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Brussels, 18 January 2008

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner in Rabat for meeting with the Maghreb countries

Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, will attend various meetings in Rabat from 20 to 22 January with the governments of the Maghreb countries (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia). On Monday, 20 January, she will take part in the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the "5+5" group and the high level seminar on the "advanced status" sought by Morocco in its relations with the European Union. On Tuesday, 22 January, Ms Ferrero-Waldner will take part in a meeting of the European Union Troika with the Foreign Ministers of the Arab Maghreb Union, attended also by the Secretary-General of the AMU.

The subject of the 5+5 group meeting, which brings together five southern European countries (Spain, France, Italy, Malta and Portugal) and five Maghreb countries (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia) will be "Sub-regional integration and increased cooperation as instruments of stability and prosperity". Besides regular meetings between the foreign ministers, the 5+5 group dialogue has resulted in cooperation in various sectors, such as defence, transport and the struggle against terrorism and trafficking. The Commission regularly takes part in certain sectoral meetings as an observer, particularly those in the fields of transport and migration.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: "The European Union is convinced of the benefits of regional integration as a means of boosting stability and dialogue and increasing the pace of economic development. It is prepared to help the Maghreb countries, which are among our closest neighbours, to further initiatives to improve dialogue and regional cooperation. Examples of improved cooperation achieved by the 5+5 group could be a source of ideas and inspiration for the other EU-Mediterranean cooperation partners."

The meeting of the EU Troika with the Arab Maghreb Union (which is made up of the same group of Maghreb countries as the 5+5) follows an initial informal meeting in November 2007, in the margins of the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Barcelona Process. The purpose of these meetings is to define a common work programme to promote regional integration in the Maghreb, particularly in the fields of trade facilitation and liberalisation, interconnection of energy networks, etc.

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: "The EU and the Maghreb countries face common challenges, be it global warming, competition from emerging economies, illegal immigration, protection of the Mediterranean sea or the struggle against extremism and terrorism. For this reason I consider it vital to have regular, high-level dialogue with our neighbours in the Maghreb. It is in this light that this meeting will look at ways of improving relations between us.

Finally, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner will give an opening speech to the high level seminar being organised by the Moroccan government on the "advanced status" sought by their country. Several Moroccan dignitaries from the political and economic world and from the trade union and voluntary sectors will attend. It is being held at the instigation of the meeting of the EU-Morocco Association Council of 23 July 2007, which asked the two sides to reflect on ways to strengthen bilateral relations.

For more details, see the link below.

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