Even though the unity and political existence of the Mediterranean (Mare Nostrum) are still questionable, the Mediterranean region is nonetheless a historical, cultural, social and environmental reality. Since 2010, citizens of both shores of the Mediterranean have actively participated anti-governmental protests. Citizens of Northern Mediterranean countries demonstrated against their governments in the Spanish Indignados camp movement (May 2011), the Portuguese "Geraçao a Rasca" protests (March 2011), Italians with the Rome demonstrations (October 2011), and Greek rallies to protest austerity measures. The Arab Spring, ignited when Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest local authorities in Tunisia in December 2010, lit the fire of revolutions among the people of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries (SEMCs) who shared a similar sense of frustration and powerlessness along with their demand for jobs, fundamental freedoms and democracy. Citizens have become increasingly vital players in the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean Citizens Assembly (MCA) was founded before the Arab Spring in 2008 with the aim of construction of a Mediterranean community of peoples on the democratic values of freedom, peace, respect for cultural diversity and environmental responsibility through citizens' dialogue. It organized its Fifth Assembly 13-16 November 2014 in Marseille, France with the participation of over 120 peoples including representatives of various institutions present in the region, such as the Arab League, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, amongst others from 20 Mediterranean countries.
What was the difference between this fifth meeting and the other four assemblies of the MCA, which took place in Valencia (2010), Tunis (2011), Volos (2012) and Istanbul (2013)? The theme of each meeting reflected the changes occurring in the Mediterranean Basin since the first meeting coincided with these turbulent days. After the debates of the fifth meeting, which focused on the theme "Citizenship and Construction of a Mediterranean Community of Peoples," the citizens concluded that public institutions have not advanced in the construction of a Mediterranean community of peoples. Instead, the policies implemented in recent years have perpetuated inequality throughout the region and conflicts between countries and peoples. Economic and social crisis affect the majority of people in Mediterranean countries, especially the underprivileged, young people and women. Wars and violence continue in the Mediterranean.
The necessity of the peace, which is first and foremost important to create a community of peoples of the Mediterranean, re-emphasized strongly. In this context, the circles' supports to the efforts to resolve the conflict between Mediterranean countries and to end the violence that destroyed the peoples of the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean were reiterated. Increase in terrorism, immigration, xenophobia and their possible effects on the establishment of Mediterranean people of community were among the topics discussed.
ISIL, Migration and Mediterranean People of Communities
Islamic State (ISIL) - a militant group active in Iraq and Syria- has attracted significant numbers of jihadists from all around the world, including from Northern and Southern Mediterranean countries. ISIL became one of the major problems of this region due to the ISIL threat, along with recruitment of ISIL jihadists from Mediterranean countries and its possible repercussions on the Northern Mediterranean countries and their migration policies. Developments in the SEMCs in the post-Arab Spring era and the geographical proximity of these countries to the Northern Mediterranean countries has already made Northern Mediterranean countries more vulnerable to a new mass immigration flow from the South. The increase in instability, violence and radicalization in the SEMCs, which led to mass immigration flow from South to North, has enforced the EU to take further steps with regards to the EU's external border protection such as FRONTEX Plus. Besides this, the recruitment of ISIL jihadists from various EU member states and fear of possible terror attacks of these jihadists when they come back to Europe also led some EU member states to take extraordinary measures. Briefly, immigration is linked to terrorism and security threats.
The EU's security-driven migration policy, which is a costly policy, not only has repercussions on their budgets but also has the potential to influence the EU's foreign policy, which is based on strengthening cooperation and partnership with its SEMCs. Security concerns led to the EU to take extraordinary measures to contain migration. Their contribution to the EU's security is questionable as much as its contribution to facilitate the socio-economic integration of the Muslim population of Europe. The ISIL threat and its foreign jihadists recruitments' impact on the perceived image of Muslim immigrants not only have the potential to heighten suspicion about Muslim immigrants of Europe, but also to lead to increased power and attraction of ultra-nationalist parties that already have Islamophobic agendas.
In conclusion, the negative impacts of the ISIL on the construction of a Mediterranean community of peoples can be explained with the following vicious cycle: Religious radicalism in the SEMCs and their repercussions on young European Muslims feeds the European ultra-nationalists with anti-immigration and anti-Muslim agendas. The perceived negative image of Muslims as a threat to the society leads to an increase in Islamophobia, which leads to alienation/exclusion of Muslims in European societies... Finally, it causes the major challenge on the path to "free movement of people" in the Mediterranean, which should be the one of the major steps towards construction of a Mediterranean community of peoples. More importantly, it is a challenge to the future unity and political existence (and peaceful coexistence) of Mare Nostrum.