Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle met with the Foreign Ministers of the five Maghreb countries, members of the Arab Maghreb Union, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, in New York last week, on the margins of the UN General Assembly, to discuss developments in the region and ways to strengthen mutual cooperation.
"The European Union is keen to deepen its engagement with the Maghreb. Last December we set out ways in which we could support efforts by the Maghreb countries to promote their closer integration within the region – fully respecting their ownership of the process and their ambitions about the speed and depth of this process," said Commissioner Füle, noting that the Maghreb is a region rich in development potential, but still one of the least integrated regions in the world.
At the meeting, it was agreed that EU-Maghreb regional cooperation would focus on four priority areas:
- political dialogue and security cooperation;
- agriculture, environment and water resources (including rural development, fisheries, desertification and climate change);
- industry, infrastructure, trade, investment and technology (including tourism, energy, information and communication);
- human development (including scientific research, technology transfer, vocational training, employment, youth, sport and circulation of persons).
Technical work will be initiated in Brussels in the coming weeks in order to translate these intentions into concrete initiatives.
"The European Union knows from its own experience that closer integration removes barriers, brings significant benefits for citizens and businesses - in creating greater stability, promoting development and dealing with environmental, security and other challenges: for the benefit of the people in Maghreb, but also in the EU," stressed Commissioner Füle.
It was the first informal political dialogue between countries of the Arab Maghreb Union and the EU, and the participants agreed to continue with it in the future and discussed the possibility to hold next ministerial dialogue in the Maghreb.
At the end of last year, the European Commission adopted a Joint Communication on Supporting Closer Cooperation and Regional Integration in the Maghreb, as part of the EU’s wider response to developments in the Southern Mediterranean. The Communication expressed the EU’s willingness and determination to take a more proactive stance in support of the integration of the Maghreb, and presented practical suggestions for ways in which the EU could accompany initiatives for closer cooperation between the Maghreb countries.
(Source: EU Neighbourhood Info)