According to the news magazine ‘Leaders’ website on February 23, Tunisia has officially nominated of former Minister of Foreign Affairs Taieb Baccouche to become Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union. Taieb Baccouche had already been slated as a candidate in January after a cabinet reshuffle which resulted in Prime Minister Habib Essid’s second government, in which Baccouche was replaced as Minister of Foreign Affairs by Khemaies Jhinaoui.
If approved Taieb Baccouche would succeed fellow Tunisian and fellow former Minister of Foreign Affairs Habib Ben Yahia, who has been the Arab Maghreb Union’s Secretary General since February 1st 2006. Baccouche as Secretary General would take over the Rabat based offices of the Arab Maghreb Union’s Secretariat.
Founded by the Treaty of Marrakech on February 17 1989, the Arab Maghreb Union includes Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Morocco, but has been long dormant.
However in the past year there have been signs of life.
On December 22, 2015, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid chaired a reunion, of the Ministers of Finance of the five AMU nations, announcing the launch of the Maghreb Bank for Investment and Foreign Trade (BMICE-Banque Maghrébine pour l’Investissement et le Commerce Extérieur). Chaired in Tunis, the Maghreb Bank for Investment and Foreign Trade was launched with an initial capital of only $150 million US, (300 Million Dinars). The Maghreb Bank for Investment and Foreign Trade was created by the Ras Lanuf agreement on March 10, 1991, but its draft statute was not approved until March 2006, and it was only was funded twenty four years after its creation.
The need for increased security cooperation in the Maghreb also prompted some activity from the Arab Maghreb Union, after a lapse of nearly twenty years, a supposedly annual Council of Ministers of the Interior met in Nouakchott, on April 30, 2015, for only the fifth time since 1989.
On February 19, Morocco announced it would refuse to host the 27th Arab League Summit, on the same day a letter from the King of Morocco Mohammed VI to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was published by the Algerian newspaper Al-Watan in which the Moroccan Monarch hailed the Arab Maghreb Union as an “irreversible strategic option”.
King Mohammed VI’s letter, as published by Al-Watan, said “the Moroccan kingdom, considers the Maghreb Union as an irreversible strategic option, [Morocco] will spare no effort to achieve integration among its five member states and the establishment of a new Maghrebin system based on brotherhood, trust, solidarity and good neighborliness, while working to reduce the institutional stagnation which prevents the Union from assuming its role on different levels, to meet the various economic and security challenges facing the countries of the Maghreb and their neighbors in the region and across the world.”
The Arab Maghreb Union’s original purpose of greater regional economic integration is of equal importance. It is also, twenty seven years later its greatest failure.
In 2012, the World Bank noted “Trade among the countries of the Maghreb was less than three percent of the region’s total trade in 2008. In contrast, trade within the European Union for the same time period was 63.6 percent of the region’s total trade, 24.6 percent within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and 15 percent within Latin America’s Common Southern Market.” Making the Maghreb the least economically integrated region in the world.
For now the Arab Maghreb Union’s greatest achievement remains its creation.