Andalusia and Morocco, an example of good neighbourliness and cooperation

The Three Cultures Foundation hosts the seminar 'Andalusia, a model of neighbourliness in the European Union"
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GUILLERMO LOPEZ/ATALAYAR  -  

Since the Conference on the Future of Europe was announced at the end of 2019, European citizens and institutions have contributed to the future of the continent by contributing ideas and proposals with the aim of guiding the European Union on different issues. Economy, social justice, digital transformation, environment, migration, health or the role of the European Union in the world are some of the most recurrent topics within this body. 

In this context, the Andalusian Regional Government has promoted a space for dialogue to put forward new proposals and ideas to the Future of Europe Conference. However, this is not the first time that Andalusia has been involved in this body. Last May, the Minister of the Presidency, Public Administration and the Interior, Elías Bendodo Benasayag, presented the initiative "Andalusia for the Future of Europe", a platform that aims to give Andalusian citizens a voice. Since then, numerous activities related to the economy, migration and asylum, or climate change have been organised. 

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This event, in particular, focused on European foreign policy. Andalusia, due to its privileged geographical location, is an example for Europe of cooperation with the countries of the southern Mediterranean basin, especially Morocco. 

The Three Cultures Foundation hosted this seminar, "Andalusia, a model of European neighbourhood", an ideal place to develop a dialogue on the ties between the countries and cultures of the Mediterranean and to debate the southern neighbourhood. 

Enrique Millo Rocher, Secretary General for External Action of the Andalusian Regional Government, opened the event. In view of the current situation, Millo referred to the coronavirus pandemic, an event that has marked a turning point in the European Union. However, according to the Secretary General for External Action, "the European Union has risen to this great challenge". "Together we are stronger", he stressed. Among the solutions proposed by Brussels, Millo highlighted the New Generation EU funds, a pandemic recovery plan that also seeks to transform Europe into a greener, more digital and resilient space.

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With regard to Andalusia's role in the European Union, Millo pointed out the region's commitment to the environment, the common agricultural policy and the future of external action. In this respect, he stressed the strategic situation of Andalusia, Europe's gateway to Africa. "Andalusia is strengthening its lines of work in the Mediterranean," he said. 

The inauguration of the seminar continued with María Lledó Laredo, Director General for the Coordination of the Internal Market and other Community Policies; André Azoulay, Advisor for Economic and Financial Affairs to King Mohammed VI and Vice-President of the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation; and Elías Bendodo Benasayag, Minister of the Presidency, Public Administration and the Interior of the Regional Government of Andalusia. 

Lledó highlighted Andalusia's commitment to the Conference for the Future of Europe. "Andalusia is one of the regions that has organised the most events," he declared. She also pointed out Spain's role in the organisation, assuring that, thanks to its pro-European nature, "it has a lot to contribute".

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Mohammed VI's adviser for economic and financial affairs, Azoulay, has called for strengthening North-South relations and reviving the spirit of the Barcelona Process, a Mediterranean cooperation project. However, Azoulay also believes that "the Mediterranean area has evaporated somewhat over the last few years and has fallen out of the European Union's priorities". For this reason, he recalled that "the stability of the Mediterranean is key to the stability of Europe", since the region is a "vital space" for the continent. 

Subsequently, Bendodo presented the relationship between Andalusia and Morocco as an example of good neighbourliness and cooperation. "We are united by a common history, a present to share and a future full of collaboration," he declared. The minister of the presidency pointed out the commercial advantages of closer ties, an objective of the current Andalusian government. "Positive relations have made us a benchmark for cooperation," he added. 

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In terms of education, one of the most striking proposals was the idea of an ERASMUS programme for the Mediterranean countries. For this project to be possible, an increase in both funding and coordination is needed. Likewise, a commitment on the part of universities, companies, organisations, and institutions through an offer of places. Also, with the aim of continuing to foster these regional ties, the Mediterranean Awards will recognise the work of institutions and individuals in promoting dialogue and peace. 

With respect to the European Union's foreign and security policy, a neighbourhood model should be promoted and consolidated, taking into account cooperation in the political, economic, regional and local, social and cultural spheres. In this regard, the relationship between Morocco and Andalusia should be highlighted, where the partnership in sectors such as infrastructure, agriculture and fisheries contribute to strengthening the bonds of progress and trust. 

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Climate change is another major challenge for the European Union and its Mediterranean neighbours, as this area is one of the most affected by global warming. Protecting the environment requires joint action between Europe and its neighbourhood. The same applies to health. The coronavirus pandemic has shown the need for cooperation in dealing with a health crisis. Several speakers also stressed the need to collaborate in the process of digitisation in Mediterranean countries.

Migration is one of the main issues in the Neighbourhood Policy as it is one of the biggest challenges facing the European Union. This issue does not affect all European regions equally. Andalusia, for example, is one of those areas of the continent that has to deal with the arrival of thousands of migrants. But we are also aware of the migration crisis facing Poland and the Baltic countries. For this reason, there is a need for a migration policy that takes into account the needs of each European region and promotes regular channels. Neighbouring countries have a key role to play here, as cooperation is needed to control migration flows. It is also important to contribute to the development and progress of these countries so that their nationals avoid the need to emigrate.