Maghreb Arab Union – MAU

The MAU (in French: UMA) was created on 17 February 1989 at a meeting in Marrakesh of Heads of State of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

It does not have a fixed secretariat, but hitherto it has followed the order of rotation of the six-monthly presidency.

There are two other important aspects: the creation of a ten-member court, two members per country, to settle disputes between parties from member countries and a Maghreb Advisory body with 50 MPs as members.

In the past there were other attempts at broader cooperation between Maghreb countries and there were even economic and political unification projects. They were not successful due to the Western Sahara issue. Diplomatic initiatives of the United Nations Secretary-General and some Arab countries to help towards a solution to the issue created a favourable climate for the creation of the MAU, as a reaction to the prospect of the completion of the European Single Market after 1992.

The new Union has some advantages over previous attempts. First of all, more than a political union, the immediate objectives of the MAU are the free movement of goods and persones and a revision of customs regulations. There is also the possibility of a unit of account for inter-Maghreb trade. The agreement already concluded for the construction of a gas pipeline from Algeria to Spain via Morocco is a clear example of a mutual interest project.

Politically, the participation of Libya is very interesting. It would imply that Libya is integrating more into Arab policy in general. Improved relations between Algeria and Morocco is a further positive factor which can be observed from the way the two countries have been involved with Saudi Arabia in the Tripartite committee aiming at solving the Lebanese question.

MAU in figures:

  • Population: 62 million
  • GNP per capita (1988): US$ 1,78

Historical background

The first attempts to establish a unity among the countries of the Maghreb took place at the eve of their independence. The Committee for the Liberation of the Maghreb was created in 1948.
Shortly after their independence, Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia held the first Conference of Maghreb Economic Ministers (Tunis 1964), which established the Maghreb Permanent Consultative Council (CPCM, in its French acronym). This body was intended to coordinate and harmonise the development plans of the four countries as well as interregional trade to form a block vis-à-vis the EU. Mauritania adhered to the CPCM in 1988. All economic and political unification attempts failed due to the Western Sahara issue. Diplomatic initiatives of the United Nations Secretary-General and some Arab countries to help towards a solution to the issue created a favourable climate for the creation of the Arab Maghreb Union, as a reaction to the prospect of the completion of the European Single Market after 1992.

The Arab Maghreb Union

The AMU (in French: UMA) was created on 17 February 1989 at a meeting in Marrakesh of Heads of State of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.
The main institutions of the AMU are the following:
  • The Council of Heads of State (its last session was hold in 1994),
  • the Council of Foreign Ministers,
  • the Steering Committee,
  • the Justice Court: composed with ten members -two members per country-, to settle disputes between parties from member countries:,
  • Maghreb Advisory Chamber: with 30 MPs per country,
  • Ministerial Specialised Committees: Council of Ministers of Interior, Human Resosurces, Infrastructure, Economie and Finances and Food Security.
  • General Secretariat: it was established permanently in Rabat in 1992. It has an annual budget of US$ 1.7 million (member states contribute on equal terms). Current Secretary General is Habib Boulares from Tunisia.
The Union had some advantages over previous attempts. First of all, more than a political union, the immediate objectives of the AMU are the free movement of goods and people and a revision of customs regulations. There is also the possibility of a single currency for inter-Maghreb trade.
The agreement already concluded for the construction of a gas pipeline from Algeria to Spain via Morocco is a clear example of a mutual interest project. Amongst other projects approuved by the AMU are the creation of an Investment and International Trade Bank to finance joint projects in agricultural and industrial domains, a convention to cooperate in the maritime domain and an agreement to facilitate transport.
Though it has allowed trade echanges amongst member countries to double, political unrest in Algeria, the internatioal embargo against Libya and certain disputes amongst member countries, notably the non resolution of the Western Sahara question have hampered progress on the Union’s joint goals.
In 1998, colonel Qadaffi founded the CEN-SAD (Community of Sahel and Saharan States, former COMESSA in its French acronym), which as an emerging African grouping, poses a threat to the AMU’s viability.