Category Archives: Maghreb

Mauritania: new EU fisheries agreement

Strasbourg 08.07.2022 The European Parliament gave on Wednesday, June 8, its green light to a new fisheries agreement with Mauritania, which should strengthen environmental, economic, social and scientific cooperation.

With 557 votes to 34 and 31 abstentions, MEPs backed the largest fisheries agreement concluded by the EU with a third country. Valid for six years, it will enable vessels from France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain to fish for tuna, small pelagic fish, crustaceans and demersal fish in Mauritanian waters. In return for maximum 290.000 tonnes of fish, Mauritania will receive €57.5 million a year. An additional €3.3 million per year will be used to support the local fishing community.

In the accompanying resolution adopted with 532 votes to 23 and 74 abstentions, MEPs welcome Mauritania’s commitment to make all its fisheries agreements with other countries public, to ensure the EU fleet the same conditions of access to Mauritanian resources as any other fleet.

The European Parliament also urges Mauritania to stop overfishing of small pelagic stock, which has negative consequences on local food security and causes water pollution. Small pelagic fish are processed into fishmeal and fish oil by the food processing industry instead of being used for local consumption, MEPs say. They note that while Mauritania committed in 2017 to gradually phase out fishmeal and fish oil production by 2020, there has been an expansion of fishmeal factories since 2010.

MEPs also support the EU’s fleet in kind contribution to local communities. EU fishers are encouraged to continue distributing 2% of their pelagic catches to people in need by landing it to the National Fish Distribution Company (SNDP). The European Parliament calls on the Mauritanian authorities to ensure that the contribution reaches citizens.

Following the vote, the EP rapporteur Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (RENEW, ES) said: “The renewal of the fisheries agreement with Mauritania is good news for the sound management of maritime resources and for the fisheries sector. It is the most important agreement in force. It provides opportunities for 86 European vessels to exploit surplus fish stocks under strict conditions of control and transparency. It proves the European sector is willing to operate worldwide with practices that are sustainable for the environment, fair for the people who make their living from the sea and invested in developing the local economy. In this agreement, there is also a firm commitment to empower Mauritanian women and strengthen their role in the value chain. It also underlines the importance of addressing the unsustainable growth in the country’s production of fishmeal and fish oil for aquaculture farms in Asia.”

The first fisheries agreement between the EU and Mauritania dates back to 1987. The new agreement has been provisionally applied since November 2021 and is planned to last until November 2027.

Ursula von der Leyen visits Morocco

“Allow me first of all, as a friend of Morocco, to offer my condolences to the parents of little Rayan and, through you, as Head of Government, to all the people of Morocco. The entire world held its breath at the unfolding of this tragedy, in awe at the extraordinary efforts of the rescuers, in tears at its sad conclusion. We are at your side at this difficult time. And this is all the more true as Morocco is a country with which we have built a strong, close and strategic partnership” said the EU president Ursula von der Leyen at the joint press conference with Moroccan Head of Government Akhannouch.

“There are historic links between us. Morocco is the European Union’s leading partner on the African continent in economic and trade matters. But beyond economic links, there are, in particular, personal links. Europeans living in Morocco. Moroccans living in Europe. Our cultures have been influencing one another, enriching one another for centuries. It is with this in mind, that I would like reaffirm our commitment to further deepening those relations – as neighbours, partners and friends.

“And it was clear from our conversation, Mr Akhannouch, that that commitment is shared. So it is by working together that we can build a common and ambitious vision of our partnership. We were able to discuss the many global challenges facing Morocco and Europe. To rise to those challenges, we need to find solutions together, by working together as partners.

“Let me mention our main topics of common interest. We are working to develop a green partnership between Morocco and the European Union – the first one that we are developing with a partner country. This will also enable us to jointly develop greener energy. Likewise, we are working together to strengthen the connectivity of our societies, including through a broad digital partnership. Much can be done to further integrate and adapt our economies. This will benefit our businesses, their employees and all workers.

“In this context, I would like to emphasise how closely we are considering the role of young people and the crucial contribution they make to advancing our societies and how mindful we are of the efforts we need to make to offer them the best possible future. That is why we place so much importance on education and culture in our bilateral cooperation”.

Libya: Gaddafi son bid for presidency

Brussels 14.11.2021 The son and heir of late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi announced Sunday, November 14, his candidacy for the country’s presidential election next month, Libya’s election agency said.

Seif al-Islam submitted his candidacy papers in the southern town of Sabah, the agency said in a statement.

Gadhafi’s son was captured by fighters late in 2011, the year when a popular uprising toppled Gadhafi after more than 40 years in power. Moammar Gadhafi was later killed under suspicious circumstances, while attempting to flee NATO operations in Libya sky.

