A European Union official has acknowledged Morocco’s development efforts in the southern territories, boosting Rabat’s Western Sahara position with European partners.
Rabat – “I was surprised by the development during my last trip to the Laayoune and Dakhla regions,” said Patricia Lalonde, a member of the EU parliament’s international trade committee.
Lalonde made the comments on Tuesday, November 20, upon hosting in Brussels a delegation of five Moroccan parliamentarians. Mohamed Cheikh Biadillah, co-president of the EU-Morocco Friendship Group, led the Moroccan delegation to Brussels.
Though the reason for the trip was not clearly articulated beforehand, it is believed to have been part of the EU’s assessment of Morocco’s repeated claims that the bulk of the benefits of EU-Morocco agreements involving southern territories go to the locals.
While stressing the positive sides of Morocco’s development policies in the southern provinces, Lalonde also spoke warmly of the EU-Morocco agriculture deal. Of the agreement, she said she was “confident that it will be adopted” by all relevant EU bodies. She however suggested that full adoption and entry into force may take a bit longer, due to a number of required bureaucratic steps even after adoption.
“While on the ground [in the southern provinces], I noticed the advantages and benefits of the [EU-Morocco] fisheries agreement,” she said.
Lalonde’s suggestion backs up Morocco’s development investments in the southern provinces, especially Rabat’s repeated rebuttals of critics of its Western Sahara position.
When voices inside the EU challenged the fisheries agreement, under the grounds that it did not benefit locals, both Morocco and an independent study showed that most of the financial benefits from the fisheries agreement go into development projects and job prospects improvement in the southern provinces.
In her welcoming remarks about Rabat’s engagements in Laayoune and Dakhla, the European politician went as far as saying that Morocco’s development model in the region “should be emulated by governments in other places.”
With such warm comments on Morocco’s investment in the southern regions, Lalonde has joined a long list foreign officials—particularly businessmen and diplomats—who have recently saluted Morocco’s development and investment efforts in the Laayoune region.
Earlier this month, African diplomats who were visiting Laayoune said they were “impressed by the rapid transformations” in the region.
“Every time we visit the region we witness considerable improvements,” said Ismaila Nimaga, ambassador of the Central African Republic to Rabat.