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Cooperation in North Africa: A Look at the Morocco-Tunisia Relationship – Caitlin Dearing Scott

Caitlin Dearing Scott, MAC
November 13, 2014

Caitlin Dearing Scott, SVP, Research, Projects, and Programs, MAC

Caitlin Dearing Scott, SVP, Research, Projects, and Programs, MAC

So far, things are looking up in Tunisia. Smooth and peaceful legislative elections last month offered a renewed sign of hope for democratization and peace-building in the country. Though much remains to be done in ensuring a political transition, the government and the people seem at last ready to commit to work together for Tunisia’s future.

Toward that end, they have a friend in Morocco who is prepared to support the country in whatever way it can. Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mounji Hamidi is currently in Morocco on a two-day visit to reinforce cooperation — one of a number of important exchanges between Moroccan and Tunisian leadership this year through which the two countries committed to a strong partnership on political, economic, social, and cultural issues.

While in Morocco, Minister Hamidi will meet with his Moroccan counterparts to follow-up on the 23 agreements signed during King Mohammed VI’s visit to Tunisia in May. Notable agreements on the political front include:

  • A partnership and cooperation convention between the Ministries of Education in the two countries, the Moroccan National Council for Human Rights, and the Tunisian Arab Institute for Human Rights; and
  • An agreement on cooperation in the fields of public service, the modernization of administration, and governance.

On the economic front, the agreements signed reflect the reality that engagement goes far beyond the government to include the private sector in business development.  Economic highlights include:

  • A framework agreement on regional integration and co-development;
  • A cooperation agreement between the Moroccan General Confederation of Enterprises and the Tunisian Union of Industry, Commerce, and Handicrafts;
  • A cooperation agreement between the Moroccan National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) and the Tunisian National Oil Company (ETAP); and
  • A cooperation protocol between the Casablanca and Tunis Stock Exchanges.

Another important area of cooperation is the promotion of moderate Islam – Tunisia wants to learn from the Moroccan experience in promoting moderate and tolerant Islamic values and plans to send Imams and preachers to Morocco for training.

Tunisia has been grateful for this friendship and for the lessons it can learn from Morocco’s own transition.  During an earlier visit to Morocco this past February, Minister Hamidi praised the constant support of King Mohammed VI for the democratic transition in Tunisia, noting that Morocco “has always been a strategic partner for Tunisia.” Hamidi underscored that Tunisia wants to take advantage of Morocco’s wisdom on liberalization, particularly with regard to national reconciliation and transitional justice – an issue Moroccan Foreign Minister Salahedddine Mezoaur offered aid and technical expertise to help with. Morocco’s experience in this domain certainly offers a model – its Truth and Reconciliation Commission (IER) was the first in the Arab world and undertook important work to shed light on past human rights violations and study the causes that permitted the abuses in order to construct a stronger, open, and more democratic future.

The journey to democracy is far from over in Tunisia and in North Africa more broadly, but Moroccan and Tunisian commitment to both their partnership and democracy is an important marker of how far things have come.

 

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