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French Version

Towards a universal consumer society ? Free-market gobalization vs. traditional societies ?

The specificity of the Euro-Mediterranean region

In the opinion of Antonio Garriges Walker, Euro-Mediterranean relations share certain characteristics with classic North-South relations. Daniel Lebègue underlined the historical and cultural richness of the region, its desire for dialogue, its relative prosperity (there are no LDCs except Palestine) and its remarkable economic openness as well as the numerous association agreements with the European Union.

The speakers agreed that the difference in wealth between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean is increasing. Andreu Claret maintained that this gap is unique in the world: disparities are even more pronounced between the countries that lie along the Mediterranean shores than between those along the Gulf of Mexico. The ratio of wealth is 1 to 11 in the first case and 1 to 7 in the second. The fact that disparities are increasing is borne out by the fact that thirty years ago, a Spaniard was four times richer than a Moroccan, and today is nine times richer. This raises the issue of the reasons behind what is generally agreed to be a failure, despite the many benefits of development over the past 50 years, of the commercial exchanges, and of the positive effect, in economic terms, of the process of globalisation over a long period.

Globalisation undeniably has effects on traditional societies, their structures and cultures, even though, as the past ten years have shown, the process is not necessarily imposing a standardised way of life (Philippe Jumel). Globalisation can facilitate communication and the spread of cultures so long as it also protects them. This is the objective of the Convention on Cultural Diversity (Biserka Cvjeticanin).

According to Mr Garriges Walker, globalisation highlights the cultural obstacles to full market development, evidence of economic efficiency. In such cases development means the end of certain traditionalisms that hold back growth, as was the case in Spain. In the opinion of Mr Lebègue, difficulties with both public and private governance in a Latin-Mediterranean model still characterised by opacity and patriarchal customs can perhaps explain the slow development of the Euro-Mediterranean region.

Michel Husson stressed that competition between traditional farming communities of the South and their productivist subsidised counterparts in the North is harmful. More generally, he maintained that bilateral commercial agreements, including those of the European Union, put the less developed economies into competition between themselves. The major corporations of the North swoop up the more profitable sectors, all the while favouring those who provide the fewest social benefits. This leads to a dualisation within the societies of the South.

Faced with these facts, the speakers agreed that a solution must be found to the agricultural issue, which extends into the issue of migration. The European Union must take its share of responsibility for this. The states of the south of the Mediterranean must be convinced that they stand to gain from the changes advocated by the North (Mr Claret). There are also political obstacles to be overcome, such as the closing of the border between Algeria and Morocco. Facilitating the emergence of civil society south of the Mediterranean would also give more substance to partnerships.

Although the type of economic instruments to be used to boost development in the region is still controversial, the speakers were unanimous on the need to strengthen cultural links and offer more tangible political prospects to the countries of the south, particularly now that Europe is undergoing enlargement to the east. Furthermore, it appears that ecological considerations will become increasingly important in the various forms of cooperation, in the regions both to the north and to the south of the Mediterranean, in production techniques and consumer habits.

Andreu CLARET, Directeur de l'Institut Català de la Mediterrània
Biserka CVJETICANIN, Vice Ministre croate de la culture
Antonio GARRIGUES WALKER, Président de la Fondation José Ortega y Gasset
Michel HUSSON, Administrateur de l'Insee, membre du Comité scientifique d'Attac
Philippe JUMEL, auteur de "Le compromis historique ou La génration de 1968 au service de la mondialisation"
Daniel LEBEGUE, Président de Transparency International France

Paris,02 23 2004
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