Azoulay: "The southern Mediterranean is indispensable for the future of Europe"

The recent seminar 'Andalusia, a model neighbourhood in the European Union' has highlighted the strong ties between Morocco and Spain. Relations that "have never been better", in the words of Nourdine Mouati
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The space for dialogue promoted by the General Secretariat for External Action of the Andalusian Regional Government in collaboration with the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation served to analyse the current situation between Morocco and Spain. Following the main theme, the European Neighbourhood Policy, several speakers discussed these important ties within the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.  

André Azoulay, adviser for economic and financial affairs to King Mohammed VI and co-president of the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation, took part in this debate on the European neighbourhood. Azoulay called the southern Mediterranean a "vital space for Europe and indispensable for the future of Europe". The co-president of the Three Cultures Foundation stressed the importance of the Euro-Mediterranean dimension in the European Union's agenda. However, Azoulay considers that this space has "evaporated somewhat over the last few years and has ceased to be a priority" for Europe.  

Despite this, the royal councillor remains committed to "all the promises and ambitions of the Barcelona Process", a project for cooperation between Mediterranean countries launched in 1995. "We all dream of creating a greater consensus between the two shores of the Mediterranean around a common destiny and around a solidarity that can face all the difficulties," he declared, although he also acknowledged that this region "is threatened by certain attitudes and crises". 

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Azoulay expressed her satisfaction with the event held at the Three Cultures Foundation, a space for promoting understanding and dialogue between the different cultures of the Mediterranean and which "unites Morocco and Spain". In fact, she highlighted the role of both countries in the Mediterranean region. "Let us continue along the path of writing and recasting the spirit of the Barcelona Process so that we can strengthen this privileged partnership between the two shores of the Mediterranean," he said. "This union is good for the South and a priority for the North. Neither the north nor the south of the Mediterranean could avoid this geographical, economic, diplomatic and strategic reality for the common good," added the co-president of the Three Cultures Foundation.  

In conclusion, Azoulay affirmed that the Andalusian regional government, the Moroccan government, the Spanish and Moroccan people will remain "attentive and always defend any initiative that can enhance all the hopes of the Barcelona conference".  

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"Andalusia and Morocco get on well together and want to continue to get on better and better"

Elías Bendodo Benasayag, Minister of the Presidency, Public Administration and the Interior of the Junta de Andalucía, then spoke. Bendodo expressed his gratitude to all the participants, highlighting the presence of Azoulay. In this sense, he pointed out the "intense cooperation between Morocco and Andalusia", an example of cross-border partnership and good European neighbourliness. "The Government of Andalusia is aware of the strategic and commercial importance of closer relations with Morocco," Bendodo declared. He also pointed out that the current Andalusian government has "strengthened this collaboration". 

"Morocco and Andalusia share a common history, we have a present with challenges to share and a future full of cooperation. Andalusia and Morocco get along well and want to continue to get along better and better," Bendodo stressed. The regional minister also underlined the role of the Three Cultures Foundation within this partnership. In addition, with the aim of continuing to strengthen these ties, Bendodo announced the Mediterranean Awards, which will recognise good practices in favour of dialogue and peace. "The aim is to recognise the work of people and institutions that contribute to promoting intercultural and religious dialogue in the Mediterranean area," he explained.  

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Spain and Morocco must lead the Euro-Mediterranean process 

Nourdine Mouati, manager of cooperation projects between Spain and Morocco, also took part in the seminar. "We are here to defend this southern neighbourhood, so that Europe looks to the south more than ever," he said at the beginning of his speech. Like Azoulau, Mouati referred to the Barcelona Process, a milestone in the Mediterranean neighbourhood. He also recalled the Arab Spring of 2011, an event which, in Mouati's words, "disrupted this partnership".  In this sense, the cooperation expert alluded to Morocco's good situation in comparison with other countries in the region. "Of the 10 countries in Europe's southern neighbourhood, Morocco was able to overcome the cataclysm of 2011 thanks to the farsightedness of Mohammed VI," he recalled. 

On the other hand, he insisted on the role of Spain and Morocco within the European neighbourhood policy towards the south. According to Mouati, "Spanish-Moroccan relations have never been better", despite the recent crisis between the two countries over the entry of the Polisario Front leader into Spain. "In the last 10 years, economic relations have seen the greatest development. The integration between the value chains between Spain and Morocco is very important," the expert stressed.  

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Mouati also alluded to the role of Morocco and Spain in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one of the major challenges facing the Mediterranean region. Rabat, through the Al Quds Commission, which works with both sides, and Madrid, following the 1992 Peace Conference, are two fundamental actors in this dispute. He also recalled the key role of the Three Cultures Foundation in this matter. On the other hand, with respect to Israel, he explained that Morocco has maintained ties with the Hebrew state for many years through the Jewish community of Moroccan origin.  

Finally, he reaffirmed the role of Spain and Morocco in the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. "We have to lead the Euro-Mediterranean process", he reiterated.