The Accession of the Kingdom of Morocco to the Economic Community of West African States - ECOWAS

Omarou TOURE USJPB MALIBy Omorou Touré, Ph.D, Professor of Law, Faculty of Private Law University of Bamako Juridical and Political Sciences, Mali

 Introduction

In a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco issued from 24 February 2017, His Majesty King Mohamed VI informed Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia and Chairperson of the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS), the will of the Kingdom to join the Regional Economic Community as a full member (*1). This request comes further Morocco's re-adhesion to the African Union in January 2017. This is proof that Morocco intends to benefit from all the advantages associated with its dual observer status of ECOWAS and the largest investor in Africa.  This testifies the particularity of Africa as a strategic global issue and to the importance of the continent in the priorities of Morocco's foreign policy.

However, this request raises the question as to whether a State located in northern Africa can join an organization in the western region. To answer this question, the present study proposes to analyze Morocco's application for membership in the light of the texts in force in ECOWAS (I). Whatever conclusions may emerge from this analysis, it should be clear that only the Authority of Heads of State and Government can decide on the accession of new members (II).

 

I. The application of Morocco for accession in the light of the texts in force in ECOWAS

According to the Royal Communiqué, Morocco's request complies with the provisions of the founding Treaty of ECOWAS and fully complies with its membership criteria. This assertion stems from an interpretation of Article 2.2 of the revised ECOWAS Treaty which is not sufficiently explicit on these accession criteria. It is through a joint reading of this provision with others that it can be seen that these criteria relate to membership in the West African region (A) and commitment to respect for the goals, objectives and of the fundamental principles of the Community (B).

 

A. Membership in the West African region

 The request of Morocco must satisfy a geographical criterion, that of membership in the West African region. « “Region” means the «geographical zone known as West Africa as defined by Resolution CM / RES.464 (XXVI) of the OAU Council of Ministers » (*2). This Resolution, on which the Abuja Treaty (*3) is based, divides Africa into five Regional Economic Communities (RECs): West Africa (sixteen Member States), East Africa (thirteen Southern Africa (ten Member States) Central Africa (nine Member States), North Africa (five Member States) (*4). The RECs covering these regions signed the Protocol of Relations between the African Economic Community (ECA) and the RECs on 25 February 1998.

Later in September 2006, starting from the Banjul Summit in the Gambia, the African Union initiated a first rationalization of regional integration initiatives by designating ECOWAS as the only strategic framework for regionalization in West Africa .This rationalization made it possible to maintain a certain coherence with Resolution CM / RES.464 (XXVI) and the Treaty of Abuja in the face of the multiplication of groups within the existing RECs or between two or more RECs (*6).

The 1993 revised ECOWAS Treaty respects this regional delimitation (*7). According to Article 2.2 «The members of the Community, hereinafter referred to as « the Member States», are the States that ratify this Treaty». For the States that have ratified the Treaty, reference should be made to the Preamble. Francophone countries are the most numerous, with a total of eight countries, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, followed by five Anglophone States, The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and two Portuguese-speaking States: Cabo-Verde and Guinea-Bissau.

It follows that any West African State may apply to become a member of the Community, which requires that the applicant be a State and that it is a West African. Its territory must be located at least in part on the geographical space of West Africa. This requirement can be deduced from the 1975 Treaty, which states that «The Members of the Community, hereinafter referred to as" Member States ", shall be the States that ratify this Treaty and such other West African States as may accede to it " (*8). This formulation made sense in 1975 when the challenge was to extend the organization to the States that occupy the West African geographical space. On this basis, these States acceded to ECOWAS on the date of its establishment in 1975 (*9).  Enlargement only concerned Cabo Verde in 1976. ECOWAS therefore exhausted the regional geographical contours, so that the phrase "and such other West African States as may accede to it» was not included in the Revised Treaty of 1993. The withdrawal of Mauritania in 2000 revived the issue of ECOWAS enlargement to a West African State.

In the light of the foregoing, it can be said that Morocco's request does not satisfy the criterion of geographical affiliation. What about the respect of the goals, objectives and principles of ECOWAS?

 

B. Commitment to respect the Community's fundamental goals, objectives and principles

In addition to membership in the West African region, Morocco must commit itself to achieving the objectives and objectives of the Community (*10), to honoring its obligations under the Treaty and to respecting the decisions and the community. These aims and objectives, as set out in Article 3 of the revised ECOWAS Treaty, are limited to the promotion, cooperation and integration in the perspective of an economic union of West Africa with a view to raising the standard of living of its peoples, maintaining and increasing economic stability, strengthening relations between Member States and contributing to the progress and development of the African continent.

