The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership is am ambitious programme to create a common area of democracy and economic growth between the EU and countries such as Algeria, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority. Last month Euromed ministers met to discuss the future of the partnership in the Moroccan capital Rabat.
Moroccan Finance Minister Fathallah Oualalou spoke to EuroNews on ways to boost the initiative.
EuroNews: “Firstly on the question of neighbourhood policy, are you concerned that the European Union could pose a threat of competition to its Mediterranean partners in terms of investment and development aid?”
Oualalou: “No. As you know, we negotiated the Euro-Mediterranean action plan without any misgivings or complexes from our side. The key thing is that this plan aims to bring Europe and its partners closer together, and in this respect it’s a continuation and a strengthening of the Barcelona process.”
EuroNews: “But surely there is an issue of competition.”
Oualalou: “Well, admittedly there might be a risk, but at the same time this risk shouldn’t blind the European Union to the particular characteristics of the southern Mediterranean countries. In fact, if we take a look at what’s happened over the last 10 years since Barcelona, we can see progress in the area of finance and investment.”
EuroNews: “Morocco seems to be juggling two balls: the European Union and the United States. Is it fair to say that you are heading for a confrontation with one or the other partner as they pursue their own economic agendas in the region ?”
Oualalou: “No, I don’t think so. You have to remember two things. Firstly, Morocco subscribes to the idea of financial reforms aimed at an open market. It was in that spirit of economic openness that we signed agreements with the US and with the European Union. Secondly, you can’t change geography. Our main partner is and will remain the EU. Seventy percent of commercial transactions, technological and cultural cooperation is with Brussels.”
EuroNews: “Do you think the political crisis that’s rocking Europe at the moment will have an impact on the Euro-Mediterranean partnership ?”
Oualalou: “Europe is experiencing economic difficulties right now, but let’s look at the big picture: over the last 50 years Europe has made remarkable progress. It’s going through a bad patch, and what we are saying to the EU is: ‘don’t forget the Mediterranean, because it’s your future, and engagement with this area will give you a boost’.”
EuroNews: “Do you believe that foreign investment and devlopment aid are important in the fight against terrorism ?”
Oualalou: “You know, security is a key issue for most of the world nowadays. I think there are two ways to enhance security. Firstly, you have to modernise society. Morocco has made a lot progress on this, for instance by strengthening the rights of women and raising their social status. Secondly, you have to fight poverty, both in the cities and in rural areas – that way you counteract extremist tendencies.”