Category Archives: Maghreb

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”.

Polisario declares “state of war”

Brussels, 13.11.2020 The Polisario Front claims to have caused fatalities in Morocco and “considerable material losses”, through four bombings carried out on four military bases, among them, those of Mahbes, Hauza, Auserd, and two guard posts, according to the Saharawi organization through a statement issued at early hours on November 13 and 14, according to El Pais newspaper.
Furthermore the general secretary of the Polisario Front and president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Bahim Ghali, announced this Saturday, November 14, that he considers the ceasefire signed with Morocco in 1991 broken, and held that Rabat responsible for the consequences of the conflict around the Guerguerat border crossing.

In a statement, Ghali assures that the Sahrawi armed forces assume control of national security and declare a state of war.

Morocco clashes with Polisario

Brussels 13.11.2020 Morocco announced it launched on Friday, November 13 an operation to end what it assessed as “serious provocations” by the Polisario Front, a rebel national movement which for decades has called for regional independence in Western Sahara. (Image: illustration).

Tensions have been mounting for three weeks between Morocco and the Polisario Front before Rabat launched a military operation at the southern Guerguerat border crossing, where the Polisario has been refusing entry of Moroccan trucks from passing into neighbouring Mauritania.

“In the face of serious and unacceptable provocations by the Polisario militia, in the buffer zone of Guerguerat in the Moroccan Sahara, Morocco decided to act in full respect for the powers vested in it,” the Moroccan Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry underlined that Morocco had “no other choice but to assume its responsibilities in order to put an end to the state of obstruction resulting from these movements and re-establish freedom of civil and commercial movement.”
Morocco on Friday announced it launched an operation to end what it called “serious provocations” by the Polisario Front, an Algeria-backed movement which for decades has called for regional independence in Western Sahara.

Tensions mounting for three weeks between Morocco and the Polisario Front precipitated in Rabat’s operation on the southern Guerguerat border crossing, as a result of the group’s barring entry of Moroccan trucks from passing into neighboring Mauritania.

“In the face of serious and unacceptable provocations by the Polisario militia, in the buffer zone of Guerguerat in the Moroccan Sahara, Morocco decided to act in full respect for the powers vested in it,” the Moroccan Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry underlined that Morocco had “no other choice but to assume its responsibilities in order to put an end to the state of obstruction resulting from these movements and re-establish freedom of civil and commercial movement.”

Libya: speaker Aguila Saleh rise

Brussels 03.10.2020 Libya’s oil output has risen to 270,000 bpd as the OPEC member ramps up export activity following the easing of a blockade by eastern part of the country.
On October 1 Libya’s oil terminals at Hariga, Brega, and Zueitina were open for business and welcoming tankers to ship oil, although the biggest port and the terminal typically exporting crude from the largest oilfield in the country was still under strain.

The North African nation’s National Oil Corp said it expects production to rise to around 260,000 barrels per day, or bpd, by next week, up from some 100,000 bpd before the blockade of its oil ports and oilfields lifted by Haftar’s forces at the end of last week.

Total Libyan production could reach 550,000 bpd by the end of the year and nearly a million bpd by mid-2021. All that for a country that did not export a single barrel from January due to the civil war forced by Haftar. At its peak in 2008, Libya produced nearly 1.8 million bpd.

The shifting market dynamics could force OPEC back to the drawing board, to figure out what to do with all that unexpected new supply.

Emboldened by the steady price action of the past four months, OPEC decided to roll back its cuts by two million bpd from this month, taking a gamble that the market won’t crash, as economies continue to recover from the worst of the COVID-19 disruption. AbS’ warning to oil giants that they’ll be “ouching like hell” if they try to short the market was part of a calculated campaign to defend prices.

In the complex international economic context, and Libya ongoing political crisis, the Tobruk House of Representative (HoR) Speaker, Aguila Saleh, is expected to play a major role in state-building during the coming period, amid hopes of a political settlement to the long-time crisis in the country. Moreover might play a key role in concluding new trade agreements for oil exports, preventing overproduction, and subsequent turmoil for the oil markets.

Saleh has cemented his reputation as a political heavy-weight demonstrating openness to resolve the ongoing crisis in Libya. For the international community his rise will embody the transfer of political powers in Cyrenaica from military – Marshall Khalifa Haftar leading the Libyan National Army – to civilians. The increasing influence of the role of Saleh has reflected in the decision of the European Union Council to lift the individual sanction, allowing him to travel freely.

“The Council today decided to remove Aguila Saleh, speaker of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, and Nuri Abu Sahmain, former president of the internationally unrecognised General National Congress of Libya, from the list of individuals and entities subject to restrictive measures in relation to the Libyan conflict.

“The two leading political figures had been subject to EU restrictive measures – a travel ban and an asset freeze – since 2016. The delisting of Speaker Saleh was agreed in light of his recent constructive engagement in support of a negotiated political solution to the Libyan crisis. The Council will continue to follow his behaviour closely, notably in relation to his support for the Berlin Process and for the efforts of the UN mission to Libya (UNSMIL). The delisting of Abu Sahmain was agreed based on the overall absence of any recent role in the Libyan political process.

