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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article9 February 2022Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with Moroccan Head of Government Akhannouch

Ursula von der Leyen

Dear Head of Government,

I am pleased to be here in Morocco for my first visit as President of the European Commission. I am especially pleased with the friendly and productive meeting I had with you, Mr Akhannouch.

Allow me first of all, as a friend of Morocco, to offer my condolences to the parents of little Rayan and, through you, as Head of Government, to all the people of Morocco. The entire world held its breath at the unfolding of this tragedy, in awe at the extraordinary efforts of the rescuers, in tears at its sad conclusion. We are at your side at this difficult time. And this is all the more true as Morocco is a country with which we have built a strong, close and strategic partnership.

There are historic links between us. Morocco is the European Union's leading partner on the African continent in economic and trade matters. But beyond economic links, there are, in particular, personal links. Europeans living in Morocco. Moroccans living in Europe. Our cultures have been influencing one another, enriching one another for centuries. It is with this in mind, that I would like reaffirm our commitment to further deepening those relations – as neighbours, partners and friends.

And it was clear from our conversation, Mr Akhannouch, that that commitment is shared. So it is by working together that we can build a common and ambitious vision of our partnership. We were able to discuss the many global challenges facing Morocco and Europe. To rise to those challenges, we need to find solutions together, by working together as partners.

Let me mention our main topics of common interest. We are working to develop a green partnership between Morocco and the European Union – the first one that we are developing with a partner country. This will also enable us to jointly develop greener energy. Likewise, we are working together to strengthen the connectivity of our societies, including through a broad digital partnership. Much can be done to further integrate and adapt our economies. This will benefit our businesses, their employees and all workers.

In this context, I would like to emphasise how closely we are considering the role of young people and the crucial contribution they make to advancing our societies and how mindful we are of the efforts we need to make to offer them the best possible future. That is why we place so much importance on education and culture in our bilateral cooperation.

I am delighted that the ambitious vision set out for Morocco in the New Development Model, drawn up under the direction of His Majesty the King, reflects many of our common ambitions and objectives. After all, beyond our bilateral cooperation, we are also counting on you to implement the New Agenda for the Mediterranean.

As you can see, there are a great number of topics for us to explore together. I want to continue this dialogue with you in the future, Mr Akhannouch, and to thank you for your hospitality at this first meeting.

Thank you very much.