Missing Development Opportunities on the EU's Southern Border
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Issue 3:2

Jose Maria Lopez-Bueno

Missing Development Opportunities on the EU's Southern Border

According to Kennan's long telegram, permanent peaceful coexistence between the democratic ‘West' and the communist ‘East,' (led by the Soviet Union), was next to impossible (Kennan, 1946). However, similar to Soviet ‘official statements,' Kennan's assumptions were thinly veiled propaganda, meant for domestic consumption. In hindsight it is clear that despite the multitude of crises, socio-political and economic shocks and disturbances, the relationship between the ‘West' and ‘East' was unlikely to have degenerated into an open and direct confrontation. The end of the Cold War did not bring about universal peace, but rather witnessed the emergence of another fault-line, one based more on political identities than geopolitics, but still pointing to a supposedly inevitable confl ict.

This time the line of impossible coexistence runs along the border of the Islamic world and a new, expanded ‘West' which includes the ‘traditional West' (the US, Canada, West European states, NATO), former Warsaw Pact countries (re: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria) and some post-Soviet states (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia). As Huntington indicated as far back as 1990, we can expect a clash between Islam and the West.

But is this true? For many, especially following the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks, the answer is an obvious ‘yes.' When Huntington spoke of a ‘clash of civilizations,' this clash was meant to begin along the ‘bloody borders' demarcating - awkwardly - the dominant Judeo-Christian West from the Islamic world (Huntington, 1993). However, New York, London, Bali and Madrid are located a signifi cant distance from Huntington's border zones. These cities may be considered symbols of the West for Islamists, certainly, but they do not form, or remain part of, a geographical boundary butting against the Islamic world. Huntington supposed that the actual borders between Europe and the Islamic world, those which run through the Balkans (Bosnia, Kosovo) and between Greece and Turkey, would be the main confrontational line.

While this was relatively accurate for more than a decade of armed violence in and among former Yugoslavian peoples, or even on the Caucasian border of Russia (e.g. Chechnya), Turkey's status as an active NATO member and EU candidate stands directly opposed to Huntington's proposition. But the European borders separating the West from the Islamic world are not only to be found in the wider Balkan region: at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea, the EU has two additional physical contact points to Islam, the Spanish (and hence EU) cities of Melilla and Ceuta which are located on continental Africa, surrounded on three sides by Moroccan territory and one side by the sea. While these Spanish cities have historically bore witnessed to occasional incidents of organised political violence, and despite the continued differences (socio-economic, political and cultural) between Spain and Morocco, they are important generation stations for regional employment and development. Melilla and Ceuta, unlike New York, Madrid or London, comprise part of a physical land border between the West (as represented by the EU) and the Islamic world.

2020 - Volume 14 Issue 1