3 December 2006Quarterly SeminarsCIDOB, Barcelona, Spain
EuroMeSCo Crisis-Management Seminar on Algerian-Moroccan Relations.
A group of approximately twenty experts and actors, from different countries and working in several areas, gathered in Barcelona on 3 December 2006 to discuss issues related to Algerian-Moroccan relations, such as the causes for the persistence of poor bilateral relations between Algeria and Morocco, the obstacles to an improvement of that situation in the short and long run, the actors that could push for such an improvement and finally, the international community’s, particularly Europe’s, potential contribution to such a process. This seminar was co-organised by EuroMeSCo and the CIDOB Foundation and coordinated by Laura Feliu (Autonomous University of Barcelona) and Eduard Soler i Lecha (CIDOB Foundation).
Participants discussed the structural and circumstantial nature of the causes behind the difficult bilateral relations between Algeria and Morocco, thereby emphasising the role of the Western Sahara conflict in the current state of relations. Several participants mentioned the historic precedents of confrontations, such as the Sand War, the existence of other unresolved conflict areas between the two countries, as well as the different national construction processes. A majority of participants shared the view that the Sahara is merely one of the bilateral problems plaguing relations between the two countries, though it receives higher visibility and thus often conceals other topics of dissent. Furthermore, the democratic deficit and the lack of political will were highlighted as obstacles to an improvement of bilateral relations, and consequently to regional integration.
Participants also discussed the existence of anti-Moroccan and anti-Algerian lobbies and identified some of their elements and motivations. Nevertheless, some participants stressed that the engrained animosity, manifested by some politicians’ remarks and in certain media coverage, does not reflect the population’s state of mind. Moreover, it was mentioned that some actors benefit from the bad relations between the two countries, namely in the informal sector, and thus do not show interest in a rapprochement.
In spite of this, participants agreed that there is room for certain actors to contribute to the improvement of bilateral relations, namely commerce chambers, new generations, emigrants, political parties, amazigh movements and journalists. Some participants also pointed out that the management of the security sector could become a priority in bilateral cooperation, particularly in the fight against terrorism, but that it should not be the main driving force of Algerian-Moroccan relations.
When debating the role of the international community, participants discussed the real interests of the United States, the EU and its member states in the building of a united Maghreb. Both the bilateral quality of the free-trade area and the European Neighbourhood Policy were strongly criticised. One of the participants pointed out the limits of the contribution made by external actors, due to the Europeans’ lack of knowledge of this dossier. Nevertheless, some EU projects, such as the cross-border cooperation mechanisms and educational programmes, could significantly contribute to inter-Maghreb relations at many levels. Moreover, the role of the European Commission and the need to facilitate and simplify the management of financial projects, in order to promote a more significant contribution for Algerian-Moroccan relations, were stressed.