Navigating Turbulent Waters: The Compounding Effects of a Pandemic and a War on the Mediterranean Basin

This paper was initially published as part of the EuroMeSCo Euromed Survey Report – 2022 Edition. To read the full paper, download the PDF document on the right.


Despite being characterised by its multifaceted diversity and dynamism, sitting at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Mediterranean region suffers from a number of challenges, including economic disparities, political instability, and environmental degradation. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges and has brought new ones to the forefront, such as hindering access to quality healthcare, impairing education systems, causing economic decay and stagnant or no recovery, and leading to new waves of migrants and refugees who can hardly make ends meet. Not only did Covid-19 accentuate multidimensional inequality on an intra-country level but also on the inter-country level, thus deepening the gap between the Northern shore and the Southern shore of the Mediterranean. Income inequality, health inequality, educational inequality and other forms of socio-economic inequality were even more intensified in the aftermath of the war that Russia waged on Ukraine at the beginning of 2022. This war has induced a twin basic commodity crisis, combining an international oil shock and an international shock of wheat, grain and vegetable oil. The twin crisis has, in turn, put a double trouble in place. On the one hand, as Russia and Ukraine are two of the largest exporters of wheat and oil (Russia) in the world, the war was accompanied by an increase in global prices of these essential basic commodities. On the other hand, since Mediterranean countries import most of their wheat and oil supplies from Russia and Ukraine (wheat), in particular, they endured long months of shortages of wheat and oil and a further increase in these commodities’ prices locally. As Southern Mediterranean markets were slowly emerging out of the pandemic and other overlapping economic and political crises, they found themselves facing a double jeopardy with repercussions disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable social groups, at the top of which were women, children, refugees, and ethnic and religious minorities. The consequent rising tides of social injustice in both poles of the basin have made it imperative to unpack the reasons behind the Mediterranean’s susceptibility to conflicts and emergencies, the channels through which the outcomes of such events materialise, and the differential impact of these episodes of turmoil on the different social groups, especially those who are vulnerable and marginalised. The online survey that Euromesco (2022) has conducted, targeting experts, civil society representatives, and policymakers from numerous countries in the region has come a long way in uncovering the policy priorities that are needed to “build back better,” the criteria that are necessary to devise more socially-responsive versions of these policies, and the opportunities for multilateral cooperation that can make recovery more feasible. Not only did the survey reveal the key areas of interventions to be pursued and the challenges hampering them, it also re-asserted the Mediterranean as the microcosm of the global North-global South gap, which should be addressed as a primary entry point to mitigating inequality at national levels.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.