The Mediterranean and Southern Europe: Crisis and Transformation from Détente to the Second Cold War

Elena Calandri / Antonio Varsori, Department of International Studies, University of Padua; Daniele Caviglia, Faculty of Political Science, S. Pio V University of Rome
01.07.2010 - 03.07.2010
Angela Romano, European University Institute Florence; Giulia Bentivoglio, University of Padua

The conference “The Mediterranean and Southern Europe: Crisis and Transformation from Détente to the Second Cold War” was jointly organised by the Department of International Studies of the University of Padua (Prof. Elena Calandri and Prof. Antonio Varsori) and the Faculty of Political Science of the S. Pio V University of Rome (Prof. Daniele Caviglia), and took place in the beautiful historical main building of the University of Padua – the Palazzo del Bo’. The conference aimed at placing the Mediterranean crises of the 1970s into a more articulated analysis of the global change that originated in that crucial decade. Although the East-West confrontation applied predominantly to the Mediterranean turmoil, dynamics in the Mediterranean could never be reduced to pure Cold War logics. The scientific committee of the conference therefore called for research to broaden the perspective and take into due consideration the economic, political and military trends of the 1970s. Twenty-three speakers, grouped into four panels, presented papers that were first commented upon by their discussants and then debated with the floor. The proceedings of the conference are currently under review for publication.

In the first panel, entitled “The Mediterranean in the Global Balance”, six speakers explored the links between the Mediterranean and some major international dynamics. GUIA MIGANI (University of Padua and Science-Po Paris) focused on the attempts of the EC member states to develop a collective Mediterranean policy. She highlighted how shared concerns about European increasing marginality in the region, superpowers’ predominant role, Soviet expansionism, and energy crisis eventually prompted the Nine to agree on common initiatives, such as the Global Mediterranean policy and the Euro-Arab dialogue.

NICOLA BADALASSI (University of Paris III) analysed the link between détente and the Mediterranean in the context of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and brought evidence of two major approaches. On the one side, Arab Mediterranean countries worried that détente in Europe might unleash Cold War tensions in their region, and asked for a link between European and Mediterranean security. On the other side, neither the superpowers nor the Europeans wanted to endanger détente and the CSCE by linking them to an area of major crises.

As FRANCESCA ZILIO (University of Rome / Free University Berlin) proved in details, Italy played a major role at the CSCE in mediating these different positions and eventually gaining consensus on the Declaration on the Mediterranean. The Italian solution had the merit to give the Mediterranean question visibility in the Conference without actually engaging the CSCE in the delicate handling of security in the region.

Whether multilateral or bilateral, détente seemed to be geographically confined to Europe. EFFIE PEDALIU (University of West England, Bristol) argued that the superpowers failed to apply détente in the Mediterranean basin, and led to a ‘parting of the sea’ by making local disputes more intractable and accelerating the ‘North-South’ fragmentation of the region. Western Europe thus emerged as a stabilising factor for the Northern littoral, with newly established southern European democracies joining the EEC and moving away from the increasingly unstable South Mediterranean shore.

HOUDA BEN-HAMOUDA (University of Paris I) presented the changing role of France in the elaboration of EC policy towards the Maghreb in the period 1963-76. She proved how the processes of decolonisation and European integration changed sensibly the framework of relations between individual European states and the Maghreb region, and eventually led France to advocate an EC role in the region.

As GIULIANO GARAVINI (University of Calabria) and SIMONE PAOLI (University of Pisa) showed, the changing relationship between Europe and the Mediterranean also transformed European cultural paradigms. Indeed, many European intellectuals during the 1960s and the 1970s did focus on the Mediterranean as a privileged element of a new European identity which would distance itself from its colonial past, as well as from the American and Soviet models.