“The death of Moammar Gaddafi, on October 20, in Sirte raises one of the questions which has to be clarified. There are serious suspicions about it being in fact a war crime” said Luis Moreno-Campo, the Prosecutor General of the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to Le Figaro newpaper on 16 December 2011.

Seif al-Islam (49) was released in June 2017 after more than five years in detention. Gadhafi’s son is one of the most prominent figures expected to run for president — a list that also includes eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar (78), Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah (63) and parliament speaker Aguila Saleh (77).

Photographs distributed on social media showed Gadhafi in traditional brown robe and turban, and with a grey beard and glasses, signing documents at the registration centre in the southern town of Sebha.

EU congratulates UN Western Sahara Envoy

Brussels 07.10.2021 “The European Union congratulates Staffan de Mistura (pictured) for his appointment as the new UN Secretary-General Personal Envoy for Western Sahara” reads the statement by the spokesperson on the appointment of the new UN Secretary-General Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.

“We are confident that as an outstanding diplomat with a long experience in the region and in international negotiations, de Mistura will contribute to give a new impetus to the UN-led process on Western Sahara”.

“The European Union looks forward to engaging with the new Personal Envoy in his efforts to relaunch negotiations to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution.

“We also encourage all the parties to engage in a cooperative search for a solution in accordance with the Security Council resolutions and the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations”.

Algeria reacted on Thursday to the appointment of Staffan De Mistura as the UN SG’s special envoy for the Western Sahara, while calling for the “demilitarisation” of Guerguerat.

Borrell visits Libya

Brussels 08.09.2021 EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell arrived to Libya today, 8 September. This mission comes at an important juncture for the country, with presidential and parliamentary elections in December.

Today, High Representative Borrell will hold a bilateral meeting in Tripoli with Libyan Minister for Foreign Affairs Najla El Mangoush, after which they will both hold a joint press point at 13:00 CET. Audiovisual coverage will be provided by Europe by Satellite (EbS). The High Representative’s remarks will be available in writing on the EEAS website. In the afternoon, Josep Borrell will also meet with United Nations Special Envoy Ján Kubiš, as well as with President of the Presidential Council Mohammed Mnefi and Vice-President Moussa Al Koun

EU-Tunisia talks strengthen ties

Brussels 07.06.2021 Visiting Brussels on 4 June 2021, His Excellency Mr Kais Saied, the President of the Republic of Tunisia, held talks with His Excellency Mr Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, Her Excellency Ms Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission and His Excellency Mr David Maria Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament. These meetings provided an opportunity to underline the depth of historical ties between the European Union and Tunisia dating back almost half a century in a spirit of constantly evolving strategic partnership.

This new phase of bilateral relations is based on shared values and a mutual commitment to strengthening political, economic and cultural ties between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

The talks, which took place in a very cordial atmosphere, focused on young people, education, culture and economic relations, which have been some of the key areas of cooperation between Tunisia and Europe in the last few years. Delivering on the priorities announced in the European Communication on the renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood and confirmed by the Council conclusions of April 2021 was also at the heart of these discussions. The two sides invoked the socio-economic impact of the crisis linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and social reforms needed to revive economic activity and growth.

Both sides welcomed the celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the Revolution. Since then, Tunisia has made progress in consolidating democracy, including by holding municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections and by passing laws which guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms, demonstrating that democracy has taken root in Tunisian society.

On the subject of cooperation, the Tunisian President thanked the European Union for its consistent support since 2011, noting the European contribution of more than EUR 3 billion to Tunisia’s socio-economic recovery. For its part, the EU reiterated its long-term commitment to Tunisia and its determination to support the country’s efforts to consolidate its democratic institutions and promote a green, competitive and inclusive economy, in particular by supporting SMEs and promoting foreign investment.

The two sides also discussed the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 health crisis and the economic reforms that should be undertaken to create the right conditions for a sustained recovery of growth. The European Union, one of the largest contributors to the international COVAX mechanism, has undertaken to continue supporting the efforts made by Africa, including Tunisia, to combat the pandemic by facilitating fair access to vaccines and assisting its economic recovery, particularly in the worst affected sectors, such as tourism, services and air transport.

