European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Speech: Remarks following the meeting with Habib Ben Yahia, Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union
European Commission / Brussels
18 January 2013
I am glad that President Barroso and I could welcome Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union Habib Ben Yahia here in Brussels - only few weeks after the Commission adopted the Joint Communication on Supporting Closer Cooperation and Regional Integration in the Maghreb.
Just to remind you, this Communication is part of the EU’s wider response to developments in the Southern Mediterranean and reflects our willingness and determination for a deeper engagement there
The Maghreb is a region rich in potential. But it remains one of the least integrated regions in the world. I hope that the Communication will allow the EU to take a more proactive stance in support of the integration of the Maghreb.
This is of course put forward in a spirit of partnership with practical suggestions for ways in which the EU could accompany initiatives for closer cooperation between the Maghreb countries.
We, in the EU, have considerable experience with integration and would benefit too from improved economic integration in the Maghreb and joint efforts to combat regional challenges, like terrorism or climate change.
Clearly, events in Mali make cooperation with individual Maghreb countries and the Maghreb region as a whole even more relevant.
Today with Mr Ben Yahia we have already discussed how we can act to implement at least a part of our proposals, how can we launch concrete initiatives in areas like energy, private sector development, transport, rural development, agriculture and what is also very important - developing stronger links with the civil society.
But this is just a start and I look forward to continuing our discussion and what is more important – practical actions to advance the integration in the region and the cooperation between the EU and Arab Maghreb Union.