MILITARY FUSION CENTRE
MEDITERRANEAN BASIN TEAM PRESENTS
The Arab Maghreb Union
By Eray Basar
This document provides the ‘In Focus’ excerpt from the MB Weekly
. The ‘In Focus’ section of the weekly gives our read-
ership a more detailed reporting of an event or topic of particular relevance in
the Mediterranean Basin and other regions of interest. ‘
Focus’ pieces provide hyperlinks to source material
highlighted and underlined in the text. For more information on the topics below or other issues pertaining to the region, please contact the members of the Med Basin Team, or visit our website atwww.cimicweb.org.
Comprehensive Information on Complex Crises
As highlighted by the Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) Habib Ben Yahia, Islamic countries in general, and theMaghreb region in particular, face “agricultural, financial, and social crises” that impose “cross
border solutions” thereby suggesting a joint action and cooperation in the Maghreb is essential. The Arab Maghreb Union,which comprises the five North African countries of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, exists to strengthen historical
ties and ensure regional stability and cooperation. An initial attempt at regional integration was made in 1964 among the same coun-tries, with the exception of Mauritania, through the establishment of the
Permanent Consultative Committee of the Maghreb(PCCM)
. Though never fully operationalised, the initiative was designed to harmonise development efforts and coordinate tradeamong the four countries and enhance relations with the European Union (EU). In 1988, new factors brought the leaders of the fivestates together in Algeria to establish various commissions, including the Maghreb High Commission, subsequently signing a treatyto establish the AMU in 1989.In addition tostrengthening ties among its members, the AMU aims at freer movement of persons, services, goods and capital, and
the integration of policies. The common policy outlined in the treaty encompasses diplomatic cooperation, safeguarding of the inde- pendence of each member, realising the industrial, agricultural, commercial, and social development of member states through joint projects, and the establishment of a cultural, religious and educational exchange network.The AMU has never reached itsfull potential,as long
standing quarrels amongst the member countries have impeded its effective-ness. In particular, relations between Algeria and Morocco remain deadlocked over Western Sahara. Morocco, refusing any conces-sion on Western Sahara, has complained about Algerian support to the Polisario front for the independence of the disputed territory.As a result, borders between the two countries have remained closed for over a decade and bilateral trade has been subjected to nu-
merous tariff and non
tariff barriers. In addition, relations between Mauritania and Libya became strained in 2005 when Mauritaniaaccused Libyan secret services of involvement in anattempted military coup in Mauritania. Algeria’s domestic struggles in 1990s –
thecancellation of election results when an Islamist party gained majority votes, the ensuing civil war and the rise of Islamist funda-
mentalism and terrorism – further hindered the AMU. Mauritania implemented structural reform programmes under the supervisionof the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Tunisia and Morocco focused more on their bilateral relations with theEU.While the countries of the AMU signed over thirty agreements on varying subjects, including trade, tariffs, investment guarantees,taxation, and phyto
sanitary standards,only five of them were actually ratified by all five members. Although each country showed a
rise in the volume of aggregate bilateral trade among the member states, intra
AMU trade is still very limited. North Africa account-ed for the lowestintra
Arab Spring period on the operations of the AMU, recent months have brought some positive devel-opments for the union. Following pro
democracy movements in these countries, the Maghreb communityrevived the AMU, conven-
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