A new model for the formation of microplates at convergent boundaries has been discussed and applied to the tectonic history of the Mediterranean region for Jurassic and Cretaceous times. Dewey et al.  already recognized that the motion of large surrounding plates is not always directly related to the regional tectonics. In this paper we show that the kinematics of small intervening terranes is constrained by variations of relative velocity between the major plates. In particular, we have shown that deformation of passive margins and rifting of continental slivers is directly related to the conservation of equilibrium at trench systems. A discussion about the major tectonic events that characterized the Mediterranean region demonstrates that the quantitative approach proposed here accounts for timing and style of processes that are documented in the geologic literature. Hence, an application of this method to other complex tectonic histories (e.g., Southeast Asia, West Pacific, Cenozoic Mediterranean) could give a better understanding of the geologic processes in these areas.