The visit confirmed the commitment of both sides to deepening their strategic and privileged partnership. The two sides discussed the priorities that will shape bilateral cooperation in the years to come. The following broad guidelines were outlined in the course of the discussions:

The cooperation started in 2016 under the Youth Partnership has already yielded significant results. More than 5 000 Tunisian students and academics have benefited from the Erasmus+ programme and participated in exchanges in all fields with European universities. The European Union has also supported the modernisation of higher education in Tunisia through 50 capacity-building projects under Erasmus+ since 2015.
Tunisia is also one of the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean which has benefited most from its participation in European research programmes since 1 January 2016 and is the only country of the Southern Neighbourhood and Africa associated with the European «Horizon 2020» Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. Tunisian organisations benefited 87 times from 68 grants funded under «Horizon 2020», receiving EUR 11.2 million of direct EU contribution enabling very advanced cooperation with European research centres. The two sides welcomed the success of this venture and discussed at some length the prospects for its future development. Tunisia has formally expressed an interest in joining the new «Horizon Europe» Framework Programme in order to continue this partnership in the field of research and innovation.
In addition, recognising the importance of investing in young people for the future of our countries, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to further intensifying cooperation in the field of education, vocational training and higher education, including through the Erasmus+ programme, and to working together to promote the cultural and cultural heritage sector. Within that context, and in the course of this visit, Tunisia submitted a letter of intent with a view to continued participation in the «Creative Europe» Framework Programme relating to the cultural and creative sectors.
Both sides agreed to work together on mobility and all aspects of migration, including legal migration, in accordance with the legal migration and mobility remit of the EU and its Member States. They also had a frank discussion on irregular migration, bearing in mind the root causes and taking their respective interests into account. It was agreed to continue joint work on all aspects of migration and its governance, including asylum, border management, the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings.
The two sides agreed to intensify cooperation in the fields of security and justice and expressed a wish to make rapid progress in the development of police cooperation. They also agreed to strengthen cooperation on preventing radicalisation, counter-terrorism and combating money laundering.
Both sides welcomed the feelers that had been put out for an agreement on extending the coverage of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), which illustrated the success of bilateral cooperation in the space sector. This initiative also has a significant impact on the harmonisation of air transport safety on both sides of the Mediterranean and will benefit the tourism sector too.
Both parties also stressed the importance of continuing to implement the partnership within the framework of the consultation mechanisms set up by the EU-Tunisia association agreement, including expert discussions on the work of the subcommittees. The EU and Tunisia welcomed the fact that various thematic meetings had been held under the association agreement in 2019 and 2020 in spite of the health constraints. These meetings had allowed fruitful exchanges to take place on the challenges facing both sides and ensured the continuation of dialogue between the Tunisian and European administrations.
Lastly, the European and Tunisian sides exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest, including the Middle East peace process. Both sides welcomed the ceasefire which should end the violence, expressing a desire to continue working with international partners to relaunch the political process and reiterating their strong commitment to the two-state solution.
In the light of Tunisia’s participation in the UN Security Council in 2021, both sides agreed to intensify political and diplomatic contacts in order to contribute together to the international community’s commitment to multilateralism and UN principles. In that spirit, the EU and Tunisia reiterated their support for the call of 30 March 2021 for an international treaty on pandemic prevention and preparedness.
The EU and Tunisia underlined their joint determination to implement the initiatives referred to above and to continue fruitful exchanges at all levels, in this case technical and political, which are the key to strengthening their privileged partnership.

W.Sahara leader returns to Algeria

Brussels 02.06.2021 The leader of the Western Sahara independence movement, Brahim Ghali, returned to Algeria on Wednesday, Juin 2, after spending more than a month in hospital in Spain – a stay which triggered a diplomatic row between Spain and Morocco. (Image above: illustration)

“He arrived safe and sound,” commented the trip Jalil Mohamed, the Polisario Front’s spokesman in Spain.

Algerian state television later showed President Abdelmadjid Tebboune visiting Ghali in hospital, but gave no details of their discussion between them.

Rabat has not yet commented on Ghali’s departure from Spain but had previously informed that it would not alone resolve the dispute.

The Algeria-backed Polisario Front is fighting for the independence of Western Sahara, which was a Spanish colony until the mid-1970s and nowadays is claimed by Morocco.

Ghali flew to Algeria from Pamplona in northern Spain at 1:40 a.m. local time on Wednesday, Juin 2, on an officially chartered private plane, the spokesman for Polisario Front said.

Ghali, who was suffering from COVID-19 complications, had been admitted to a Spanish hospital in April on humanitarian grounds, the Madrid government said.

The Polisario leader left Spain several hours after appearing remotely in a hearing with Spanish high court on a war crimes case. Following the hearing, judges did not impose any restrictions on the Polisario leader and allowed him to leave the country.

Spain’s decision to admit Ghali to a hospital in the northern Spanish city of Logrono, presenting Algerian documents and without informing Rabat, the move visibly upset Morocco.

Moroccan officials suggested that last month’s sudden influx of migrants to Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta after security forces appeared to loosen border controls was a form of retaliation.

Algerian support for the Polisario Front independence movement is a also source of anger in Morocco.

