Cooperation between Mediterranean partners is more important than ever amid the pandemic according to FM Nasser Bourita
Rabat – Morocco’s Foreign Affairs minister Nasser Bourita has stressed the importance of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a meeting on November 26, the Moroccan minister told partners that cooperation with the EU through the ENP is “more than necessary.”
Morocco and the EU have been working together through the ENP to boost investment and cooperation on security matters, but the results have been uneven according to Bourita.
ENP in pandemic times
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the importance of cooperation on security, Bourita told his fellow foreign affairs ministers at the virtual EU-Southern Neighbourhood Ministerial Meeting on November 26. For the Moroccan top diplomat, the pandemic has “demonstrated weaknesses” but also provides “opportunities to be exploited together.”
Cooperation with the EU through the ENP is relevant in its spirit, method and experience, Bourita explained as he expressed confidence the policy has brought together countries. He also suggested the policy has produced practical and symbolic results for Morocco, which holds an “advanced” status that enables smoother trade, technology sharing and security cooperation.
17 Years of cooperation
For 17 years the EU has worked with countries in its “southern neighborhood.” The ENP and its Southern Neighborhood initiative that brought together foreign ministers on Thursday have deepened ties between countries, according to the EU (PDF). The southern neighborhood policy has seen the EU realize association agreements with Algeria, Egypt; Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia.
The ENP, of which the Southern Neighborhood initiative is a part, was reviewed in 2015 to focus more on stabilizing countries. In 2021 the initiative will publish the “Joint Communication on a renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood,” which is likely to again tweak the initiative. The EU credits the program with mobilizing €2.3 billion amid the pandemic.
Yet the results of the ENP have failed to reduce the gap in wealth and living standards between the EU and its partners. “The wealth produced in the South is 13 times less than in the North,” Bourita stated at the meeting, adding “the standard of living gap is almost 1 to 5.”
Bourita urged that the EU’s southern partners should have a greater say in decision making within ENP cooperation. The Neighborhood policy must “transcend pure financial logic,” Bourita stated as he called for a more flexible and tailored approach to the EU’s partners. Decision making should mirror the equality seen within the European Economic Area, Bourita advised his fellow foreign ministers.
He also expressed hope that collaboration between the EU and Morocco could benefit from “the opportunity represented by the revision of the ENP,” edging the ongoing transitions toward a digital and sustainable future.