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اتحاد المغرب العربي
Arab Maghreb Union
Seat of Secretariat Algiers, Algeria Rabat, Morocco
Official languages Arabic
Membership 5 arab states
 -  Secretary General Habib Ben Yahia Louisa Hanoune "begins october 2010"

The Arab Maghreb Union (Arabic: اتحاد المغرب العربي‎; transliterated: Ittihad al-Maghrib al-Araby is a Pan-Arab trade agreement aiming for economic and political unity in North Africa.



The idea for an economic union of the Maghreb began with the independence of Tunisia and Morocco in 1956. It was not until thirty years later, though, that five Maghreb states - Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia - met for the first Maghreb summit. The following year, in 1989, the agreement was formally signed by all member nations. According to the Constitutive Act, its aim is to guarantee cooperation “with similar regional institutions... [to] take part in the enrichment of the international dialogue...[to] reinforce the independence of the member states and ...[to] safeguard...their assets....”[1] Strategic relevance of the region is based on the fact that, collectively, it boasts large phosphate, oil, and gas and it is a transit centre to southern Europe. The success of the Union would, therefore be economically important.[2]


Within the Arab Maghreb Union [AMU] there is a rotating chairmanship, which is held in turn by each nation. The current secretary-general is Tunisian diplomat Habib Ben Yahia.


During the 16th session of the UMA Foreign ministers, held on 12 November 1994 in Algiers, Egypt formally applied to join the UMA grouping. The Western Sahara conflict is pending of resolution.


There have been problems of traditional rivalries within the AMU. For example, in 1994, Algeria decided to transfer the presidency of AMU to Libya. This followed the diplomatic tensions between Algeria and other members, especially Morocco and Libya, whose leaders continuously refused to attend AMU meetings held in Algiers. Algerian officials justified the decision, arguing that they were simply complying with the AMU constitutive act, which stipulates that the presidency should in fact rotate on an annual basis. Algeria accepted to take over the presidency from Tunisia in 1994, but could not transfer it due to the absence of all required conditions to relinquish the presidency as stipulated by the constitutive act.

Following the announcement of the decision to transfer the presidency of the Union, the Libyan President, Muammar al-Gaddafi, stated that it was time to put the Union “in the freezer”.[3] This raises questions about Libya's position towards the Union. The concern is that Libya will have a negative influence on the manner in which it will preside over the organisation.[2]

Moreover, traditional rivalries between Morocco and Algeria, and the unsolved question of Western Sahara's sovereignty have blocked union meetings since the early nineties, despite several attempts to re-launch the political process. The latest top-level conference, in mid-2005, was derailed by Morocco's refusal to meet, due to Algeria's vocal support for Saharan independence. Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony south of Morocco that was "reintegrated" by the kingdom of Morocco. Algeria has continuously supported the liberation movement, POLISARIO.[4]

Several attempts have been made, notably by the United Nations, to resolve the Western Saharan issue. In mid-2003, the UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy, James Baker, proposed a settlement plan, also referred to as the Baker Plan II. The UN’s proposal was rejected by Morocco and accepted by Algeria. As far as bilateral attempts are concerned, very little has been achieved, as Morocco continues to refuse any concessions that would allow the independence of Western Sahara, while Algeria maintains its support for the self-determination of the Sahraouis.[2]

In addition, the quarrel between Tripoli and Nouakchott does not make the task of reinvigorating the organisation any easier. Mauritania has accused the Libyan Secret Services of being involved in a recent attempted coup against President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya. Libya has denied the accusation.[5]


Francesco Tamburini, L’Union du Maghreb Arabe, ovvero l’utopia di una organizzazione regionale africana, en "Africa", N. 3, 2008, p. 405-428

Notes and References

  1. ^ Aggad, Faten. "The Arab Maghreb Union: Will the Haemorrhage Lead to Demise?" African Insight. April 6, 2004.
  2. ^ a b c Ibid
  3. ^ Le Quotidien D’Oran. 2003. Le Maghreb en Lambeaux. 23/12/2003. p 1
  4. ^ Aggad, Faten. "The Arab Maghreb Union: Will the Haemorrhage Lead to Demise?" African Insight. April 6, 2004.
  5. ^ Le Quotidien D’Oran. 2003. La Libye Dement Avoir Finance un Plan Presume de Coup d’Etat en Mauritanie. 21 December. p 9

See also

External links



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