To achieve these goals and objectives, Morocco will have to support Community action, including harmonization and coordination of national policies and the promotion of programs, projects and activities in various fields. It will also adhere to the following fundamental principles: respect for the principles of a market economy, the principles of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, as well as human rights and fundamental freedoms, Regional peace and security and stability through the promotion and strengthening of good neighborly relations, respect for community cohesion, and so on (*11). .

In principle, Morocco will be able to meet this second criterion. But that will be a real challenge. In particular, its commitment is expected on certain sensitive aspects of integration policy such as immigration referred to in Article 59 of the Revised Treaty and covered by Protocol A / SP.1 / 5/79 signed in Dakar on 25 May 1979 with a view to promoting the free movement of persons who are nationals of the member countries. This is reflected in the respect of the principle of the abolition of visas, citizens' entry fees, residence and establishment, adoption of the ECOWAS passport and identity card. In this context, Morocco has regularized and integrated thousands of sub-Saharan migrants into its territory. It is a good way to prove its Africanism, especially since the country has secular ties of cooperation with West African states like Mali, Senegal and Mauritania with exemption from entry visas. In addition to immigration policy, Morocco will then commit itself to joining the Common External Tariff (TEC) in force in the West African space since January 2015, to fiscal policies with a view to adopting a common currency by 2020.

 In sum, the texts in force are not explicit on the accession of new members to ECOWAS. A comparative analysis with those of 1975 suggests that they were not designed to includein the definition of "ECOWAS Member States" States outside the West African region. However, the Heads of State and Government may decide otherwise with all the consequences that this implies.

 

II. The response of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government to Morocco's application for membership

The application for accession shall be addressed to the Authority of Heads of State and Government, which shall decide upon presentation of a report from the Commission. To do this, it has two options. The first is to accept the Moroccan request, which raises the question of the enlargement of ECOWAS (A). The second is to reject the application and propose the conclusion of a cooperation agreement (B).

 

A. The enlargement of ECOWAS

The ECOWAS Heads of State and Government is the supreme institution of the Community and “shall be responsible for the general direction and control of theCommunity and shall take all measures to ensure its progressive developmentand the realisation of its objectives” (*12) It has a real decision-making power in the areas under its jurisdiction. Under the provisions of Article 9.4 of the Revised Treaty, its acts, referred to as "decisions", are binding and enforceable against the Member States and the Community institutions, with the exception of the Court of Justice of the Community. Depending on the matters defined in a separate protocol, decisions shall be taken either unanimously or by consensus or by a two-thirds majority of the Member States (*13).

By vertue of this power, the Authority decides unanimously on the enlargement of ECOWAS to new members. Such a decision implies taking into account the cohesion of the organization (*14). Already in 1975 enlargement to other States in the West African region was worrying to the Heads of State and Government, who felt that any new accessions should make it possible to safeguard the strength and momentum of the Community enterprise without internal cohesion and dynamism (*15). It is clear that this concern persists today ECOWAS is one of the continent's most integrated communities where people are ahead of political authorities. This explains why the Member States are more focused on deepening regional integration and full ownership of the regional integration process in West Africa (*16). Therefore, any application for membership must be seriously considered.

The State in relation to which enlargement poses fewer problems is Mauritania, which withdrew from ECOWAS in 2000 to join the Arab Maghreb Union. It has opted for an association agreement with ECOWAS for the negotiation of the Regional Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union (*15). This agreement provides for Mauritania's accession to the ECOWAS Common External Tariff and its Scheme of Liberalization of Exchanges. It also provides that Mauritania accepts the provisions on liberalization of services and others the possibility of concluding a trade agreement with tariff concessions with a third party. Finally, Mauritania will have to commit itself to acceding to the ECOWAS protocol on the free movement of persons.

The expansion of ECOWAS to a North African State such as Morocco will be a first. This amounts to admitting that the geographical criterion cannot be an obstacle to accession to ECOWAS. It is sufficient for the Authority of Heads of State and Government to authorize the accession negotiations with the applicant State on the basis of its commitment to respect the fundamental aims, objectives and principles of the Community. Such a decision can only be motivated by political and economic imperatives (*18). With the accession of Morocco, ECOWAS will become the 16th world economic power before Turkey. This economic, and even political, weight will be further strengthened by the accession of Chad, which has the status of observer (*19) and possibly Tunisia (*20).

This enlargement decision logically raises the question of adapting the name of the organization to the new configuration.  Indeed, a North-West-Center Union no longer meets the criteria of the RECs defined by Resolution CM / RES.464 (XXVI) and the Treaty of Abuja. But the creation of such groupings is a phenomenon that is observed on the continent. For example, North African states such as Egypt and Libya are members of COMESA. Tunisia will join in October 2017 while Algeria has just begun accession negotiations. Other examples of groupings are provided by the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) of June 2015 between three RECs, namely the Common Market of Eastern and Southern African States (COMESA), the African Community of The Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa ( COMESA), which covers East Africa and parts of North Africa and Central Africa, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which covers the Horn of Africa and the northern part of East Africa.

