Morocco, EU to sign farm trade deal
RABAT - The EU and Morocco agreed Tuesday to push ahead with an agriculture trade accord, a day after Rabat warned Brussels that failure to do so would damage ties.
"Ours is a model partnership, rich and multi-dimensional. The EU and Morocco are determined to preserve and develop it," EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said in a joint statement with Nasser Bourita, a senior Moroccan diplomat, after talks in Brussels.
"Talks between the EU and Morocco will continue in an atmosphere of serenity and mutual confidence," they said.
Morocco suspended ties with Brussels last year after an EU court annulled the trade deal on the grounds it illegally applied to the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony controlled by Rabat where the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, is fighting for independence.
The EU's top court reversed the ruling in December, arguing that the accord did not apply to the Western Sahara because the 28-nation bloc did not recognise it as part of Morocco.
On Monday, Morocco's agriculture and fisheries ministry said failure to reinstate the accord would put thousands of jobs at risk, both in Morocco and in Europe.
Additionally, it could spur new migrant flows to Europe just as the bloc is trying to cope with an influx of refugees crossing the Mediterranean.
The ministry also warned that if the deal is not implemented, Morocco "would have no other choice but to turn to other countries", including Russia, China, India and Japan as well as African and Arab Gulf nations.
Mogherini has pushed hard for trade deals with countries such as Morocco to help them develop their economies, which could curb the number of migrants leaving for Europe.
"Recalling the strategic importance of their links, the two sides expressed their wish to get down to work and build cooperation in all areas of shared interest," the joint statement said.