The Arab Maghreb Union / Union du Maghreb Arabe was established in 1989 with the aim of strengthening ties between the Member States. Its current issues concern trade, illegal migration, the Palestinian conflict and the impoverishment of the lands in the region. Secretary-General Habib Ben Yahia took office in 2006. The Union has five member states.
Website of the Arab Maghreb Union.
Abbreviated as AMU on Abbreviationfinder, the of the Maghreb Arabe Union was formed in February 1989 by Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia. The aim was to strengthen ties between the countries of North Africa in order to achieve regional stability and political coordination.
During AMU’s more than fifteen years of existence, however, not much has been done to reduce the gap between goals and reality.
In recent years, the relations between the members have instead been characterized by some irritation. The work has been hampered by Islamic terrorism, the Algerian civil war and the conflict between Morocco and the liberation movement Polisario over Western Sahara. Since Morocco froze its participation in the organization’s decision-making bodies in 1995, work at the highest level has stood still.
The idea of forming a common organization for the countries of the North African area called the Maghreb was not new. As early as 1964, the newly independent North African states had established a joint council, (Conseil Permanent Consultatif du Maghreb, CPCM).
The Council would coordinate the training plans of Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia and develop cooperation with the EC (now the EU) on the other side of the Mediterranean.
However, Libya was not particularly interested in the Council, and the conflict in Western Sahara definitively put a stop to cooperation. When Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1976, most of the area’s population fled to Algeria. In the refugee camps, the Western Saharan liberation movement Polisario recruited soldiers. As a result, a conflict arose between Morocco and Algeria, and cooperation within the Council ceased.
It took over twenty years before organized co-operation between the Maghreb states was developed again. In June 1988, a first summit with the countries took place, which resulted in the decision to form a joint organization. Just over six months later, in February 1989, the Heads of State of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia signed the Maghreb Union’s statutes. In addition to promoting regional cooperation between the countries as a whole, the aim was to form a free trade bloc and a customs union with free movement of goods and services, as well as a common defense. Through the signing, the states also pledged not to interfere in each other’s internal policies.
An important goal was to reduce dependence on trade with Western Europe. In 1990, the states agreed to remove tariffs and taxes on certain agricultural products as a first step towards the customs union. However, the realization of the common market has not come further. Morocco stopped participating in the Union’s summits in 1995 in protest against Algeria taking a stand for Polisario in the conflict over Western Sahara. Since then, work at the highest level has stood still, as the decisions of the summits will only be binding on the members if they agree.
The highest decision – making body of the Maghreb Union is the Council of Governors, which meets once a year. Binding decisions must be unanimous and the presidency rotates annually between states.
A committee shall monitor that the Prime Minister’s decision is implemented. There is also an advisory assembly which is consulted by the Council of Governors and consists of 20 delegates from each country.
The Council of Foreign Ministers meets once a year to prepare for the meeting of Heads of State and discuss proposals from committees and four specialist bodies (in the fields of finance, labor, infrastructure and food security).
The Maghreb Union has two courts for legal matters. One court is located in Nouakchott, Mauritania, and the other in Algiers, Algeria. The administrative work is carried out by the General Secretariat of Rabat in Morocco. No summit has been held since 1995.
In recent years, attempts to organize a summit have fallen on continued disagreement over Western Sahara between Morocco and Libya or Algeria. Meetings at ministerial level have, however, been held regularly and the Advisory Assembly has also met.
The agreements reached by the members of the Arab Maghreb Union in the 1990’s have, among other things, led to citizens being given free movement within the region. Communications were improved: a motorway was built, the railway network was strengthened and interconnected and a joint airline was formed.
In total, about 30 multilateral agreements were signed, but only five of them were approved in all Member States. These five agreements concerned customs duties on industrial products, trade in agricultural products, investment guarantees and the avoidance of double taxation.
In 2002, a committee was appointed to come up with proposals for reforms of the organization. The Committee pointed out, among other things, that many of the agreed agreements were now obsolete and needed to be revised.
In foreign affairs, the Maghreb Union has acted along the same lines as other Arab and Muslim organizations. The Union has repeatedly protested against UN sanctions against Iraq and Libya and expressed its support for the Palestinian people’s right to a state of their own.
Other issues raised at ministerial meetings in recent years are cooperation with the EU to prevent illegal migration and protection measures against bird flu. In 2005, a system of coordination was established between the countries in the fight against land depletion in the region.