The second panel focused on “Diplomacy and Economics of the Middle East Crisis”. DANIELE DE LUCA (University of Salento) analysed the Jordan crisis of 1970 and its role for the United States. The Nixon Administration looked at Jordan as the defining precedent for the American approach to subsequent crises in the Middle East area, both for the internal management of the conflict and for its implications on the superpowers relations. It was a test for the credibility of US power and the success of its diplomacy.

GIDEON REMEZ (Truman Institute, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) demonstrated that the so-called “expulsion of Soviet advisers from Egypt” in July 1972 was actually an agreed withdrawal and the Soviet servicemen who did leave Egypt were personnel of a Soviet expeditionary force. Détente motivated both the American and Soviet sides first to negotiate this arrangement and then to misrepresent it.

ISABELLA GINOR (Truman Institute, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) considered the USSR direct role in the Yom Kippur War. She argued that Moscow took an active and deliberate part not only in preparing Egyptian armed forces for their offensive across the Suez Canal, but also in the hostilities themselves. Despite this involvement, the Soviet leadership was informed of Egypt’s war plan only two days in advance and was reluctantly drawn into support for its Middle Eastern clients only when they later faced defeat.

GIANNIS SAKKAS (University of the Aegean, Rhodes) stressed how the Middle Eastern situation is central in understanding the Cyprus crisis. The conflict had in fact a global dimension, due to the determining political influence of international and major regional actors. Moreover, Cyprus was important for the defence and security of Israel and was therefore part of the US strategy in the Middle East.

OLIVER RATHKOLB (University of Vienna) explored the role of non-governmental diplomacy in the Middle East crisis. This so called “track II diplomacy” was particularly important in the period 1974-76, when the Socialist International undertook several Fact Finding Missions in the Middle East. The paper analysed the part played by the SI network and its influence on EC political actors.

As AURÉLIE GFELLER (EUI, Florence) showed, the political and economic crises initiated by the 1973 Arab-Israeli war deeply affected Euro-Mediterranean and transatlantic relations in complex and contradictory ways. On the one hand, Western Europe came closer to the Southern rim of the Mediterranean, engaging in a “Euro-Arab dialogue”. On the other hand, after a first phase of strains, there was eventually a Euro-American rapprochement.

ANNA RAYMOND VIDÉN (Institut d’Études politiques, Paris) analysed the evolution of transatlantic relations in the aftermath of the 1973 Middle East crisis. In particular, the European-Arab rapprochement affected the relations between the two shores of the Atlantic, with the simultaneous presence of competing and converging interests which led to several tensions; it also influenced intra-European dynamics and gave birth to the “Eurabia” argument.

The third panel was about “Political Violence and International Crises”. As JAN ASMUSSEN (European Centre for Minority Issues, Flensburg) showed, the Cyprus crisis of 1974 had broader implications and long-term effects on US foreign policy. The Cypriot conflict cannot be limited to Turkish-Greek relations, but needs to be put in the context of Détente as well as in the peculiar internal situation of the United States, since it contributed to a fundamental shift in Washington’s foreign policy making.

Studying Libya in the period 1974-1981, MASSIMILIANO CRICCO (University of Urbino) proved that Qadhafi wanted to secure greater influence over the Middle Eastern area and for this reason he supported Arab radical movements. In the meantime, Libya looked for Soviet backing and equipments. This obviously led to great tension with the United States, a strain that became open challenge during the Reagan Administration.

TIM JACOBY (University of Manchester) demonstrated that the acute political conflicts between left-wing and rightist political factions that characterized 1970s in Turkey can be traced back to the foundation of the Republic and had a profound effect on subsequent conflicts. These events also influenced the relations with the NATO partners, in particular the United States and their role in supporting the political right in Turkey.

VALENTINE LOMELLINI (University of Padua) focused on the relations between the Italian Communist Party and the United States. Despite growing suspicions of American interference in the aftermath of the communist success in 1975 elections, the PCI adopted a positive policy towards the US and began to develop a cultural connection with some American intellectuals. Such a kind of cultural link was seen as the only possible path to start and widen a dialogue with the US.

