ELIAMEP, ACG bring future leaders together at Olympia

ELIAMEP, ACG bring future leaders together at Olympia

The Mediterranean stands as a treasure trove of rich diversity and cultural heritage, but its complexity and occasional instability have long seemed to characterize the region. These are inevitable when you consider that it connects three continents, over 20 countries, more than 15 languages, and three contentious religions. To add to this, recent geopolitical shifts within and beyond the Mediterranean have further amplified these complexities.

Trying to fully understand this region seems like a pipe dream, but that is exactly what we tried to do with the help of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), the American College of Greece (ACG), and their exceptional selection of speakers and trainers. For a week, less than 2 kilometers away from the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia, young emerging leaders gathered to analyze the many challenges that the Mediterranean region is facing.

While there was a notion that the world was marching toward what Francis Fukuyama coined “The End of History,” characterized by the global spread of liberal democracies, today’s reality has proven that assumptions made in the 1990s were incorrect.

This is particularly true of the Mediterranean, which is home to some of the world’s most fragile states, several autocratic regimes, and enduring conflicts, starkly illustrating the fallacy of past predictions.

However, among the numerous threats to the region’s stability, two critical issues prevailed in our discussions in Olympia: climate change and migration. The former, as a calamitous threat-multiplier, has cascading effects on the entire Mediterranean region.

From climate-induced displacement to desertification, reduced food and water security, and the potential of further conflicts (Darfur was just history’s first climate-caused conflict but, by all projections, not the last), environmental degradation will have disastrous ramifications. Migration, on the other hand, is already having fatal results, grossly affecting relations between states in and around the Mediterranean.

To effectively tackle these challenges, regional integration and cooperation between Mediterranean states are paramount.

Yet the region currently ranks among the least economically interconnected in the world. To bridge this gap, projects, intergovernmental organizations, and agreements between nations are essential to foster the necessary collaboration and dialogue that will lead to enduring intra-regional relations.

As seen in Olympia, the Union for the Mediterranean is a great example of this, as it provides and curates greater political protection of Euro-Mediterranean relations. Likewise, initiatives like ELIAMEP and ACG’s Summer Academy play a pivotal role in uniting the future leaders of the region, cultivating professional and personal connections, and inspiring collective action to solve the issues of today.

George Papandreou, one of the many speakers at the academy, rightfully emphasized that the challenges faced today transcend the capacity of any single individual or state to solve on their own. “I wish I could solve climate change on my own, but I can’t,” he stated.

These words encapsulate the need for joint efforts. By working together, future leaders hold the potential to create a more promising and prosperous future for the Mediterranean.

From July 3 to 8, ΕLIAMEP and the Institute of Global Affairs (IGA) of The American College of Greece organized the 3rd ELIAMEP-ACG Summer Academy in Olympia in the Peloponnese in southern Greece.

The Summer Academy was a transnational educational program that brought together high-potential graduate students and young professionals from the Mediterranean, Europe and beyond.

Distinguished academics, diplomats, policy makers, business leaders, and experienced journalists assisted the participants in analyzing and better understanding the challenges that emanate from the current global and regional geoeconomic and geopolitical shifts.

Valeria Sinisi Garcia is the Mediterranean Dialogue project manager at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Madrid.

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