“The EU welcomed the announcements made on 21 August by the president of the Presidency Council, Fayez al-Sarraj, and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, which accelerated promising developments in Libya and created a window of opportunity to move the Libyan transition forward towards completion through a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process.

“Today’s decision underlines the strategic use of the EU’s sanctions regime, following developments on the ground. Restrictive measures are intended to bring about a change in policy or activity by entities and individuals responsible for malign behaviour, and are of a proportionate, targeted and non-punitive nature. De-listing is appropriate wherever the criteria for listing are no longer met, as was the case here.

“The relevant legal acts, including the names of the persons and entities concerned, have been published in the Official Journal”.

Libya: EU imposes individual sanctions

Brussels 21.09.2020 The Council today decided to impose targeted restrictive measures on two persons responsible for human rights abuses in Libya and three entities involved in violating the UN arms embargo in place for Libya. They will be added to the EU’s list of persons and entities subject to restrictive measures related to the Libyan conflict. The sanctions imposed comprise a travel ban and an asset freeze for natural persons, and an asset freeze for entities. In addition, EU persons and entities are forbidden from making funds available to those listed. With these new designations, the EU now has travel bans on 17 listed persons and has frozen the assets of 21 persons and 19 entities.

The EU imposes restrictive measures on persons and entities whose actions threaten the peace and security of Libya or obstruct the successful completion of its political transition. The EU has repeatedly called on all parties to respect human rights and international law and is committed to holding anyone violating them accountable. The EU is also determined to see the UN arms embargo in Libya fully respected. These new listings show the EU’s strategic use of its sanctions regime and ability to react to developments on the ground in support of the political process and to deter past and present perpetrators from further violations.

The EU’s sanctions complement and reinforce the sanctions adopted by the UN, which include an arms embargo and individual measures, including for human rights abuses. The UN has imposed a travel ban on 28 persons and an asset freeze on 23 persons.

The relevant legal acts, including the names of the persons and entities concerned, have been published in the Official Journal.

Tripoli: Al-Sarraj intends to resign

Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan said he was upset that his ally and Libya’s internationally recognised partner Fayez al-Sarraj, intends to quit next month and Ankara may hold talks with his government on the issue in the coming week.

Al-Sarraj announced on September 16 his intention to resign by the end of October. The decision will impact the situation in Tripoli amid new efforts of different international players to find a political solution to the country’s conflict.

“A development like this, hearing such news, has been upsetting for us,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding that Turkish delegations may hold talks with Al-Sarraj’s government in the coming week.

“With these meetings, Allah willing we will turn this issue towards the direction it needs to go,” he said.
Sarraj is head of the Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, while eastern Libya and much of the south is controlled by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). His departure could lead to infighting among senior GNA figures.

The civil war has drawn in regional and international powers and Turkey supports the Government of National Accord, while the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia back the Marshall Khalifa Haftar, supported Tobruk Parliament and Libyan National Army (LNA). Ankara assisted the GNA in defence its position in the captial during a 14-month LNA assault on Tripoli.

A Turkish official told Reuters news agency that Sarraj’s resignation announcement was the second recent surprise for Ankara in Libya after a ceasefire announcement last month.

Al-Sarraj’s administration declared a ceasefire on August 21 and the leader of the Tobruk Parliament in eastern Libya also appealed for a halt to hostilities separately, offering hope for a de-escalation of the conflict, lasting almost a decade.

“We would prefer for Sarraj to remain in his post because under his leadership a united Libya that has resolved its issues could emerge,” the official said.

“If Sarraj does not remain in office, there are some names who are involved in the processes and can take the GNA forward. These are, of course, Libya’s own issues, but Turkey may provide some support,” he added.

The European dream to transform Libya into a democratic state turned into a catastrophe: the state structures had collapsed, and Libyans became hostages of militant groups of rival warlords, mafia slave-traders, and Islamists, armed for free by pillaging giant arms stocks left unattended after Colonel Gaddafi regime collapse. In shot, referring to expression of one of the French secret service experts, Libya became an “Afghanistan in proximity”.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) is an interim government for Libya that was formed under the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement, a United Nations–led initiative, signed on 17 December 2015 in Shkirat, Morocco.
This agreement has been unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council which has recognised that the Government of National Accord (GNA) is the sole legitimate government of Libya. Shkirat agreement mandates executive authority to the GNA, while leaving legislative authority to the House of Representatives as it was following the June 2014 elections. It also establishes the High Council of State, a consultative body independent of the GNA. The fact about the length of mandate for one year only, has been intentionally omitted by all political players, supporting GNA administration for various reasons. Shkirat agreement has been never prolonged ever since, throwing legal status of al-Sarraj administration into void.

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