- 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.
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