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Brussels, 16 July 2013
Statement by Commissioner Štefan Füle following the meeting with Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) Mr Habib Ben Yahia
I am glad that I could welcome once again Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) Mr Habib Ben Yahia here in Brussels today to discuss how the EU can further support the cooperation and integration in the Maghreb.
At the end of last year, as part of the EU’s wider response to developments in the Southern Mediterranean, the Commission adopted the Joint Communication on Supporting Closer Cooperation and Regional Integration in the Maghreb. The Communication expressed the EU 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.
I was glad to hear from Mr Ben Yahia that Maghreb foreign ministers discussed the Communication at their meeting last May. Mr Ben Yahia indicated that the Communication has received a positive welcome and UMA countries have started a joint reflection on how some of the ideas contained in the Communication could be implemented, in areas like rule of law, security, energy, private sector development, employment, transport, rural development and developing stronger links with the civil society.
In particular we discussed how we could closer cooperate in the area of security, in the light of the events that took place earlier this year in the Sahel region and also in light of the continuing insecurity linked to the growing illicit traffics in the region.
We also agreed on the need to establish a more regular dialogue between the Maghreb and the European Union, using modalities that will have to be defined jointly.
I look forward to continuing this process of finding practical actions to advance the integration in the region and the cooperation between the EU and Arab Maghreb Union. Indeed, events in the Maghreb have an important bearing on the EU security.