17/12/2010

Cooperation EU-Morocco: and after?

Three new agreements between Morocco and the European Union were signed at the ninth session of the Association Council EU-Morocco. These agreements are related to community programs, agriculture and settlement of disputes.

Under the Agreement on Morocco’s participation in community programs, the Kingdom is authorized to participate in all current and future programs of the European Union opened in Morocco. The agreement stipulates that Moroccan representatives are allowed to participate as observers to management committees responsible for monitoring the programs that the country is contributing financially.

The second agreement provides for the implementation of progressively greater liberalization of reciprocal trade in agricultural and fisheries products and is part of the roadmap for Euro-Mediterranean Agriculture ( Rabat roadmap) adopted in November 2005 during the Euro-Mediterranean Conference.

Finally, the third agreement on dispute settlement aims to prevent and resolve any trade dispute between the signatory parties in order to achieve, if possible, a mutually acceptable solution.

As a reminder, Morocco has, since October 2008, received the « advanced status ». More than association, a sort of antechamber to accession, this status goes in theory beyond the association in place and achieves a higher level of partnership on political, security, economic, financial, social and cultural matters. The signing of these three agreements is therefore a new step in the process of strengthening cooperation between Morocco and the European Union.

The agreement was greeted with enthusiasm on both sides of the Mediterranean, only few weeks after the tensions arising after the Moroccan repression in Western Sahara and the reactions of indignation in Europe. Le Matin, a newspaper linked to the monarchy, stresses for instance that « Relations between Morocco and the European Union (EU) are to be placed under the seal of excellence. »

The European Union also has welcomed the agreements, stating that « the European Union believes that its partnership with Morocco has a fundamental value, given the role it plays not only in North Africa and the African continent, but also throughout the Mediterranean region « . However, the EU, while congratulating Morocco for its cooperation in human rights, said it encourages Morocco to work closely with the United Nations to find a just, fair and equitable agreement that allows self-determination to the Sahrawi people, as stipulated in United Nations resolutions. This was not mentioned by the Moroccan press.

This enhanced cooperation with Morocco must be welcomed and one can hope that others such agreements not only with Morocco, but also with other Mediterranean partners will follow. The strengthening of this cooperation demonstrates that the EU has still the ability to be an actor to be reckoned in the Mediterranean. The EU must now take this momentum by weighing all its weight, and thus otherwise than by encouragements, to support the signature a fair agreement regarding the endless conflict in Western Sahara.

Geoffroy d’Aspremont