CHRISTOPHER GUNN (Florida State University) analysed the role of Armenian terrorism in Middle Eastern politics. The campaign of violence against the Turkish diplomatic corps was an effort to raise international awareness of the Armenian massacres of 1915, but needs to be considered into the general Mediterranean situation of the time and the rise of international terrorism in general. This terror campaign had also an impact on the Atlantic alliance and on superpowers relations.

The fourth and last panel focused on “Regional Dynamics”. JEFFREY BYRNE (University of British Columbia) analysed ideology and interdependence in U.S.-Algeria relations, 1967-74. He argued that despite the rhetorical gulf, both countries’ Presidents chose pragmatism and found a fleeting basis for tense cooperation: Nixon’s perception of American decline allowed to accommodate radical countries, whereas Algeria desired American partnership in developing its energy sector and establish itself a capital of a re-invigorated Third Worldist dream.

MASSIMILIANO TRENTIN (University of Padua) focused on political economy reforms in Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, and highlighted governmental elites’ interest in free trade agreements with the EEC as a means of fostering liberalisation (infitah) and integration of their countries in European and world markets. At the same time, he showed how the EEC decided to engage at different levels in promoting a Euro Mediterranean economic space and supporting the process of socio-political reform in those countries.

MEHMET DOSEMECI (EUI, Florence) analysed the Turkish broad debate over cultural and economic compatibility with Europe. He argued that the Europe’s economic downturn, expanding influence in the region through the Mediterranean Policy, and “Lord Byronesque response” to the invasion of Cyprus brought the Turks to see themselves as an underdeveloped nation besieged by the West. While détente created the breathing room for such questioning, it was, Dosemeci sustained, through disengagement with Europe that Turkey imagined herself anew.

FERNANDO GUIRAO (Universidad Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona) offered a new interpretation of Spain’s request for EC membership in July 1977. He sustained that the democratisation process allowed but did not motivate the timing of the application, and that the key lied in economic rationales. With bilateral trade arrangement coming to end, and the Nine moving the final assault to the Spanish market, the Suarez government had no better option than fusing all issues into a single negotiation package in order to safeguard a better future.

Finally, SIMONE SELVA (Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, Potsdam) looked at the 1970s energy matters through the lens of transatlantic relations. He analysed the interweaving between the close down of the Bretton Woods international monetary system and the new energy policy launched in Western Europe both at European community and at national level, and showed how the U.S. and international financial institutions came to support this major change.

In the concluding general debate, the participants addressed the conference key questions, and namely the influence of Cold War confrontation in the Mediterranean area, and effects of the global change that originated in the 1970s. Both the presentations and the general debate have confirmed the merit of the convenors' call: the conference has proven that it is not only appropriate but also intellectually rewarding to analyse the Mediterranean crises of the 1970s in a broader perspective. More specifically, going beyond Cold War logics and taking into full consideration the economic, political and military trends of the 1970s promise valuable scientific outcomes and a better understanding of regional and global dynamics and events.

Conference Overview:

Welcome Address:
Giuseppe Zaccaria, Rector of the University of Padua
Gianni Riccamboni, Dean of the Faculty of Political Sciences

First session: The Mediterranean in the Global Balance
Chair: Daniele Caviglia (Luspio)

Guia Migani (University of Padua)
Les Neuf et les enjeux méditerranéens dans la première moitié des années 1970 : éléments de réflexion

Nicolas Badalassi (Université de Paris III)
Mer et détente à Helsinki. L’enjeu méditerranéen de la CSCE. 1972-1975

Effie Pedaliu (University of West England, Bristol)
The Parting of the Mediterranean Sea and the Emergence of Southern Europe: Superpower Détente and the Mediterranean, 1969-1979

Houda Ben Hamouda (Université de Paris I)
Le rôle ambiguë de la France au sein de la Communauté européenne envers le Maghreb (1963 à 1976): entre inertie et acteur essentiel.

