as well as strengthening its cooperation with the Mediterranean states.
Views on the Mediterranean
Union for the Mediterranean started the online campaign “What does the Mediterranean mean to you? Tell us in 1 word!” to celebrate the First Mediterranean Day. So, many people including celebrities, ministers around the globe described it in one word via social media.
French Ambassador to the Mediterranean described in one word what the Mediterranean means to him. He stated, “The Mediterranean is a long time: past, present, above all the future. It is the mirror of our current world, of the common challenges to be faced. If we manage to meet them in the Mediterranean, we will succeed everywhere else.”
Similarly, Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, also shared his views on the Mediterranean. He said, “The Mediterranean, for me, is the title of a song that brings together all the emotions that accompanied my youth. But for the political man that I am today, the Mediterranean is still a border that must be torn down. The border separates the two worlds with enormous differences in economic and sociological terms. We can only overcome this misunderstanding through cooperation, through the will to share more and to write a common history. That is what the Mediterranean should be, a common history.”
Moreover, Oliver Varhelyi, European Commission for neighborhood and enlargement, stated that “For me, the Mediterranean means life because it has everything. From the sun, the sea, our common civilization, the food it shares. It shapes everything we are, everything we are ever going to be. All that is life.”
Furthermore, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that “Greek is committed to working through multilateral dialogue and regional cooperation for making the Mediterranean a better place.”
All Mediterranean peoples’ can honor the lasting legacy of this centuries-old agora culture, dialogue, wisdom, and humanism. This international day is not only a space to seek back and take stock of the accomplishments, but it reaffirms what makes the Mediterranean helps to build the nation’s common identity. Therefore, the Mediterranean will be a region of great prosperity, offering opportunities for a brighter future and bringing attention to the socio-economic as well as environmental problems that threaten stability and prosperity within the region.
*The writer is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies and The Diplomatic Insight
*The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the institutions.