Al Jazeera Centre for Studies published on 19 September 2023 the Arabic translation of the French book, Le complexe de sécurité de la Méditerranée occidentale: Dynamiques de sécurité et migrations (5 + 5 défense) (The Western Mediterranean Security Complex: Security Dynamics and Migrations [5+5 Defence]), by Abdennour Benantar, Professor at Paris 8 University and Research Associate at the Strategic Research Foundation in Paris, and translated Aoumria Soltani, translator and researcher in political science.
This research endeavour consists approaches the Western Mediterranean region, or the regional space of the 5+5 group (i.e. Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Malta, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal), as a regional security complex within a context characterised by the securitisation of migration issues.
The book provides a theoretical study of the analytical level that relies on the discussion of "old regionalism" and "new regionalism." It also examines the theory of regional security complexes and critiques it, introducing modifications to align with the conditions and circumstances of the Western Mediterranean region.
The author of the book presents an analytical and critical perspective on the 5+5 group in general and its defence initiative in particular, focusing on the initiative's engagement in the dynamics of security and migration and the European Union’s authorisation of other countries to manage these issues.
Falling within the realm of regional security studies, the book attempts to answer three central questions: What is unique about the Western Mediterranean security complex? How is this region constructed as a Euro-Maghreb security space through the 5+5 defence process? What are the challenges of this regional process?
The book deduces that the ongoing process of reactivating the 5+5 group and its explicit defence and security orientation reflects the disappointment of both sides in the Euro-Mediterranean partnership and their choice of a geographically narrower cooperative framework instead. It suggests that there is a cooperative policy with varying engineering desired by certain Southern European countries that allows a limited number of states to advance their cooperation without undermining the comprehensive approach led by the European Union. This policy also enables Southern European countries in the Western Mediterranean to have a "zone of influence" in the political process among European countries while simultaneously allowing Maghreb countries to strengthen their ties with their northern neighbours due to this geographically narrower regional dynamic.
Benantar points out that, despite the changes that have occurred in the mechanism of 5+5 defence, ambiguities and challenges persist, which threatens to limit it and weaken its distinctiveness.
In fact, he maintains that the mechanism of 5+5 defence has not brought about a fundamental change in the security patterns in the Western Mediterranean region due to the way it was designed, which does not allow it to serve as a genuine security provider or a crisis management tool in the region. This, he believes, has been one of the reasons for its inability to influence unresolved conflicts or prevent crises from erupting within its regional space and its vicinity.
The author also attributes the weakness of the mechanism of 5+5 defence and its inability to generate dynamics that promote convergence and cooperation among Southern Mediterranean countries to the fragmentation experienced by the Maghreb component. This fragmentation does not encourage sustainable cooperation among its countries in many areas.
Consequently, he argues, unless the 5+5 group successfully addresses the sources of tension, and prevents and manages crises within its own space, it will not have the ability to deal with or influence instances of insecurity that develop in its vicinity.
He also mentions that there are two European processes –securitisation and the delegation of migration management to external actors – that exert their influence on the agenda of the 5+5 group. He states that this raises the issue of the group's independence from the EU and introduces the challenge of regionalising the securitisation of migration, in addition to complicating the role played by the EU in regional relations.
Benantar concludes by stating that the 5+5 mechanism risks falling into the trap of excessive securitisation and dependency on EU policies due to its reliance on the lowest common denominator and the dominance of migration and terrorism issues. Therefore, he adds, it can be argued that the 5+5 mechanism, in the way it has been designed by its member states, is unable to influence cases of regional (in)security despite its contributions to building regional trust and cooperation. Hence, there is a need to redesign the regional architecture in the Western Mediterranean, even if only partially.