“All you need is a compass, point it on southern Italy and draw a circle, to understand how close are the two shores of the Mediterranean and how little has been done to bring them closer. The revolts in the Arab countries constitute for the West and Europe a great opportunity to build a policy of cooperation based on parity and respect,” said professor Franco Cassano, a specialist in Sociology of Cultural Processes at the University of Bari.
Cassano is closely watching the protests that are taking place in many Arab countries and said that the effects will be felt throughout the Mediterranean basin.
“There are new protagonists and goals, educated youth, part of a digital generation that is fighting for more freedom and democracy” said Cassano who sees “an extraordinary historical opportunity” and a mass movement that is struggling against dictatorial regimes and which is at the same time distant from the ideologies of religious fundamentalism.
According to Cassano, “The movements are largely secular and they are taking a new approach. They are not listening to the wail of fundamentalism; they struggle against the abuses of regimes that have sometimes been backed by the West.”
He added: “A third way that could transform the southern shore of the Mediterranean forcing Europe to confront, finally, the issue of its relations with neighbors in a view of true development and collaboration”.
Cassano stressed that any external interference should be avoided for it could be seen as a new form of colonialism.
On the contrary, Europe and the international community should take a road that leaves behind the emergency logic that has prevailed so far, intervening with humanitarian aid where this is necessary.
“Diplomacy, and Italy is an example as a bridge country whose history has always been tied to the Mediterranean, has been unable to build bridges between the two shores,” Cassano said, adding “Today, there is talk of the refugee emergency, the possibility that thousands of migrants might try to make the crossing, but we would not have reached this point if in place of the short term policies, privilege would have been given to the road of cooperation and mutual development”.
These revolts, said Cassano, can open new horizons.
“A third way able to channel new and fresh air throughout the Mediterranean, which can also remove water from the vases of fundamentalisms, wherever these might take root,” Cassano said.