- The European Union (EU) and Morocco today signed an agreement strengthening their partnership and opening up EU markets to Moroccan products. But also political cooperation is to be strengthened, calling for democratisation of the North African kingdom.
At the seventh meeting of the EU-Morocco Association Council today, the EU approved what it calls "a package of measures designed to strengthen the partnership with Morocco." In the first row, Morocco will get unlimited access to EU markets for its agricultural products, while gradually, other products will get free access to the large European market.
According to the EU, this package includes in particular "cooperation in political and security matters, the preparation of a comprehensive and deeper free trade agreement, the gradual integration of Morocco into a number of EU sectoral policies, and the development of people-to-people exchanges. They are intended to provide material support for the modernisation and democratic transition process that Morocco has been engaged in for a number of years and for which Morocco is requesting more substantial backing from Europe."
At the meeting, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for external relations and the neighbourhood policy, held that "Morocco is undertaking a raft of reforms in all areas. It has asked for 'advanced status' in our 'neighbourhood policy', stronger links with Europe to consolidate what has already been achieved and to give fresh impetus to its modernisation and democratic transition process."
According to Ms Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commission had done "its utmost to respond to Morocco's expectations and we have made a great many proposals in the areas that are within our competence. I welcome their adoption today by the Association Council."
At the meeting of the Association Council in July 2007, the EU and Morocco decided to set up an ad hoc working group to look into ways of strengthening relations between the two parties. This group produced detailed proposals that will be adopted by the Association Council.
In the political field the proposals include the establishment, on an ad hoc basis, of an EU-Morocco summit, ministerial-level concertation mechanisms, an invitation to Morocco to be present in the wings of certain EU Council ministerial or working group meetings and negotiation of a framework agreement for Morocco's participation in crisis-management operations.
In economic and other policy matters, the proposals are for harmonisation of laws and rules in a gradual process beginning with priority sectors. It is also proposed that trade relations be developed by means of a comprehensive and deeper free trade agreement covering new areas. These new areas include public procurement, intellectual property rights, capital movements, competition and sustainable development.
Morocco, which already has a free trade agreement with the US, thus has become the non-European country most integrated into the EU, with the exception of Eurasian Turkey, a membership-seeking country. Contrasting the US-Moroccan ties, the EU-Morocco trade and cooperation deal includes the occupied territories of Western Sahara.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.