Reaching Out to Maghreb: Morocco Closer to Becoming a ‘Privileged Partner’ of the EU

Written by | Thursday, July 4th, 2019

Morocco has moved closer to its goal of achieving the stutus of a ‘privileged partner’ of the European Union following the talks between Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and the EU’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini. The ‘Euro-Moroccan Partnership for Shared Prosperity’, which was announced at the end of the 14th meeting of the Morocco-EU Association Council on 27 June, will include the relaunch of talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) that are expected to start immediatelly, and Morocco’s integration into a number of new EU agencies and programmes.

The EU also praised Morocco for its “serious and credible efforts” in handling the long-running conflict over the Western Sahara that has been disputed since Morrocco’s annexation of the territory in 1975. While the European Court of Justice in 2018 and 2019 concluded that the disputed area could not be considered a part of Morocco, earlier in February, the European Parliament endorsed the new EU-Morocco Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement. In what could be seen as a tacit warning to the Polisario Front, the independence movement that claims to represent the people of Western Sahara, the latest EU statement calls on both sides to “continue their engagement in a spirit of realism and compromise”.

Meanwhile, as one of only few North African countries, Morrocco has helped the EU to control migration flows across the Mediterranean Sea, for example, by setting up migration reception centers on its territory. “People have to realise that migration is here to stay. Migration is a natural human movement but must be respected. We must promote legal migration but do all we can to combat illegal migration and human trafficking,” said Mr. Bourita. “We have our own borders to protect and you also have to remember that Morocco is now also a country of destination for migrants and asylum seekers as well as a country of transit,” he added.

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