Morocco warns of ‘bigger risks’ in Maghreb

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Morocco's message to the EU in the context of unfolding revolutions in the region is a wider risk that a zone of unlawfulness stretching from the south of Algeria to the north of Mauritania to Mali and to Niger – a haven for AlQaeda – could expand, the Moroccan envoy to Brussels told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.

Menouar Alem, ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to the EU, said his country was stable in the context of events that have followed the 'Jasmine Revolution' in Tunisia. He explained that Morocco had put in place a multi-party system, given workers freedom to unionise and enshrined people's right to protest.

Moreover, he said that the country had a consistent policy of promoting women's rights, family planning and investing in human resources. As a result, the country had a birth rate comparable to Europe and no demographic explosion had taken place along the lines of elsewhere in the Maghreb.

The diplomat said many of his country's advances were a result of its commitment to EU values and its 40 years of relations with the European Union. He was quick to add that Morocco could become a "locomotive" which the EU could use to "pull the remaining wagons" in the region.

The ambassador said that the message his country was trying to convey to its EU interlocutors is that in the context of instability across the region following the 'Jasmine Revolution' in Tunisia, Morocco should not be excluded from the Western strategy of fighting terrorism in the Sahel.

40% of the cocaine in Europe comes from this region, Menouar Alem said. He explained that the drugs were coming by submarine from South Africa to Africa's western coast, after which they were channelled to Europe. A Kalashnikov rifle costs between 10 and 15 dollars in the region and trafficking, including in human beings, is booming, he said.

Europe has to act, and Europe has to figure out which country in the region, by force of its stability and by its shared political and strategic commitments, could be its partner, he said.

The Moroccan diplomat also said that although Europe was paying a heavy price of terrorism in the region in terms of kidnappings and assassinations, it was not yet playing a role and had not committed politically and strategically to fighting this global threat.

Alem described as "scandalous" the level of integration of the Maghreb region, where in his words borders are closed, populations do not meet and trade is almost non-existent. Europe, the region's most important partner, has a role to play in changing this situation, he said.

To read the full interview in French, please click here.

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