Casablanca — Morocco and the European Union have a partnership that is unique in the region, and those ties should now be leveraged to boost security, the EU ambassador said Monday (February 10th) in Casablanca.
"It is in our interests to work together to find ways of protecting the region against the terrorist threat," Ambassador Rupert Joy said at a panel discussion on relations between Europe and the kingdom.
"In relation to all the insecurity problems in the Sahel, northern Mali and Libya, Morocco is a strategic partner of the European Union," Joy said at the EU embassy event.
By virtue of its geographical position close to Europe, the Maghreb is extremely important for the EU, journalist Rachid Jadi told attendees.
"Their interests are closely interlinked, hence the need for strengthened and sustained co-operation to thwart al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," Jadi said.
"AQIM has transformed the Sahel into a fall-back position from which it can carry out its terrorist plans against all countries in the Mediterranean region," he added.
But the lack of Maghreb integration impedes efforts made to deal with the terrorist threat in the Sahel-Sahara region, several speakers at the embassy meeting noted.
The EU is now convinced that an effective fight against terrorism "necessarily involves an improvement in relations between Algeria and Morocco, which are by far the two most important links of this vast Sahel-Sahara region", political analyst Abdellah Mahnaoui told forum participants.
Co-operation between the neighbour countries is synonymous to an effective fight against al-Qaeda, he added.
"The lack of Maghreb integration is costing the countries of North Africa in terms of security, economic growth and jobs," agreed Nouzha Chamil, a professor of international relations in Casablanca.
At a time of increasing globalisation, the professor said, the Maghreb risks being "overtaken economically by more integrated regions".
In the final statement that arose out of the 11th EU-Morocco Association Council held in Brussels in December, the 28 member states of the EU reiterated their pledge to identify, together with partners in the Maghreb, ways to help the Sahel-Sahara region.
The EU is already investing heavily in its partnership with Morocco, Ambassador Joy confirmed at the embassy event. More than 1.4 billion euros from the European Union are currently being used for projects in the kingdom.
According to Casablanca community activist Hajar Assami, the EU has a duty to support and help Morocco in its fight against terrorism.
"Dealing with terrorism and security in the Sahel-Sahara region requires considerable financial resources, which Morocco alone cannot provide," she said.