Christine Lagarde: A Mediterranean Odyssey - from ancient origins to future strength

Speech by Ms Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, and Mr Luis de Guindos, Vice-President of the European Central Bank, at the Mediterranean Meetings, Marseille, 21 September 2023. 

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
22 September 2023

I am honoured to be with you at the Palais du Pharo, overlooking the historic port of Marseille, the cradle of today's eponymous city.

For thousands of years, this port has served as the city's spiritual and economic heart, acting as its gateway to the world. Even today, this city still embodies the essence of the Mediterranean: a site with a shared history, a bridge connecting the diverse peoples of its shores and a place compelled by its very nature to open itself up to the world.

It is in this spirit that you have gathered here for the Mediterranean Meetings – to consider the region's calling and destiny and to offer unity and peace in a landscape marked by global division, inequality and instability.

In that same spirit, I would like to divide my speech today into three distinct parts.

First, I will recall the rich history of the Mediterranean region and the deep roots shared by all those who inhabit its shores. Second, I will look at some of the challenges the region is facing today. Lastly, I will reflect on how we can foster the region's economic reintegration and reclaim its unity and strength in a new era.

The Mediterranean region: past and present

For a long time, the Mediterranean remained a "mare clausum", an impregnable sea that served as a natural barrier for its people.

From Homer to Horace, the Mediterranean was a source of both fear and fascination.