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EuroMed across Cultural Diversity

 

Jacques Digout

Editor in Chief, EuroMed Journal of Management

 

 

Charbel Salloum

Managing Editor, EuroMed Journal of Management

 

 

The wish to dissociate oneself from geographical tropism and present the Mediterranean as a built whole that incorporates a cultural, historical, institutional and organisational dimension and, thus, the wish to abandon a vision uniquely space-centered to accede to the statute of model, is not new. Historians and political scientists have for a long time engaged themselves in this path, which has enabled them to identify three levels of perception concerning the Euro-Mediterranean:

 

(1) As an idealistic vision which stresses its statute as a zone of communication and exchange (Sicily under Roger I or Andalusia at certain epochs) and promotes a purposely positive image. This idealism culminated in cosmopolitan cities which existed around the Mediterranean and which embodied the quintessence of human capacity to live together (Istanbul, Alexandria, Beirut, etc.). Modernity unfortunately put an end to this, due mainly to the revival of nationalism;

 

(2) As a warlike conception, an arena of confrontation. For the only time in history, Roman pre-eminence created a unity which could only fall apart with time because, after the disintegration of the Roman Empire, both parts experienced divergent development, accentuated by the Arab conquest, and then by the Crusades which aimed at the ousting of Islam outside Europe. The seizing of Constantinople by the Ottomans, who saw in the Balkans a possible space for extension, constituted one of the key moments of this conflict approach which, in the modern era, is rooted in the phenomenon of colonisation and then decolonisation, thus triggering the transfer of a large number of negative aspects (poverty, wars and drugs) to the South;

 

(3) As a post-modern conception which, all the while being defined as a heterogeneous group of religions, food modes, musical genres, etc., sees the centrifugal forces that distinguishes it thwarted by a sense of contact and proximity. By juxtaposing at the same time dissimilar elements, culturally (countries turned inwards and very open countries) and physically (alternation of a coastline composed of plains and mountainous zones), the Mediterranean remains also, and maybe especially, a small closed-ended sea (3% of the Atlantic Ocean).

 

These three approaches are irreconcilable because their three visions deal with three Mediterraneans. That is why the Mediterranean – a seemingly immutable fact to which it has become common to refer – is in fact constantly being re-invented. Key to the reading and re-writing of the past, it is – at the same time – the object of insertion of its different components into a collective time, marked by the double seal of continuity and discontinuity. What is deemed right for history applies also to geography.

 

We are hence dealing with a “Euro-Mediterranean” term marked by contrasts – to unbalances and inequalities that are thus opposed willpowers to “do with”. These contradictions are carried by political and economic choices, and are underlined both by an array of formal resources (economic, social and financial) and also and mostly by informal resources, born of the history of this space, in favour of the cooperation, richness and dynamics that could result from it. It is for this reason that the idea of “Euro-Mediterranean” seems to our eyes a fruitful notion. It bears conceptual content that transcends this space geographically and historically, to characterise any other space featuring these ambivalences between unbalances and inequalities. It falls within the scope of intrinsic dynamics which render it into a political project liable to duplication, at least in the elaboration part, in other territories. This approach is inherent in aiming at a “Euro-Mediterranean” model whose characteristics will bear an outreach beyond the space-centered framework to claim having a general outreach.

 

The existing development gaps, which we can’t fail to notice, fall nevertheless within a proximity of exchanges, structured from very ancient to present times. This however in itself can constitute the foundation of a political, economic and social will to build diversity (cultural diversity and socioeconomic diversity at the same time) bearing richness and dynamics. This proximity is found in migratory flows as much as in commercial flows.

 

The question is therefore to move from a perceived inequality (not forcibly wanted) to a built diversity as a project. Thus, once we evoke the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean, we think of the means to be mobilised to ensure the development of firms (and other structures of economic activity), and of the actors capable of contributing to that. Entrepreneurship can be the medium to promote economic activity which compensates for the constraints emanating from the insertion into the international partition of employment, allowing for the emergence of a socioeconomic fabric solely capable of offering real development perspectives.

 

This project draws its justification from the need for economic development in the Mediterranean basin countries and the stakes linked to the creation of the Euro-Mediterranean free-exchange zone. Nonetheless, to elude the duplication of inequalities related to development gaps, and to improve exchanges, it is mandatory to identify the economic action rules allowing for the expression of producers, the assertion of their plurality and their lack of submission to dominating industrial models and, thus, lay the foundations of a chosen diversity that is politically, socially and economically built. The stakes consist then in converting the obsolete forms of coordination into modern patterns clarifying the rules, accepting their diversity and promoting their adaptation by the producers themselves as well as by their customers. Finally, it is a question of moving from the community of producers to the community of populations.

 

The foundations of the Euro-Mediterranean model raise the problem of what can be seen as the roots or characteristics of this geographic space, to build the dimensions of the Euro-Mediterranean concept. These roots are triple: a certain way to envisage relations between the individual and the collective and, going forward, a certain way to recognise or not diversity at the heart of societies. This part also encompasses history as a pretext bearer of projects, but at the same time as an obstacle to innovation and to the word, as carrier of meaning and trust, and indicator of the diversities that found relationships.

 

The EuroMed Journal of Management addresses management issues within the growing and diverse region explored above. It proposes and fosters collaboration and openness between different research cultures and trends related to business topics, topics that illustrate innovative models and concepts coming into and within EuroMed.

 

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