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Friday 12 July 2019

Foreign Minister : EU-Morocco Pact ‘is about having Relationship we both Deserve’

Vocal synthesis
 Foreign Minister : EU-Morocco Pact ‘is about having Relationship we both Deserve’

Relations between the European Union (EU) and Morocco are now part of a ‘Euro-Moroccan partnership for shared prosperity’, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Nasser Bourita, said in an interview published Wednesday by European information website 'Euractiv'.

Morocco has always been a locomotive of EU relations with its southern neighbourhood, from the very first Association Agreement to being the very first country to benefit from the Advanced Status, he pointed out, noting that the 14th Association council, that took place in Brussels last week, demonstrated how important Morocco is to the EU, and how important the EU is to Morocco.

"The adoption of a joint political declaration was a real milestone," Bourita pointed out, adding that it laid the foundations for a renewed relationship.

"We both agreed on enhancing a new dynamic to our already ’strategic, multidimensional and privileged relationship’," he said.

"This implies a paradigm shift, based on equality. The same declaration insists on how important it is to build a partnership of equals to the benefit of the shared interests of both parties," he explained.

"Morocco has had institutional relations with Europe since the 1960s and both parties have enjoyed fruitful cooperation since then, culminating to the Advanced Status of 2008, upgrading the Euromed process and the Association agreement, among other mechanisms. There are only a few countries that share such an advanced partnership with the EU," he said.

"I have said it before and I will say it again – Morocco is not looking for exclusivity. Morocco seeks co-development, growth and complementarity, and the Kingdom invests all means to achieve it," Bourita stressed.

Regarding the immigration issue, the minister said that the EU needs partners in North Africa to work with, not only on migration issues but on all issues of common interest.

"Migration is not a ‘standalone’ issue, it is part of a global partnership. Nor is it solely a control issue," he said, adding that as His Majesty King Mohammed VI said in his message to the Marrakech Conference that adopted the Global Compact on Migration: “The side of the border on which a migrant stands does not make him or her more or less human. Addressing security concerns should go hand in hand with socio-economic development policies which tackle the root causes of risky migration,” Bourita added.

"We have been working tirelessly to strengthen control of our borders and prevent a large number of irregular departures, and we are effectively fighting against human trafficking networks and dismantling criminal organizations that abuse and exploit migrants in a vulnerable situation," he said.

"We have developed exemplary cooperation in this area with many EU members. We can extend the positive results of this partnership to the European level," the minister added.

"The shift to the western Mediterranean migration route has had a tremendous impact on us," Bourita said, adding that "the route between Morocco and Spain has become one of, if not the main illegal entry route into Europe for migrants."

"Despite this increased pressure, we have enhanced legal pathways and regularized the situation of more than 50.000 African migrants," Bourita pointed out.

"Morocco, which has traditionally been considered a country of emigration and transit, is now also a country of immigration. As such, it is quite natural for Morocco to understand the constraints expressed by many of its European neighbours, while at the same time demonstrating authentic solidarity with its African brothers," he added.

"We have ruled out the possibility of EU-funded migration centres in Morocco for four main reasons. Because we think they would be ineffective: detention centres do not stop migration flows; they would be counterproductive: they increase the risks of human tracking and smuggling, they do not reflect on a long-term vision, migration routes are likely to evolve, and they would be inevitably dangerous, they do not offer guarantees in terms of migrants’ human rights," he said.

With this in mind, a partnership between Morocco and the EU on migration should be based on three assumptions: migration management is a shared responsibility; migration can be a powerful tool for development; cooperation on migration cannot be regarded exclusively in security terms, the minister explained.

"In practice, cooperation with the EU on migration should have a human dimension that promotes the well-being of migrants. It is a two-way process that establishes rights and obligations for both migrants and host communities.  It must lead to a new concept of mobility, which is part of the relaunch of relations between Morocco and the EU," he said.

The African Migration Observatory established at the initiative of HM King Mohammed VI and endorsed by the African Union can be the subject of close collaboration with the EU, in terms of capacity building for data collection, Bourita underlined.

"We are seeking a qualitative approach, not a quantitative one. The increase in financial support to Morocco must be seen in its context, that of increased migratory pressures on the Western Mediterranean. Morocco does not perceive this increase as a “reward” but as an adjustment that aims to be proportional to the pressure suffered by Morocco," he said.

"If it meets these criteria, I am confident that the partnership on migration between Africa and the EU can be established on the pattern of the EU- Morocco partnership on migration," the minister said.

"At the same time, Morocco is deeply rooted in its continent", Bourita said. "We have been actively engaged in the development of our African continent, as we believe it needs to further strengthen its economic and political integration. In this regard, we have reunited with our African institutional family and sought to engage on a wide range of issues both bilaterally and multilaterally with our African brothers and sisters," he added.

"We are also part of an African free trade area which offers a plethora of opportunities, first for Africa, but also for international actors."

"In essence, Morocco is a hub and a facilitator for all things European into Africa, but it does not necessarily aspire to being a bridge between both counterparts. It is a de facto situation which is built on the standing and status of Morocco both in and outside of Africa," the minister pointed out.

Regarding the Moroccan Sahara issue, Bourita said the EU clarified its positions once and for all during the last Association Council.

"It was a historical moment, because for the very first time, we had a common language on the Moroccan Sahara," he noted.

"The Joint Political Declaration left no room for false interpretations. Indeed, it underlined that “the two sides reaffirm their support for the efforts made by the UN Secretary-General to continue the political process aiming to reach a just, realistic, pragmatic, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution to the Sahara issue, based on compromise and in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions, and in particular Resolution 2468 of 30 April 2019”," he recalled.

It also highlighted that “the EU takes positive note of Morocco’s serious and credible efforts in this respect as reflected in the above-mentioned resolution and encourages all parties to pursue their commitment in a spirit of realism and compromise, in the context of arrangements consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter”, he said.

Some ‘parties’ have tried to attack and challenge our Partnership with the EU more than once and every time, they fail and lose, the minister said.

"Instead of harming the EU-Morocco Partnership, these attacks made it stronger and more resilient than ever. More than 2/3 of the last European Parliament voted in favour of the EU-Morocco agreements on Agriculture and fisheries," he added.

Bourita underlined the need to enhance the integration of Moroccan universities in EU programmes supporting research and innovation.

Programmes related to technical aspects of energy and climate change are also very relevant for Morocco to join in, he said, adding that "there is high convergence between Morocco and the EU on these stakes which will be integrated into all cooperation areas of our partnership."

MAP 11 July 2019