Forecasts about the Mediterranean in terms of economic, social and human development are premised on a critical assumption: the continuation, mutatis mutandis, of the status quo in political and governance terms. Indeed over the last decades, not only have the regimes in the southern and eastern Mediterranean demonstrated a remarkable resilience, but also the states have enjoyed a situation of overall stability achieved through a number of skilfully arranged reform measures. Yet this status quo does not appear to be sustainable in the decades ahead because of the cumulative effect of the multiple challenges confronting the countries of the region. By drawing a critical distinction between short-term stability and long-term sustainability, this paper argues that in the long run it will become increasingly difficult to sustain the current configuration of state power against the backdrop of deteriorating socio-economic conditions and above all of increased domestic unrest. First, the paper explores the changes that have taken place in the last two decades and that have contributed to creating the current situation of apparent stability. Then, it moves on to assess the conditions under which this situation may become unsustainable owing to the emergence of challenges in the political, economic, social and external domains. This exercise aims at presenting a number of stylised scenarios on the future of the region.
Silvia Colombo is Junior Researcher and a specialist in Mediterranean and Middle East issues at the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in Roma.