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(en) Italy, FDCA - Il Cantiere #10: The Mediterranean from "Mare Nostrum" to "Medioceano". The new hub of globalization and militarization by Daniele Ratti (ca, de, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Tue, 13 Sep 2022 09:54:10 +0300

In Taranto, last March, a conference was held organized by the Italian Navy and the Limes magazine entitled "Italy in the disputed Mediterranean: our strategy". The meeting attended by Admiral Caffio, the Chief of Staff of the Italian Navy E. Credendino, the President of the Port Authority System Ionio Prete, analysts and the Director of Limes magazine was an opportunity to make the point of Italian interests in the Mediterranean area. The conference expressed the point of view of the national interest on the current geopolitical and geo-economic situation that sees the Mediterranean as one of the centers of international competition. It is no coincidence that the chosen place was Taranto, remember that the city, since the unification of Italy, is the historic seat of the Navy arsenal, representing the most important operational base.
The speakers, while developing their specific topics, outlined a common and shared path. Italy as a processing economy (it imports raw materials and semi-finished products and then exports finished products) depends significantly on maritime transport, especially as regards the energy sector (92% of the gas and oil consumed annually is imported). In the White Paper Of Defense, published in 2015, it is clearly indicated what is meant by "national interest" or: "all that is needed to ensure the supply of raw materials and energy sources of which Italy does not have them and all this which serves to protect our exports ". In this perspective, the safety of maritime routes becomes a vital factor. The Mediterranean and in the specific case Taranto, due to its strategic position, represents a nodal point of economic and therefore geopolitical interests, not only Italian but of European scope. It should be emphasized that Italy, with 7,500km of coastline, is essentially a maritime country, imports / exports by sea mark shares of 81% and 74% and transport by water is three times those by road and 12 times those on rail. Italy is the most important logistic structure in the Mediterranean and Taranto is in fact in the center, equidistant from the two east and west outlets, that of Suez and that of Gibraltar. We recall that 90% of world trade takes place by sea and in the Mediterranean which, although it represents 1% of the world's seas, 20% of global goods circulate. The Mediterranean basin is a real international hub. Ships from Asia cross Suez and unload goods for Northern Europe by land, saving 8 days of navigation compared to landings by sea in the ports of the north of the continent.
It is no coincidence that the EU has declared Taranto one of the 14 strategic ports included in the connection network between the states of the European Union. It also plays a leading role with regard to land routes, being the terminal point of one of the most important corridors of the European commercial axis, called "corridor number 5", or an integrated system between sea and land routes that connects the the South North axis of the continent, the one that goes from Helsinki to Valletta. We remind you that Ferrovie Italiane is planning to expand the city's railway infrastructures with the construction of railway trains with a length of 750 meters. It is good underline that Corridor no. 5 was a choice of the European Commission as an alternative to the construction of the bridge over the Strait of Messina. The main stretch between Helsinki and Naples remains unchanged while the land variant Naples Bari Taranto is chosen and then continues with the "motorway of the sea" up to Valletta. This route is part of the planning of the great European Corridor of the TEN (Trans European Network). Corridor no. 5 is part of the other "motorways of the sea" envisaged by the EU affecting the national territory. The east-west corridor that from Lyon arrives in Trieste, passing through the Frejus tunnel via Milan and Venice, and the "corridor of the two seas" or Genoa-Rotterdam through the construction of the Third Genoa-Milan crossing. Taranto is also at the center of the "horizontal" European route, the Adriatic Balkan axis which already now conveys most of the land transits between the Balkans and Northern Europe via the Adriatic.
The Adriatic Balkan axis is assuming an increasingly central role in the international network, especially in the Silk Road.

