ROME — Reassessing a changed Continent, the Mediterranean countries of Europe are now looking more south than north in formulating plans for their security through the century's end.
Soviet imperialism has been replaced by more fragmented but hardly less troubling threats stoked by strife in the Middle East and hunger in North Africa. The specter of terrorism, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, common environmental concerns, and how to control the swell of economic and political refugees from Africa crowd the new security agenda.
The Mediterranean countries of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, all support CSCE and its programs as a safeguard of their continental security. But they also argue that the Persian Gulf crisis has reinforced the need for strong security cooperation among Mediterranean countries.
As a supplement to the CSCE, some of the major European Mediterranean countries want to create a southern counterpart that would include non-European neighbors in North Africa as part of a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean (CSCM).
The still-fledgling idea of Italian Foreign Minister Gianni De Michelis and Francisco Fernandez Ordonez, his Spanish counterpart, is to create an instrument for resolving conflicts in the Middle East by grouping countries in a vast area from Iran to Mauritania. To make the somewhat Utopian idea more credible, they also seek American participation.
France and Portugal would be among the European sponsors of CSCM, although the French are not persuaded that any such organization should extend beyond the European and Africa Mediterranean and into the Middle East.
Echoing fears heard throughout southern Europe, Ordonez has warned of a possible "collision course between Islam and the West." De Michelis is proposing that the European Community nations contribute one-quarter of one percent of their gross national products to aid the Maghreb countries--the principal source of migration, much of it illegal, to countries like France, Italy, and Spain.
Greece, an economic backbencher with Portugal in the rich man's European Community, is a bit player with singular security concerns. Chief among them is divided Cyprus, where minority Turks live in a self-proclaimed republic that only Ankara recognizes.
The Greeks, like their archenemies in Turkey and other southern-tier countries as well, also worry about the spillover of economic refugees fleeing a newly free but desperately poor Eastern Europe.
Of all the southern-tier countries, and at great economic cost, Turkey is the most active and unabashed pro-Western player in the ongoing gulf crisis. After 40 years of preoccupation with the Turkish-Soviet border, it is now Turkey's border with Iraq that counts--to Turkey and to the West. Squadrons of American fighter-bombers are poised at Turkish bases, and 100,000 Iraqi troops are pinned down by Turkish forces along their common frontier.