Giuliano Garavini (University of Calabria), Simone Paoli (University of Pisa)
Post-colonial Europe: the European and Mediterranean Identity in a Changing Cultural Climate

Francesca Zilio (University of Rome / Free University Berlin)
La politique méditerranéenne de l’Italie au sein de la CSCE

Discussant: Mark Gilbert (University of Trento)

II session: Diplomacy and Economics of the Middle East Crisis
Chair: Piero Craveri (Suor Orsola Benincasa University, Naples)

Daniele De Luca (University of Salento)
The Gods of War Were Inspecting Their Armaments: The United States and the 1970 Jordan Crisis

Gideon Remez (Truman Institute, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
The secret price of Detente: The Moscow Summit and the so-called 'expulsion of Soviet advisers from Egypt,' 1972

Isabella Ginor (Truman Institute, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
The Middle Eastern test of Detente: The USSR direct role in the Yom Kippur War, 1973

Giannis Sakkas (University of the Aegean, Rhodes)
From the Yom Kippur War to the Cyprus Crisis: War and détente in the Mediterranean Oct. 1973- Aug. 1974

Oliver Rathkolb (University of Vienna)
The Fact Finding Missions of the Socialist International to the Middle East 1974-1976: Options for Peace and the European Perspective

Aurélie Gfeller (EUI)
Conflict or Rapprochement? Euro-Arab and Transatlantic Relations in the Context of the Yom Kippur War and the Oil Crisis, 1973–1975

Anna Raymond Vidén (Institut d’Études politiques, Paris)
Transatlantic Tensions and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: From the 1973-4 Oil Embargo to “Eurabia”

Discussant: Antonio Varsori (University of Padua)

III session: Political Violence and International Crises
Chair: Carla Meneguzzi (University of Padua)

Jan Asmussen (European Centre for Minority Issues, Flensburg)
U.S. Crisis management in the Eastern Mediterranean: the 1974 Cyprus crisis in perspective

Massimiliano Cricco (University of Urbino)
Qadhafi’s Libya: from the uncertain alignment with the USSR to the support for Arab Terrorist movements in the Mediterranean (1974-1981)

Tim Jacoby (University of Manchester)
Political Violence in Turkey during the 1970s: the International Dimension

Valentine Lomellini (University of Padua)
The US Interference in Italy: A never–ending Story? The political and historiography debate on the threat of a Communist Mediterranean Europe in the mid-1970s

Christopher Gunn (Florida State University)
Armenian Terrorism in Middle Eastern Politics

Discussant: Mario Del Pero (University of Bologna - Forlì)

IV Session: Regional dynamics
Chair: Elena Calandri (University of Padua)

Jeffrey James Byrne (University of British Columbia)
“The world moves much too fast for theories”: Ideology and Interdependence in Algerian-American Relations, 1967-74

Massimiliano Trentin (University of Padua)
Les Voisins distants aux années Soixante-Dix. Les accords de libre-échange entre la Cee et l’Egypte, la Syrie et la Jordanie

Mehmet Dosemeci (EUI, Max Weber Fellow)
Turkey’s Great Westernization Debate: Restaging the Euro-Mediterranean World in the Era of Détente

Fernando Guirao (Universidad Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)
Time for decision: The final circumstances leading to Spain’s official request for Community membership of July 1977

Simone Selva (Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, Potsdam)
Self sufficient energy policy and international monetary relations. The US and the West European countries’ search for alternatives to oil between the downfall of Bretton Woods and the new floating regime

Discussant: Eric Bussière (Université de Paris IV)

Debate and conclusions

Tagungsbericht: The Mediterranean and Southern Europe: Crisis and Transformation from Détente to the Second Cold War, 01.07.2010 – 03.07.2010 Padua, in: H-Soz-Kult, 17.01.2011, <>.
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