The state of the Maghreb Union or is it an Alliance?

The state of the Maghreb Union or is it an Alliance?
Mark Seddon

Without warning and coming as a surprise to most observers, a week following the ending of the Carthage Summit between the presidents of Algeria,Tunisia and representatives from Libya, a statement was published on 8th May by the Algerian News Agency of a new ‘Maghreb Alliance’. Or at least the first faltering steps towards ‘establishing the North African Alliance that Mauritania can one day join’. For what is being heralded as the emergence of a new ‘tri-partite bloc’, isn’t apparently quite ready to accept a fourth designated Member, Mauritania. But the neither is Morocco included either. The Algerian statement went on to confirm that this new alliance has been formed to take the place of the now defunct Arab Maghreb Union, which Algeria is often keen to claim had fallen victim to machinations from Morocco. However, it should be pointed out that the statement doesn’t set about blaming Morocco, more arguing that the new alliance moves the Maghreb forward from ‘slogans to actions’. 

As slogans go this is at least memorable. But the question must be asked; what actions are planned by the Maghreb Alliance, which only contains threecountries in the region, has yet to admit Mauritania and which doesn’t seem to want Morocco on board? Those old enough to remember the first early attempts to create a Common Market in Europe, that led very gradually to a European Economic Community, to a European Community and finally in its more politically integrated, form the European Union, will point to the very slow pace of development and influence. It began with a European Coal and Steel Area, removing tariffs and allowing free trade in these commodities, but the Common Market in its early incarnation contained six Member States; France, Italy, West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland and it packed some economic clout.  In addition, it also formed the core of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, although France maintained a somewhat hands-off approach to the organisation. 

The Common Market or European Union was never conceived by its architects as being one whose key objective was to keep out another European country that they had little patience for. And for some the new tripartite alliance or bloc can be viewed as an Algerian riposte to Morocco. Last year Morocco sponsored an ‘Atlantic Initiative’, which included African Sahel countries such as Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad. In other words we now have two Alliances; one partially based in the Maghreb and another more anchored in Morocco and the Sahel. Although it could be argued that Morocco has an altogether clearer view of how it sees the ‘Atlantic Initiative’ and one that is essentially couched in strong economic partnerships designed it believes to benefit all of those who have signed up to it. Division never helps any countries seeking to further shared interests and countries in the Maghreb and Sahel have any number of these. Given the vagaries associated with the new Maghreb Alliance, it is possible that other countries in the region may not be clamouring to join. 


*Mark Seddon is a former Speechwriter to UN Secretary-General Ban ki moon & former Adviser to the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly

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