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The Changing Mediterranean: Geopolitical Tensions and Challenges

Written by: Pietro Maccabelli

Edited by: Clelia Vettori

Supervised by: Cecilia Rosa Yáñez

The Mediterranean Sea holds unparalleled strategic importance for several states in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Serving as the natural connection between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans through Gibraltar, Suez, and Bāb el-Mandeb, this maritime space is of inescapable centrality for the global trade system, with 90% of trade still concentrated at sea. Consequently, states highly dependent on the import of natural resources and the export of high-value goods, mainly European countries, consider the overall stability of this sea essential for their economic well-being and national security. Additionally, the Mediterranean’s relevance has increased due to recent discoveries of large offshore oil and gas fields in its Eastern quadrant, between the territorial waters of Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt. As noted by ISPI (2021), the Mediterranean is also crucial when it comes to fishing activities, migration flow, the presence of pipelines and fibre optic cables, and security competition among various state actors in the region. Today, this region is largely regarded as a fundamental geopolitical area for the international balance of power, with multiple states vying to expand their influence and project power, with the aim of achieving greater strategic depth. The growing interest shown by countries like Russia, Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, and others in the Mediterranean, which translates into a more substantial naval presence, follows the geopolitical vacuum left by the US after its “Pivot to Asia”.