If there is one phenomenon that strikes the attention of anyone interested in the Mediterranean, it has to be the plethora of institutions, organizations, treaties, conventions, protocols, colloquia, seminars, meetings of experts and workshops on the subject. And also the frequency of these encounters, the recurrence of the themes and topics addressed, raised or discussed, with or without conclusions. On average, it is quite probable that at least one meeting is held per week (an estimate based on intuition or empirical evidence). A trend which is not likely to slow in pace as it is fuelled, paradoxically, by the difficulty encountered in obtaining tangible results.

This observation calls for diagnosis, and one stands out from the rest : the Mediterranean has a complaint called governance; it suffers from a severe "mis-governance" syndrome - rather than "non-governance" -, rather like the "mis-administration" talked about a few years ago, in the case of a State whose administrative structures were lacking or deficient to the point that the goals assigned to them were not attained, and a form of regression was noticeable in the pursuit of projects and the use of resources. This was in the days before the term "governance" had been coined and became a key-concept in our day and age.

Two new initiatives have appeared which have contributed to a re-appraisal of issues raised by the Mediterranean and guiding those concerned towards a search for basic terms of governance.

The first arose from France's political desire to create a "Union pour la Méditerranée" (UpM) in July 2008; the second consists of a maritime policy implemented by the European Union (with a particular slant on the Mediterranean basin).

There is, however, a precedent to these initiatives in the search for a global management method for problems in the Mediterranean: that taken by the IUCN and its Centre for Cooperation in Malaga which, since 2007, has regularly hosted an informal, trans-disciplinary group of experts (biologists, managers, legal experts…), whose exchanges and publications contribute towards furthering reflection and regional decision-making.

A multitude of institutions and actions, overlapping mandates and jurisdictions, the dominant hold of a sectoral approach - whatever its worth -, the discovery by States around the basin that they are "coastal" with a legitimate aspiration to turn towards the open sea and its depths… All these geographic, human, political, scientific, economic and social factors form a dense concentrate of many frustrations and failures, with a few rare successes, in the attempt to re-establish an equilibrium and talk about governance.

And, in the background, each player hangs on to the memory of a Golden Age of the Mediterranean, a shared past whose magic must be retrieved or reinvented.

Between an idyllic Mediterranean and the one which is marking time while running many risks, there is this huge gap which needs to be bridged. Not so much because we should be worthy of this heritage, but because this maritime basin has never before been so central to world geopolitics. The strategic importance of its straits is reiterated as soon as navigational security brushes up against the security of the marine environment; the density of maritime traffic, all kinds of merchandise combined, is only equalled by the concern to make this type of navigation safe in a basin with such a precise configuration.

The geographical characteristics of the Mediterranean make it a prime example of the concept of an enclosed or semi-enclosed sea which was consecrated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982.


The idea of compiling a glossary grew out of the necessity to place a guide at practitioners' disposal, which would not be academic in either nature or inspiration. The aim is to answer questions they quite rightfully ask themselves, beyond their scientific, economic or administrative fields. Except in a few cases, readers will not find detailed reference to international jurisprudence, nor any echo of debates on the interpretation that should be given to legal provisions. These considerations belong to the realm of legal experts who are university professors or international judges, either active or retired, who can address subtleties without the (very real) added value of their analyses always being discernible for action in the field.