EU and Morocco to cooperate more on immigration, border security and fighting terrorism

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EU and Morocco to cooperate more on immigration, border security and fighting terrorism

EU and Morocco to cooperate more on immigration, border security and fighting terrorism
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The EU and Morocco are to bolster the so-called association agreement between them. As a result Brussels and Rabat will formalise various areas of cooperation that were not in the original association agreement. Immigration, border security and combating terrorism are among the most important areas of agreement between the EU and Morocco. EuroNews spoke to Morocco’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taieb Fassi Fihri.

EuroNews: “You’ve signed an association agreement between Morocco and the EU, which includes a called advanced status clause, what is that?”

Fassi Fihri: “Well, the framework of the association agreement includes a number of things which have already been done, but there were other things done by Morocco and the EU and developed by Morocco and the EU independently of the association agreement and which go well beyond the current agreement.”

EuroNews: “For example?”

Fassi Fihri: “Morocco is a signatory of the “Open-skies” agreement. It is the first EU partner to have signed this wide ranging agreement. We are partners in the Galileo European navigation system. We are – among southern countries – the only one to have a specific committee responsible for the questions related to government and human rights. These are concrete things happening now and there are other future things that we’d like to integrate into the association agreement.”

EuroNews: “Are you thinking of something like the suggestion of France’s President Sarkozy for a Mediterranean Union?”

Fassi Fihri: “The Mediterranean Union is an extremely important and interesting project that Morocco supports. Morocco endorses this idea because it will enhance everything we’ve built up as of now and allow us to deal better with Euro-Mediterranean affairs.”

EuroNews: “On the question of immigration, there is a suggestion that illegal immigrants – Moroccans, and non-Moroccans as well – could be repatriated there, why would you take that on?”

Fassi Fihri: “Morocco is ready to accept the return of non-Moroccans, provided that there is clear and precise proof of the involvement of Moroccans in the human trafficking gangs that took them to Europe, or if the person involved had been living legally in Morocco beforehand. They have to have been legally in Morocco for us to accept their repatriation there, but it is out of the question for us for us to accept the repatriation of all the illegal immigrants in Europe, on the basis that they passed through Morocco during their long journeys of thousands of kilometres, on the basis that Morocco is the nearest African country.”

EuroNews: “Anyway, Morocco will receive a kind of, what you might could call, compensation in that it will get visas for Moroccan citizens.”

Fassi Fihri: “We don’t think of it as compensation, we would say that in the special relationship between Morocco and the EU there are natural rights and obligations and it’s essential to find a basis for – and the right balance between – the two sides’ interests; so we’re working within the context of a partnership. We are discussing it and it is one of Morocco’s requests.”

EuroNews: “Morocco has already suffered terrorist attacks that you believe were from Al Qaeda, especially after the threats from Al Qaeda.”

Fassi Fihri: “The Moroccan authorities know that the only way to counter this threat is to look at it in its totality, because it’s related to a number of factors, wider social issues and shortcomings in those areas. But I tell you, there are much more dangerous things, because there are threats to security from politically motivated terrorists and these are being carried out by people of a number of different nationalities.”

EuroNews: “Morocco has, anyway, reached an agreement with Algeria, for a strategy to fight terrorism.”

Fassi Fihri: “There is security co-operation, it is important, it is significant, but it could be more efficient.”

EuroNews: “So would the fight against terrorism be more effective if Algeria and Morocco, could reach an agreement over the problem of disputed control of Western Sahara?”

Fassi Fihri: “Unfortunately, the border between Morocco and Algeria is not sealed right now, for reasons that we are well aware of. We regret this and Morocco is calling for greater co-operation with its neighbour, Algeria, in the regional context and in bilateral terms. Naturally, there is the question of Morocco’s territorial integrity and the question of Western Sahara over which we have completely divergent positions. Autonomy is the foundation, the framework on which Morocco is negotiating and we are ready to go into detail to move forward with the negotiation, about the content of an agreement in precise detail, on the institutional and political level, as well as with regard to any natural resources that there might be in Western Sahara. I’m aware that right now it’s the solidarity of the north towards the south which has worked best and so all the progress that has been made in the south of Morocco is thanks to that solidarity and to public and private investment.”