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The relationship between Morocco and the European Union was established some decades ago. However, the beginning of Moroccan King Mohammed VI's reign marked a major shift toward more cooperation, comprehension and partnership.The European Union has granted Morocco advanced status in 2008 on deepening ties and cooperation in Rabat.

Membership application

Morocco applied to join the then-European Communities on 20 July 1987. The application was rejected by Community foreign ministers as they did not consider Morocco to be a European country and hence could not join. The rejection was expected as the King had sent feelers two years prior who received such a response.

However, the rejection may well have also been connected to the country's very poor democratic and human rights standards, which have since only slightly improved, resulting in an unofficial attempt to renew the application. In 2006 EU commissioner for external relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner declared that "we [EU] already have a very, very close relationship with Morocco, and we're studying giving them even more advanced status."

Issues

Illegal immigration and terrorism have already replaced issues on the agenda that were important before like trade (i.e. agriculture and fishing) and drug trafficking. Starting in 2000, Moroccan and EU authorities have been keen to work together more closer with intelligence sharing and border control cooperation.

Human rights was an issue that curved Morocco-EU relationships for decades. Now, many European officials have lauded the efforts Morocco has made in the human rights field.

Another hot issue concerns territorial disputes. In July 2002, there was a skirmish between Spain and Morocco during the Perejilmarker incident. Though tensions have eased since the coming of the Spanish Socialist party to power, the two Spanish exclaves of Ceutamarker and Melillamarker are still an obstacle between the two neighbouring countries. In October 2006 a diplomatic controversy was sparked between Morocco and Spainmarker when Morocco had denied entry from Ceuta of a Spanish aid package consisting of 150 patrol vehicles to fight illegal immigration. This was later resolved by delivering the goods 50 km off Tangiermarker's coast.

The Western Saharamarker conflict has always been on the agenda. Morocco has been seeking a formal European recognition of its claimed rights over the disputed territory.

Agreements

Since 2000 Morocco and the EU have signed many bilateral agreements. Various agreements of free trade that Morocco ratified with its principal economic partners like the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area agreement with the objective of integrating the European Free Trade Association at the horizons of 2012 can be quoted. The two sides recently announced plans to extend their Free Trade Agreement to cover not only goods, but also all agriculture and services by 2010, giving Morocco almost the same deal with Europe as member states have with each other. Those agreements are parts of the Euro-Med Partnership signed in Barcelonamarker, Spainmarker in 1995.

Morocco and the EU have also signed an open-skies agreement. The agreement is Europe's first ever outside its borders. It came into force in summer 2006.

See also



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