Over the past few years, the OSCE Partnership for Cooperation with the Mediterranean Countries has continued a slow but steady path of expanding and enhancing its instruments and has received a strong impulse from the Italian Chairmanship of the then Contact Group in 2017. The propulsive drive has continued with a series of initiatives aimed at broadening the Organization’s attention towards the southern shore, in an often lazy or reluctant context.
Many look to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet space as the OSCE main and natural field of action. This has led some capitals to look at Mediterranean security as a disruptive element competing with the Euro-Asian focus, both in terms of political visibility and in the distribution of the Organization’s limited resources. The result is a zero-sum interpretation of sub-regional security, which does not appear to be fully in line with the OSCE and CSCE acquis.
The 1975 Helsinki Final Act recognized the principle of indivisibility of security in Europe in its incipit, and devoted an entire chapter to the Mediterranean. These cornerstones have been further strengthen by subsequent policy documents culminating in the “Ministerial Declaration on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean” which was adopted in Milan in 2018. The declaration reiterated that “the security of the OSCE area is inextricably linked to that of the Mediterranean region”.
To give a concrete follow-up to the Milan Declaration, Deputy Minister Hon. Sereni presented five new Italian proposals at the 2019 OSCE Mediterranean Conference in Tirana, supported by the then Secretary General, Thomas Greminger, and a large number of participating States and partners. Later, Italy promoted a joint declaration on the future of the Partnership, which was signed by nine other countries in May 2020.
The first of these proposals, i.e. the idea of dedicating an annual session of the Permanent Council to Mediterranean issues was shaped in all ranks at the meeting of 12 November 2020. The unprecedented occasion witnessed a lively debate, which featured the six partner countries (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia) and more than 10 participating states, including the EU, the Russian Federation and the United States. The meeting achieved a first important goal, breaking the taboo that had long confined the Mediterranean to the mechanisms of the Partnership.
On that very day, the OSCE Secretariat presented a report on the work of the executive structures for security in the Mediterranean, as suggested in the second of the proposals presented in Tirana by Deputy Minister Sereni and in accordance with what was stated in the Milan Declaration about the need for “Mediterranean issues to be clearly reflected in all relevant OSCE activities within the three dimensions of global security”.
The third proposal on the establishment of a reflection group on the OSCE potential added value to Mediterranean security is being implemented through a project supported by the Italian MFA (MAECI) within the NewMed Network framework, led by the Istituto Affari Internazionali.
The two remaining proposals – concerning the introduction of a co-chairmanship regime of the Mediterranean Partners Cooperation Group (formerly the Contact Group) and the amendment of the rules governing the Partnership Fund – will continue to be the focus of the Vienna debate.
In 2022, the Group for Cooperation with the Mediterranean Partners is headed by North Macedonia.