Europe supports Morocco's EU partnership aspirations
By Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat – 23/01/08
Morocco's foreign ministry welcomed European foreign ministers and high-ranking European Union representatives to Rabat on Monday (January 21st) for a meeting to debate Morocco's bid for "advanced status" with the EU.
Morocco has stated that movements towards an advanced status with Europe will broaden access to the community’s markets and integrate the two economies more deeply.
Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Taieb Fassi-Fihri said advanced status for Morocco is in the interest of the Mediterranean region as a whole. His aim is to join the regional efforts made by countries of the south with those of the north.
European officials present at the talks were unanimous in voicing their support for Morocco’s plans, stressing the importance of co-operation in maintaining peace and stability in the region.
European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the European Union is pleased with development in Morocco, calling the country "a special partner in a number of fields, not least the fight against terrorism and illegal immigration."
Ferrero-Waldner discussed Morocco's history of co-operation with Europe on security issues, citing its participation in operation ALTHEA in Bosnia, and its role in the joint project to strengthen the monitoring of dual-use goods and joint efforts against terrorism.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos offered a promise from Spain to help Morocco establish advanced status as soon as possible, saying his government will make any necessary efforts to help during its EU presidency in 2012.
Morocco and the European Union agreed at the Association Council in Brussels in July 2007 to set up an ad hoc working group to consider changes to the current Association Agreement.
The Morocco-EU Association Council, which France is set to chair in autumn 2008, will explore this possibility. A series of meetings will communicate the working group's ideas to EU member states and seek their approval.
The Council's first task is to seek approval for the political reforms Morocco has introduced in recent years to encourage greater democracy and the modernisation of Moroccan society. These measures have been largely supported by the EU – in particular, the programmes to modernise the judiciary and introduce greater independence and impartiality.
Morocco and the EU have discussed trade at length, and are currently negotiating the liberalisation of trade in agricultural and fishery products. In the coming days, talks are expected to move on to trade in services and investment.
In the energy and transport sectors, Morocco has made a strategic choice to integrate into the European market, as it already has in air transport.
In the field of politics, the two parties have established an ongoing forum for dialogue on issues of democracy, human rights and governance.
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