Libya: New head of EU border mission

Natalina Cea was appointed Head of Mission of the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) in Libya. She will take up her duties on 1 February 2021 succeeding Vincenzo Tagliaferri, who has been Head of Mission since 1 September 2016.

Natalina Cea is an Italian civil servant who has worked at a senior level for more than 20 years, both in Italy – as Director of the International Cooperation and Technical Assistance Office of the Italian Customs Administration – and internationally, leading missions, programs and projects in the civilian security sector, particularly in the field of border management and related security and justice issues.

EUBAM Libya, a civilian Mission under the Common Security and Defence Policy, was launched on 22 May 2013. It is tasked with contributing to the Libyan authorities’ efforts to disrupt organised criminal networks involved in smuggling of migrants, human trafficking and terrorism. The mission coordinates and implements projects with international partners in the fields of border management, law enforcement and criminal justice.

Today’s decision was taken by the Political and Security Committee.

Saharawi: EU for UN-led talks

Brussels 14.12.2020 “Western Sahara future should be solved in political negotiations. We call for quick resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) to find lasting and mutually acceptable political solution to the issue”, the spokesperson of the European External Actions Service said, while reacting upon recent events around the status of Western Sakhara.
(Image: illustration).
The EU diplomat placed the issue into broader international context, not limiting it to the 27 bloc to Mediterranean neighborhood, while commenting on the future of Saharawi people, and possible autonomy status within the Kingdom of Morocco.
(Image: illustration, archive)

The EU diplomacy spokesperson also added that the negotiations should be conducted in compliance with the U.N. resolutions on Western Sahara, in particular the last one from October 2020. (Adopting resolution 2548 (2020) by 13 votes in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Russian Federation, South Africa), the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2021).
“In this context we are looking forward to appointment of the new personal envoy of the United Nations in order to pursue this political process, but the future determination of the status of the Western Sahara, the future of its people – from European point of view – should be decided in political process under the auspices of the U.N.

The Sahrawis largely depend on outside help to survive. In the remote region where the refugee camps are located, access to basic resources such as food, water, healthcare, housing, and education is limited. The climate in the desert is extremely harsh. 

A 2019 nutrition survey (World Food Programme, June 2019) found increasing malnutrition among the Sahrawi refugee children, with global acute malnutrition among under the age of 5 at 7.6% compared to 4.7% in 2016. Half of the number children and women also suffer from anaemia.

The largely isolated camps offer almost no employment opportunities, making refugees dependent on remittances and international aid. In such a remote location, logistics also play a key role to ensure regular distributions of relief to the refugee population. 

Social cohesion and peace are extremely fragile in the camps, with young people growing frustrated by the lack of opportunities or change due to the political stalemate. Livelihood activities are therefore crucial to reduce the risk of radicalisation or social unrest. The Sahrawi desert refugee camps are prone to natural hazards such as flash floods and sandstorms. In February 2020, it was confirmed the coronavirus had spread to Algeria, leading to curfew measures across the country and in the camps.

W.Sahara: Borrell insists on respect of ceasefire

The High Representative Josep Borrell met this Sunday, November 15, with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco Nasser Bourita and of Algeria Sabri Boukadoum, to learn about the latest developments in the El Guerguerat area, following the latest events that took place there.

The High Representative recalled on this occasion the full support of the EU for the efforts of the United Nations and its Secretary General with a view to finding a peaceful settlement to the question of Western Sahara, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations. United Nations and especially of the last resolution (2548) adopted on October 30, 2020. In this context, he wished for a rapid resumption of discussions under the leadership of the United Nations and a new Personal Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Western Sahara.

In particular, the High Representative underlined the paramount importance of ensuring respect for the ceasefire agreements in place since 1991 and reiterated the full support of the EU for MINURSO’s efforts to this end. In this context, the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs assured the High Representative of his country’s commitment to respect for the ceasefire.

The High Representative also particularly insisted on the preservation of freedom of movement and cross-border trade in the El Guerguerat area, and its significant impact on the entire Maghreb and Sahel region, a region of strategic importance. A political solution to the question of Western Sahara is essential for regional cooperation between the Maghreb countries, the stability, security and prosperity of the region, and this even more in view of the current economic difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic .

Spain categorically condemns the acts committed on Sunday by some participants in a rally (…) in front of the Consulate General of Morocco in Valencia,” said the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation in a statement.
These madmen entered the consulate building in an attempt to place the flag of the so-called “RASD” there, “thus undermining the inviolability, integrity and dignity of the consular headquarters”, underlines the Spanish ministry . “No demonstration exercised within the framework of the right of assembly can degenerate into illegal actions, like the attempt perpetrated on Sunday, which constitutes a flagrant violation of the legislation in force”, affirms the Spanish diplomacy”.

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