First week of the Mediterranean High Strategic Studies Sessions (SMHES) 5+5 – Lisbon

« Lisboa cidade da tolerância »

A nice slogan for a splendid capital city open to the world! Portuguese history is obviously very rich and closely linked to the discoveries made between the beginning of the 15th century and the middle of the 16th century. While these discoveries allowed Portugal to shine and increase technical performance in many areas, including maritime safety and navigation, they also contributed to the drawing of the world map. When it comes to geopolitical issues, geography and its representation, regardless of the type of projections used, are of obvious interest. We only need to look at the world map at the entrance of the Lisbon Naval Museum to realise that.

Today, the representation of the world is a real symbol and the United Nations have been inspired by it to schematise a form of balance between powers while avoiding any discrimination. If travel has allowed these essential discoveries, “the real travel is no longer to look for new landscapes but to have new eyes” (Marcel Proust). In fact, the realisation of the Mediterranean Session of the High Strategic Studies in the 5+5 format displays this ambition of opening the eyes, of changing, if needed, view of the world of listeners coming from both sides of the Mediterranean. In any case, this new perspective can only be based on free appreciation of each person during a week of exchanges.

This session, the third of its kind, stays faithful to the principles that were agreed during the Summit of the two shores, organised in Marseille in June 2019 and chaired by President Emmanuel Macron. The Mediterranean Session of Advanced Strategic Studies is structured around two seminars, the first one in the North and the second one in the South. They give these sessions an original and quite extraordinary character by offering a total freedom of approach in the exchanges. For the record, the target in terms of participation was set at two auditors per country, with one student from a university or equivalent institution in the field of international relations, and one student-officer from the military academies of the air force of the 5+5 Dialogue countries. The participants were expected to follow a programme combining lectures, thematic visits and committee work, aimed at exchanging and sharing in order to better understand together the major issues of the Mediterranean basin. Some countries, for different reasons, did not propose any participants. We obviously regret this while pursuing actions that could encourage them to join us, with the second seminar in preparation that should take place in Fez at the EuroMed University next June.

To get to the heart of the matter, the University of Lisbon, with the Superior Institute of Social and Political Sciences (ISCSP), proposed on Monday 6 March an opening sequence involving personalities from superior education and the diplomatic corps of the 5+5 Dialogue countries. We would particularly like to highlight the presence of the ambassadors of Libya, Morocco and Malta, who participated in a round table discussion on the major issues of the Mediterranean space of the 5+5 countries, after the introductions made by the vice-president of the university and myself. I would like to point out that this round table was moderated by Dr Teresa de Almeida e Silva, to whom we are grateful for the organisation of this seminar in the North. Of course, she was supported by a remarkable team and I apologise in advance for not mentioning them all here. Mr. Diogo Cardoso, who himself participated in the second session as an auditor, is one of the PhD in the team who played a major role in the success of this seminar.

Without going into detail about all the stages of our listeners’ journey, I would like to point out the meeting on Tuesday 7 March with the Minister of the Interior, Mr José Luis Carneiro. It was an opportunity for a long and relaxed exchange on security issues for the 5+5 countries. And there are many of them! The simple fact that he came to meet the audience testifies to the importance he attaches to the Mediterranean Session of High Strategic Studies in the 5+5 format. His visit should convince other personalities in the North and the South to go and meet our young graduates. He was able to measure, on this occasion, the enthusiasm and the will of the participants to go deeper into many questions in an international context agitated and weakened by the war in Ukraine.

The programme also included dynamic visits, notably one to the Coastal Control Unit of the National Republican Guard on Wednesday 8 March. This visit underlined the major issues affecting both sides of the border, in particular migration issues. Considering the risks and threats of economic, climatic or conflict origin, this subject will have a continuous effect, leading to increasing instability in countries that are already weakened, and obvious risks to internal security in others.

On Thursday 9 March, the participants had the opportunity to spend a day at the Military University Institute in Lisbon. It is necessary to commend the welcome given by General Antonio Martins Pereira, who was very attracted by the originality of the Mediterranean sessions, with which he wishes to create lasting links. Finally, our young participants attended a conference on strategy and the art of war. Colonel Machado Barroso gave a very talented presentation. Some analyses of Mr. Hervé Coutau-Bégarie (in memoriam) were quoted, which did not leave me indifferent and reminded me of the courses given when I was at the war school.

Finally, to close this very dense week, thematic conferences related to history, social issues, the place of Islam in the world, disruptive technologies or cyber security allowed the listeners to enrich their reflections, aiming at presenting them to an academic audience some recommendations in line with their study theme: security on the two shores of the Mediterranean – defence and cooperation of the 5+5 Dialogue. Not impressed by the magnitude of the task, they surprised the very attentive professors and were delighted to have hit the nail on the head on certain subjects during their presentations.

To conclude and give a more personal appreciation of the work of our young listeners, I like the words of Honoré de Balzac who said that “youth has amazing privileges; it does not intimidate”. I would even say that it is reassuring because our youth is involved! This Mediterranean Session of High Strategic Studies in the 5+5 format therefore gives a certain hope for the future, even if this future will probably be difficult, or even very difficult. But the main thing is to allow it to happen together and to discuss it!

This week was obviously a beautiful moment of sharing and exchange! Stay tuned… Many thanks to our hosts!

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