Beijing, as is well known, has long since acquired one of the most important Greek maritime ports, that of Piraeus, which despite being a hub, especially for the circulation of containers, cannot fully develop its potential due to the lack of railway infrastructure in the Balkan region. . For this reason, the Adriatic Balkan axis has taken on more and more consistency, the landing of which in Taranto allows connection with the Italian and European national railway network. In other words, the city is the center of a 360 ° crossroads of goods. The sea-land logistical integration is therefore a decisive element for the circulation of goods. It is no coincidence that two of the most significant technical innovations of recent decades have been, the development of containers (together with the construction of supercontainers ships) and the high-speed rail network whose use is intended more for goods than for transporting people. These innovations, together with digitization, have enabled greater interconnection of global trade.
The strategic position of Italy in the Mediterranean and in particular that of Taranto is supported by a new mode of circulation of goods between East and West, especially China and the American continent. Instead of crossing the Pacific, Chinese goods undertake the Chinese Indo oceanic route and then, through Suez, land in the Eu ports where a partial unloading of goods takes place and at the same time a load of goods for the American continent. In fact, the Mediterranean becomes a link between the two great oceanic masses, the Chinese Indo and the Atlantic one. For this reason the Mediterranean takes the name of "Medioceano", a "middle sea". The "Mediocean" is acquiring geo-economic geopolitical and strategic importance equal to the Pacific area, with a substantial difference. If in the Pacific the competing actors are substantially two, China and the Anglo-Australian-American axis, in the Mediterranean the situation is much more complex and above all the military initiative (on the western Atlantic side) after the US withdrawal from the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean quadrant , is the responsibility of Europe and Italy in particular. The EU cannot be militarily absent from the area as its economy depends on the Mediterranean through which 94% of its exports take place while 70% of freight traffic in the Mediterranean involves European ports. For these reasons Taranto, at the center of these commercial networks, can only be the object of a strong presence of the Navy. As underlined by the President Prete during the conference "With the presence of the Navy in Taranto, we control foreign investors and not vice versa". For this reason the territory will see with the growth of commercial importance that of an increasingly massive militarization aimed at reassuring foreign investors and national interests. The interventions of the analysts of Limes also touched on a fundamental point that of the Exclusive Economic Zones, the so-called EEZs. Such maritime spaces, which include both the seabed and the surface waters, are not only regulated by supranational agreements, the only international standard is that which establishes the competence of a single nation at 200 nautical miles for both seabed and surface. The actual borders of the EEZs are left to agreements between individual states. It goes without saying that the geographical conformation of the Mediterranean, a very narrow body of water, does not allow a linear delimitation of these areas which inevitably overlap, creating inevitable friction. In this context, which is already complex in itself, two factors have entered the last decade which have further complicated the regional stage. The greater Russian presence and above all Turkey's neo-imperial activism.
Turkey is committed to creating the Mavi Atan, in Turkish "Blue Patria" an expression coined by the Turkish admiral Cem Gurdeniz and adopted by Erdogan. In short, the "Blue Fatherland" is the guideline of Turkish regional imperialism and is embodied in the control of the eastern part of the Mediterranean and in the creation of the EEZ which goes from the Anatolian peninsula, across the Mediterranean, to Libya. In the "Patria Blu" project, the stipulation of commercial agreements with the major regional players is also relevant, see Israel on the south side, Russia on the north side, the EU and in particular Italy on the west side. As far as Russia is concerned, the expansion in the Middle East region and above all in Africa (from the Horn of Africa to the Sahel and Central Africa) make the Mediterranean a firm and indispensable point.

It is significant that until 2015 in the Syrian port of Tartus there was only one Russian military ship while to date the military units of Moscow amount to 15. The strategic understanding of the Mediterranean is completed with an "enlargement" of the strictly geographic borders of the "Mare Nostrum".
The concept of the enlarged Mediterranean is introduced in the official documents of the Ministry of Defense. It can be represented as an equilateral triangle with the summit in the Italian peninsula, the west side extends to the Gulf of Guinea the base that runs along the axis of the Sahel and then arrives, through the Horn of Africa up to the Persian Gulf in particular the Strait of Hormuz to then complete the east side going up through the Middle East region. It is quite intuitive that this triangle encompasses a large part of both African and Middle Eastern energy resources. Furthermore, if the ENI extractive presence is superimposed with the location of the Italian international missions, an almost perfect overlap is obtained. The presence of the Italian international missions allows the control of the two fundamental strategic "nodes" the Strait of Hormuz in the Arabian peninsula and Djibouti or the access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
The Mediterranean and above all its "South Flank" constitute an absolute strategic priority for both the interests of the Atlantic Alliance and the EU. NATO is reworking a new "Strategic Concept" for this specific area while the EU has outlined in the "Strategic Compass" document the guidelines of the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) for the coming years.
The EU has identified CSDP as the means to be more present in global competition. The Mediterranean with its "enlarged" appendix is its constituent part. Italy, due to its geographical location with its Ionian species ports, becomes a fundamental piece of it.
In this perspective we must therefore read the Italian expansionist policies, now no longer random but which have a precise design both from an economic point of view (see ENI and both industrial and manufacturing exports) and military with the corollary of the immeasurable levitation of military spending ( as opposed to cuts in social spending) and the "Mediocean" becomes a decisive part of it. The question is always the same who pays the bill? The wage-earners, the pensioners and the immense army of the young and not precarious workers are the main contributors to the industrial military system, from Leonardo to Fincantieri, and profit to capital. Socialized costs, privatized profit.
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