The EU-Morocco Association Agreement was signed in Brussels, on 26 February 1996, and following its ratification by the Parliaments of the EU Member States, the European Parliament and the Moroccan Parliament, entered into force on 1 March, 2000. It replaces the 1976 Co-operation Agreement.
In line with the new generation of Association Agreements between the EU and its Mediterranean partners, the preamble emphasises the importance of the principles of the United Nations Charter, in particular the observance of human rights, democratic principles and economic freedom; the need to strengthen political stability and economic development of the region by encouraging regional co-operation; the need to open a regular political dialogue in bilateral and international contexts on issues of common interest; and the need to maintain a dialogue on scientific, technological, cultural, audio-visual and social matters to the benefit of both parties. The respect for human rights and democratic principles guides the internal and international policy of both Morocco and the Community and constitutes an essential and positive element of the Agreement.
The main text refers to regular political dialogue at ministerial and senior official levels, and at parliamentary level through contacts between the European Parliament and the Moroccan Parliamentary institutions. Emphasis is placed on peace, security, and regional co-operation and on the need to contribute to the stability and prosperity of the Mediterranean region, to promote understanding and tolerance. Furthermore, the agreement includes provisions on freedom of establishment and the liberalisation of services, free movement of capital and competition rules, the strengthening of economic co-operation on the widest possible basis and the co-operation on social matters, supplemented by cultural co-operation. The Agreement confirms the existence of free trade in manufactured goods and it reinforces the arrangements for free trade in industrial products, which have been in force since the late 1970s. Arrangements for importing Moroccan products are more flexible in the new agreement than they were under the 1976 Co-operation Agreement. There is to be progressive and reciprocal liberalisation of trade for agricultural products.
Another important chapter of the Association Agreement refers to the question of migration and social affairs. Since the entry into force of this agreement in March 2000, several meetings at Ministerial and expert level that addressed migration and related areas have been held. The open and fruitful discussions have allowed initiating a confidence building process on subjects previously considered taboo and several concrete co-operation projects have started.
The European Union is developing a coherent and comprehensive immigration policy, which incorporates areas such as legal migration, integration of Moroccans legally living in the European Union, equal treatment, family reunification and harmonisation of social security schemes. Respect for cultural identify is also one of the specific areas to receive more attention. Morocco and the European Union are doing their utmost to continue the fight against illegal immigration.
As part of this policy, the Commission received the mandate to start negotiations on an EC readmission agreement with Morocco in September 2000. Negotiations are on-going.
Senior officials from Morocco and the EU meet at regular intervals, to discuss political and economic issues as well as bilateral or regional co-operation.