Mediterranean Agreements

   Initially, the Mediterranean Agreements were a series of bilateral agreements signed between Britain and Italy on February 12, 1887, and between Britain and Austro-Hungary on the following March 24. These initial exchanges received further clarification in a trilateral exchange of notes, ratified on December 12, 1887, known as the Second Mediterranean Agreement. The agreements pledged the participants to the maintenance of the status quo in the Eastern Mediterranean and adjacent seas. In effect, this also meant that should the status of Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, the Balkans, Egypt, or Tripoli be altered by outside powers or internal unrest, these three powers would work in coordination together. Although considerably short of a formal alliance, the agreements marked a decade long period in which Britain associated its interests in European diplomacy closely with the powers of the Triple Alliance, composed of Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Italy. Several factors led to this alignment. On the part of the British, friction with Russia over the delineation of the Afghan frontier - the Penjdeh crisis of 1885 - and especially divergent positions regarding Bulgaria pushed London to look for diplomatic partners to check the Russians. Continued friction with France over the nature of the British occupation of Egypt since 1882 precluded such an agreement between those two powers and led the British to turn instead toward Berlin and Vienna. A domestic crisis in France resulting in the Boulanger episode worried France’s neighbors, particularly Germany and Italy, about possible adventurism in French foreign policy.
   The Italians had been pursuing an alliance or alignment with Britain since the early 1880s, in part to win British support against French expansion in North Africa. In particular, the Italians felt they had been cheated when France stole a march on them in Tunisia in 1881. In both the case of Italy and Austro-Hungary, Otto von Bismarck encouraged an approach to the British, hoping to force Britain to serve as the lead check on Russia’s Balkan designs, while allowing him to maintain his support for the Dreikaiserbund . At the same time, the association of Britain with Italy and Austro-Hungary also helped Bismarck successfully negotiate the extension of the Triple Alliance, especially with Italy, which was signed on February 20, 1887. The Mediterranean Agreements in many ways marked the high point of Anglo-German relations before the tension-prone reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
    Bridge, F. R. From Sadowa to Sarajeva: the Foreign Policy of Austria-Hungary 1860–1914. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972;
    Kennedy, Paul. The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism 1860–1914. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1982;
    Langer, William L. European Alliance and Alignments 1871–1890. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962;
    Lowe, C. J. The Reluctant Imperialists: British Foreign Policy 1878–1902. New York: Macmillan, 1967;
    Lowe, C. J. Salisbury and the Mediterranean: 1886–1896. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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