European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Inauguration of EU-Morocco
Joint Parliamentary Committee
EU-Morocco Joint Parliamentary Committee
Brussels, 5 May 2010
Chair of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee,
Chairman of the EU-Morocco Joint Parliamentary Committee,
Honourable members of the Moroccan and European Parliaments,
First of all I would like to thank you for inviting me to take part in this inaugural meeting of the EU-Morocco joint parliamentary committee. It is an honour to represent the Commission at this meeting, to which we attach great importance.
This inaugural meeting in fact marks a key stage in our partnership, the origins of which date back to the first Cooperation Agreement of 1976.
Our joint wish for close cooperation has led us to forge closer links on a sound basis, the Association Agreement, which came into force in 2000. In 2005, when the EU took the initiative of establishing the European Neighbourhood Policy, Morocco was among the first to realise that we were offering a considerably strengthened partnership, offering “more for more” on a constant basis — and developing our co-operation as far as our partners are ready to take it. Morocco responded to our offer by drawing an ambitious Action Plan providing for closer co-operation in all key elements of Morocco’s reform process. Since the start of this partnership, we have made progress together in areas almost all areas covered by the Action Plan, such as enhanced political dialogue, promotion of human rights and economic and social reforms, in particular with a view to alleviating poverty and increasing women’s rights.
We made another qualitative leap in 2008 when we agreed on a joint document granting Morocco 'advanced status' (“statut avancé”) within the ENP. Once again it was the first country in the region to have this status and, by taking this step, Morocco placed itself in the vanguard in the Neighbourhood Policy. This also attests to the EU's recognition of the scale of the progress made by Morocco and its reiterated ambition of moving closer to Europe.
The ‘advanced status’ reinforces the partnership by setting out new ambitions for closer political relations, the gradual adoption by Morocco of the Community acquis, the integration of its economy to the internal market, deeper sectoral cooperation as well as enhanced consideration of the human dimension of our relationship. One of the major initiatives envisaged under the advanced status was the holding of an EU-Morocco Summit. It took place in Granada in March and was yet another demonstration of the political importance that both of us attach to our relationship. The Summit reaffirmed the extent of our ambitions and confirmed Morocco’s privileged place and its position as a key EU partner in the Mediterranean and in the Arab world.
If we look back to these almost forty years of co-operation and what we have achieved, I think we have good reasons to be proud of ourselves. We have built up over the years a robust partnership, I should even say a friendship that is built on mutual trust, frankness and our willingness to discuss all issues, however difficult and sensitive.
We know, including from our own experience, that transition only works when it is comprehensive. This is precisely the approach that Morocco has been consistently adopting, tackling poverty eradication, social development, justice or economic reform altogether. On all these reforms, from health to renewable energy, from education to regionalisation, we have stood ready to support Morocco’s efforts and
provide the funding and the expertise that our partner considered necessary.
Beyond co-operation, we have also worked together in order to encourage trade: we concluded as recently as last December our negotiation on agricultural products and on the Protocol for dispute settlement. Once we have made sufficient progress in our ongoing negotiation on trade in services, we will be able to take the next step and prepare for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.
Meanwhile, we are providing robust support to Morocco’s gradual efforts to transpose the EU “acquis” into its own legal system in a number of areas. This is yet another demanding endeavour, but we share Morocco’s belief that this process is the fastest road towards modernisation and that it will considerably strengthen the country’s attractiveness and competitiveness.
And, last but not least, I should also mention our very dense co-operation on political matters: I am thinking of our enhanced consultations on Common Foreign and Security Policy matters, or of Morocco’s remarkable co-operation with the Council of Europe, but also, more generally, of our strong support to Morocco’s reform efforts on human rights and fundamental freedoms, justice reform, the role of women in society and many other essential areas.
It is also the advanced status that provides for the setting-up of a joint parliamentary committee, which brings us together today.
The EU has many expectations from the discussions of this joint parliamentary committee. The creation of this joint committee, the first in the Mediterranean region, represents real progress in our relationship by providing a forum for debates and exchanges on matters of common interest and strengthening the human, political and democratic dimension of EU-Morocco relations This is an opportunity for representatives of the people of our countries to better understand each other and look ahead to the future. We are facing numerous challenges: economic reform and job creation, the fight against extremism and terrorism, illegal immigration, stabilising and developing Sub-Saharan Africa, the strengthening of the human rights culture, the Middle East conflict and climate change, among others. We will only succeed in addressing these challenges if we co-operate closely with partners and friends such as Morocco. The current political dialogue between us, which will continue to be developed within this committee, shows that we often share the same ideas about the solutions to be adopted.
While all the subjects that I have just mentioned are very important, there is one that I feel may not receive sufficient attention: culture. I hope that you will be able to allocate part of your work to reflecting on how to strengthen the cultural cooperation between Morocco and Europe. The European Commission already implements programmes like Tempus, Erasmus Mundus, Euromed Heritage. Several EU Member States have a bilateral cultural cooperation with Morocco. Yet, I believe that more could be done in this area and, as representatives of the people, you may have interesting ideas on this topic.
Of course my expectations from future discussions in the framework of this committee reach much broader than one topic only, however important. I hope you will produce ideas and comments in order to feed the work of the Moroccan Government and of other EU institutions. Your direct link with the people puts you in a privileged position in order to catch their feelings about the EU-Morocco partnership and the concrete results that our citizens hope to see achieved thanks to this partnership. I trust this constructive spirit and concern for results will guide the work of this committee.
We consider the objectives of the partnership with Morocco to be highly ambitious. The EU will continue to extend its full political and financial support to the Moroccan government's reform priorities, as it has been doing for many years. In this regard I wish to underline that, two months ago, the European Commission decided a substantial increase in its annual grants in favour of Morocco. The allocation of €580.5 million for the period 2011-2013 makes Morocco the first beneficiary of EU aid in the entire neighbourhood (Palestine excluded) and represents a 20% increase of our yearly aid. These funds serve the purpose of supporting the implementation of the ‘advanced status’, and in particular of addressing the challenge of bringing Morocco and the EU closer — including in the area of legislation by means of Morocco’s gradual approximation to the Community acquis. They will give us the means to turn the ambitious roadmap set by the advanced status into practical action.
To conclude, ladies and gentlemen,
The EU-Morocco joint parliamentary committee that you are instituting today will become another key piece in the ever closer and denser relationship between Europe and Morocco. I have no doubt that it will quickly establish itself as a driving force behind our co-operation and yet another element of trust and inspiration in our partnership.
I wish you every success in your work.
Thank you for your attention.