Topic summary:

This theme should enable students to understand the challenges of migration and the international cooperation in the Mediterranean basin

Main concepts covered:

  • Barcelona Process
  • Union for the Mediterranean
  • Migration
  • International cooperation

Transversal competencies acquired:

  • Communicating orally / writting in mother/foreign language
  • Managing information
  • Knowing how to work in a group

Definition of key notions:


Any movement of persons away from their place of usual residence, either within the same country or across an international border


Any person who leaves

Barcelona Process:

Initiated by the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference held from 27th to 29th November 1995 and gathering members of the EU and the twelve Mediterranean third countries. It is intended to establish a comprehensive Euro-Mediterranean partnership to make a Mediterranean common area of peace, stability and prosperity by strengthening political and security dialogue, an economic and financial partnership as well as a social, cultural and human partnership

Multilateral international cooperation:

A system of international relations that focuses on negotiations, mutual commitments and cooperation with a view to establishing common rules


All the measures, rules, decision-making, information and supervisory bodies that ensure the proper functioning and control of a State, institution or organisation

Introduction of the topic:

The Mediterranean Basin has been characterized over the centuries as an area of encounters and sharing between populations. Far from being linear, these mobilities have been more or less important depending on the time. Traces of it can be found as early as the Phoenician civilization, in the last decades of the 9th century BC, when people from the Syrian-Palestinian coast left their villages to settle around the Mediterranean (from the Iberian Peninsula to Maghreb, giving them access to the Atlantic Ocean). This mobility has been perpetuated by the Greek civilization, which is widely present all along the coast. The Greeks around the Mediterranean were described by Plato as «ants or frogs around a pond» (Phedron, 109).

These population flows have enabled the diffusion of cultures, languages and technologies. They have therefore encouraged the emergence of new technologies and processes.

Mobility around the Mediterranean Basin, beyond being a historical feature, has made it possible to create important and lasting links between countries. These have led to the establishment of formal or informal supranational organizations and strategies to work on issues common to the territory. For example, there is the Union for the Mediterranean, which is an intergovernmental organisation bringing together 43 countries in the Mediterranean Basin, including 28 members of the EU. Its objective is to promote dialogue and cooperation at the Euro-Mediterranean level.

These organizations face many challenges due to the economic and social disparities that exist in the territory but also due to the variety of political systems. However, their intervention is necessary to provide global answers to the problems that are needed in the Mediterranean Basin. The vulnerability of this territory to climate change is one of the main issues.

Sustainable development issues identified in this topic:

What are the impacts of migration flows on the Mediterranean environment? How do countries cooperate with each other?

1. The Medierranean, an area of mobility

Migration flows have evolved over the centuries and are now taking many forms. It should be recalled that migration refers to «any movement of persons leaving their place of habitual residence, either within the same country or across an international border ». It can be caused for economic and social reasons (search for a better standard of living, flight from a high-risk area), or for climatic reasons (related to a sudden or gradual change in the environment due to climate change). These migrations can be internal or external to a State.

Within this area, we can distinguish several migratory zones:

  • The Western Mediterranean - including the Maghreb and Europe
  • The Balkans
  • The Eastern Mediterranean - including the Mashreq and the Near

The region has experienced several successive waves of migration. In the 19th century, the migratory waves were in the North-South direction during the European colonization.

In the 20th century, South-North immigration appeared, mainly characterized by the flows of workers. Indeed, European countries that have suffered two World Wars are short of manpower and are seeking to attract workers.

Currently, Southern Mediterranean is characterized by high emigration. It concerns mostly young people heading mainly to Europe, but also to the Gulf countries, as well as to the United States and Canada. In addition to these long-term migratory flows, the territory is also crossed by significant tourist flows. Indeed, the Mediterranean area is the world’s leading tourist destination, which induces strong human pressure in summer. It welcomed 314 million visitors in 2014, representing 30% of the total number of international tourist arrivals worldwide. This number is expected to reach 500 million by 2030.

The mass tourism, which is concentrated on the coasts, leads to the environmental degradation, including marine pollution linked to waste water discharges and illegal landfills. In addition, there is an over-consumption of energy (electricity consumption is exploding because of the high use of air conditioning; the large abstraction of water tends to promote water stress on the territory, etc.). The multiplication of transport modes also contributes to the increase of greenhouse gas emissions in the region. In addition, the deployment of low-cost transport tends to attract more people at risk of damaging the Mediterranean ecosystem and to accentuate urbanisation in the region. The territory must therefore face major problems that require joint intervention.

2. The Euro-Mediterranean dialogue - an important development tool:

In 1995, the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue with the implementation of the Barcelona Process was formalised in order to efficiently manage the challenges of the territory. Established at the Barcelona Conference of 27 States, it should lead to the implementation of a Euro-Mediterranean partnership to establish the territory as a common area of peace, stability and prosperity. All of this is achieved by strengthening international political dialogue accompanied by an economic and financial partnership, as well as a social and cultural one.

One of the main objectives of this partnership is to deal with the existing migration issues in the territory, but this cooperation also better enables the management of economic and environmental issues. This group of states works in particular with the Blue Plan, a Mediterranean regional activity centre that produces studies and scenarios on the future in order to raise awareness among Mediterranean actors and decision-makers on environmental and sustainable development issues.

These States have also developed a Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development, first in 2005 and then over the period 2016-2025. Based on the results of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), this strategy should lead to the implementation of actions to protect the environment while allowing a viable economic activity.

The Euro-Mediterranean cooperation is also apparent in other areas, such as the maritime sector, with the creation in 1949 of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean. It brings together 23 countries in the territory that work together to conserve fish stocks.

Another example is the Medfish project, which brings together WWF and the MSC Council to analyse the territory fisheries.

The Mediterranean States are also represented in bodies such as the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions, which helps to promote a more balanced development of the European territory. It seeks to impact on creating the necessary conditions for social, economic and territorial cohesion by acting, in particular, on policies with a strong territorial impact.

This cooperation aims to promote a homogeneous development of the territory on the long term. The Malta Declaration of 2017 (made during the crises of European migrants by the leaders of the European Union in Malta, which focuses on measures to stem the flow of immigration from Libya to Italy and the Eu) therefore seeks to strengthen this Euro-Mediterranean exchange through research and innovation, which should enable the regional development through the employability of young people, job creation and the education and empowerment of women.

Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers have rights protected under international law, regardless of how they arrive in a country and the purpose of their movement. They have the same rights as everyone else and, in addition, enjoy special protection under the following texts:

  • the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in Article 14: «Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution»;
  • the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951, and its 1967 Protocol), which prohibits the return of refugees to countries where they are at risk of persecution;
  • the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990);
  • regional legal instruments relating to refugees, including the Organisation of African Unity Convention (1969), the Cartagena Declaration (1984), the Common European Asylum System and the Dublin Regulation. Politics and governance42 Politics and governance

3. Intervention through education:

The Euro-Mediterranean University of Fez was created with the aim of training young residents in regional issues (renewable energy, water conversation, big data).

In parallel to this university, the “Méditerranée Nouvelle Chance” (MedNC) project was created in 1988 to promote the establishment of a regional network of guidance, training and professional integration centres. It seeks to promote the employability of young people who have left school before graduating. MedNC has thus made it possible, creating local socio-professional integration schemes to lead to higher results than national averages.

The Euro-Mediterranean initiatives contribute to the promotion of the regional employability of young people while seeking to stimulate innovation in the area

Position of the topic in the school program:

Mother / Foreign language / Litterature
Biology / Geology
Physic / Chemistry
Social Science / Economy / Law
Art / Music
Technology / Computer science