The Mediterranean has played a key role in European history, though this history has been marked by the profound political, cultural, social and economic differences between its two shores. These differences have become even more apparent in recent decades and have served to highlight the difference between the developed countries of Europe and the developing countries of North Africa. The level of development within Europe is not, however, homogenous and, to-date, although the gap between what is considered 'rich' Europe and 'poor' Europe has been noticeably reduced, it has not been eliminated, in spite of the rapid development of the countries of the South. There exists, therefore, throughout most of southern Europe the conviction, rather than a notion, that there is a long way to go before the differences with the northern neighbours can be totally eliminated.