The turn of the 21st Century saw southern Europe enter into the worst Depression in a century, the perfect storm of a sovereign debt crisis, a declining population and contracting markets from German exports. One by one, the nation's of southern Europe struck out on their own to protect themselves from everything the EU was telling them was actually a good thing: Free Trade, a single market, a common currency, a united financial system, all these things benefited the European core countries of Germany, France, and the Low countries, but were a disaster to the less industrial Mediterranean nations. The free travel policies that defined the union's efforts to tear down nationalist barriers trapped millions of Middle-Eastern refugees in nations that didn't want them, as Northern European countries, at first hungry for cheap labor, voted to close their borders and leave Southern European and North Africa holding the bags. By the time the South Greenland Ice Sheet slipped into the Atlantic, many southern Europeans were sick to the teeth with their richer neighbors forcing them to shoulder the burden of a union that Greece and the Catlans had the good sense to leave. The mass die off of fish following the desalination of the Atlantic, and the subsequent food shortages were the final straw that led to the Revolutions of 2027, which saw southern Italy's successful bid for separation, along with Corsica, and Sardinia; Serbia's war with Bosnia and Croatia (partly spurred by Turkish and Polish proxies).
Another generation saw Turkey try to fill the power vacuum left by the EU, and the rise of the Turks managed to spur an eventual end to the depression. WWIII saw Sicilian and Catalan mercenaries join the Turks in the Balkans and North Africa, and when the fighting was done, many of these same mercenaries left for the Sahara where the local tribes were scrambling for the chance to finally shape their future as the Great Blossoming from the new lakes and rivers brought agriculture to the heart of Africa. Mercenary forces eventually became rulers of their own fiefdoms across the Med, building business interests through land claims made in the name of the new nations. Ports, business centers, ranches, and farms made these warlords rich and the cronyism that defined their former mercenary armies evolved along the lines the Romans used to issue land to loyal soldiers, forming a new kind of aristocratic system. Investments and land holdings in North African trade generated wealth in Europe and visa versa, which in turn spurred more growth.
To prosper in the 21st Century, the Mediterraneans saw no other option than to emulate the example of their ancestors. Those that had gotten rich off the Great Flowering of the Sahara established themselves as the oligarchs over a new currency and trade union, crafted largely to support their own business interests. The governments they controlled, and the society they shaped reflected an romantic view of 19th Century social norms; some might say a reaction to the perceived decadence of the American over-culture that had long since defined life in contemporary Europe. Along with social structures lifted from the 19th century, the market lords of the MU lifted the political system from ancient history, using their own status as non-government leaders to secure territory in port cities in the region and around the world.