The EU´s support for Integration of the Maghreb countries
BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, December 19, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — In further response to the transformation of the countries of the Southern Mediterranean, the High Representative and the European Commission issued today a Joint Communication setting out proposals to support the five countries of the Maghreb in their efforts towards closer cooperation and deeper regional integration.
Although rich in development potential and joined by common cultural and linguistic ties, the Maghreb is one of the least integrated regions in the world. Studies have repeatedly shown that the removal of barriers in the region could have significant economic benefits as well as help in common efforts to combat instability and address a number of regional challenges including by promoting socio-economic development, combating climate change, protecting the environment and developing clean, sustainable energy.
EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission Catherine Ashton said: “The Maghreb is a region with enormous human, economic and cultural potential. We welcome the calls from partners in the region for closer cooperation and deeper integration between them. Citizens on both sides of the Mediterranean stand to benefit from such developments. This Joint Communication, which I discussed with partners during my recent trip to the Maghreb, aims to support our partners in their efforts to take forward Maghreb integration and forms a part of the EU’s wider response to recent developments in the region”.
Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle added that this Communication responds also to calls from public and private actors within the Maghreb countries for progress in integration. “We have proposed a wide range of measures to support efforts in this field while recognising that it is for Maghreb partners themselves to determine the extent and pace of integration,” he said and recalled the EU´s own extensive integration experience. “Based on that experience, we believe that efforts towards integration within the Maghreb would not only bring real benefits to the people of the region but also ultimately to the EU itself. We look forward to discussing these proposals with the Governments of the countries concerned, as well as with representatives of business and civil society”.
One of the areas for closer integration of the Maghreb countries is energy. “Energy plays an important role in the development of the region. With our Mediterranean Solar Plan we are aiming to help our partners,” Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger said.
The Joint Communication forms part of the EU’s overall response to recent events in the southern Mediterranean and represents greater engagement in the region. As such it complements the substantial support currently being provided by the EU for the countries of the Maghreb bilaterally and regionally through the European Neighbourhood Policy and, in the case of Mauritania, the European Development Fund and the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel.