Working Group Report on “common values in the Mediterranean”

Published : Thursday 23 September 2010
As part of the “Mediterranean2030” foresight programme, IPEMED, whose mission is to bring the two sides of the Mediterranean closer through economy, was confronted with a question raised mainly by leaders in the South: What values should be at the root of Euro-Mediterranean integration?

  To respond to this delicate junction between economic and cultural approaches, the foresight programme set up a working group to focus on Euro-Mediterranean values. Its first task was to differentiate three distinct notions:

(i) the notion of value. This is a complex notion, and it is vital not to limit it to religion, nor to expand it to cover a disparate set of behaviour patterns (family, religion, politics, leisure, associations, etc.), nor to take a standardizing approach by assuming that western values represent a ready-to-use “kit” (based on a formula taken up by the working group: “democracy can be imported but not exported”);

(ii) the notion of “collective preferences”. Because nations increasingly find themselves having to cooperate with each other, this notion has been the subject of an increasing number of studies. This does not involve agreeing on a common, paramount and absolute positive value, but agreeing on our common difficulties in the face of a societal dilemma and deciding on a common way to respond. These societal dilemmas are mainly: the relationship with development (i.e. choice between short term and long term, between durability and transformation, or in other words the issue of time); the relationship between personal autonomy and collective cohesion (i.e. the issue of freedom); and the relationship with law (i.e. the issue of justice and especially the role played by the rule of law). These dilemmas are not restricted to the Mediterranean, but it is probably the capacity to define common collective preferences that will determine the most significant contours of tomorrow’s international regions;

(iii) the notion of “vectors of mobilization”. Identifying the founding values of a common region or the preferences for a draft region is one thing, setting them in motion is another. In twenty years’ time, will there be a value that inhabitants throughout the region will be prepared to get into the streets to defend? It is important to pinpoint any silent forces that we may have not yet clearly identified. The so-called “invisible contract” approach used by the Stratorg company for Mediterranean 2030 offers a solution.

On a more sociological level, the working group also looked at the evolution of values in some of the region’s countries. Two seminars focused on Tunisia and Morocco. They revealed a persistent strong attachment to collective values and especially family ones, and the rise of so-called modern values, like individuation (including in religious practice), that have characterized the evolution of European societies for at least the last three centuries. In both countries, politics was identified as a “weak link in collective values”. This raises the question of investment in this area by those focusing on development if the rule of law is to become a shared collective preference for the region.

On a practical level, the invisible contract approach should be applied to other countries in the region. Another tack would be to appraise the different working groups looking at common values that have been launched by Euromed since 1995. The idea of a regular survey of the evolution of values in the regional area (a “Euro-Mediterranean barometer”) might be worth looking into.

This workgroup is composed of : Pierre BECKOUCHE (coordinator, IPEMED), Abdellah EL ASRY (Stratorg, France), Jean Luc FALLOU (Stratorg, France), Salam KAWAKIBI (ARI, Syrie), Salim KELALA (CEAP, Algeria), Sanja KLEMPIC (IMES, Croatia), Tawfic MOULINE (IRES, Morocco), Jacques OULD AOUDIA (Minefi, France), Ahmed Youra OULD HAYE (MAED, Mauritania), Khaled SELLAMI (ITES, Tunisia), Vladimir SKRAČIĆ (Zadar University, Croatia).

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