This tendency to create new groupings can be doubly assessed. Negatively, it can be seen as a failure of these RECs that no longer meet the aspirations of the States parties. Positively, it is a sign of an acceleration of the establishment of the African Economic Community (*21). This can produce a ripple effect, the consequence of which is to move to a stage without having identified the obstacles and challenges of the previous one (*22). In this regard, the expansion of ECOWAS to a non-West African state is likely to be a hasty decision, with all implications unknown. The option for a cooperation agreement is then fully justified.

 

B. The conclusion of a cooperation agreement

The second option available to the Heads of State and Government is to propose to Morocco the conclusion of a cooperation agreement instead of full membership in ECOWAS. In accordance with Article 83 of the Revised Treaty specified in Additional Protocol A / SP.1 / 06/06 of 14 June 2006, the President of the Commission may conclude cooperation agreements with third countries (*23). The third country is 'a State other than a Member State' (*24). These agreements are immediately brought to the attention of the Council of Ministers through its President (*25).

The conclusion of such agreements will be based on several aspects of cooperation and will be fostered by strong political, human, historical, religious and economic ties with the ECOWAS member countries. Historically, educationally and culturally, Morocco shares with the ECOWAS Member States (*26) a civilizational legacy thanks to Islam, which has 190 million followers. The first contacts between the Muslim world and Africa date back to the eighth century thanks to the trans-Saharan trade and the quest for knowledge provided in the famous cities of Timbuktu and Djenné. Today, hundreds of West African marabouts follow training in Morocco for the spread of moderate Islam. To this must be added the thousands of students, scholars of the Moroccan State, who pursue their academic studies in Moroccan Universities and Grandes Ecoles.

Geopolitically, ECOWAS is considered as the natural geopolitical environment of Morocco, which will strengthen its position on the issue of Western Sahara. Only two countries in the region recognize the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, while all the others are clear supporters to the Kingdom. Morocco will assert its leadership thus filling the vacuum left by the Libyan guide KHADAFFI. This does not mean that Morocco will renounce its membership in the Arab League and the Arab Maghreb Union, even though during the speech delivered in Addis Ababa on January 30, King Mohammed VI considered that his flame for an Arab Maghreb Has been extinguished because faith in a common interest has disappeared. From now on, Morocco considers that the African family is its reference family.

With its status as an observer to ECOWAS, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, its membership in the Maghreb and the Sahelo-Saharan region, the Kingdom has become a key player in the stability, Peace and development in the region. He has been heavily involved in operations in the region (notably in Côte d'Ivoire) and mediation efforts to resolve conflicts (mediation in the crisis of the Mano River countries, contribution to the resolution of the serious institutional crisis in Guinea in 2009-2010 and the stabilization of Guinea Bissau ...). Morocco has also undertaken actions of solidarity with the countries of the region, particularly during the period of the Ebola pandemic, and in the face of the natural disasters that some countries have experienced.

Economically, ECOWAS is the Kingdom's best sub regional opportunity, as highlighted in the communiqué, considering that it has a process of integration of the most ambitious and more advanced on the scale of the African continent. It offers Morocco a market of 320 million consumers for a gross domestic product of 700 billion dollars. The main natural resources are oil, gold, cocoa, cotton, coffee and rubber. The economic integration of the ECOWAS countries reaches 10% for interregional trade, with the free movement of people, goods and capital. By 2015 a common external tariff has been established by nine ECOWAS countries, while great efforts have been made to harmonize the laws and regulations governing the economy.

Following 23 visits to 11 countries in the region, Morocco is in the process of realizing its desire to create a North-West African pole with the signing of several hundred agreements and the conclusion, in December 2016, of the extension of the Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline through the countries of the region. As the second largest investor in Africa after South Africa, it is the largest investor in the ECOWAS region (*27). Moroccans often organize or participate in fairs in the countries of the region, as well as B to B missions with local businessmen. Moroccan investments are quite diversified. Maroc Telecom has several African subsidiaries including Moritel (Mauritania), Onatel (Burkina Faso), Sotelma (Mali), Gabon télécom. The main Moroccan banks, Attijariwafa Bank and BMCE (through the 2009 acquisition of Bank of Africa) are present in 19 African countries. Other major national companies, such as the Addoha Group, the Sanad Holding, Management and the National Office for Water and Electricity (ONEE), are also active in many countries in West Africa and of Central Africa. Others are present in mining, construction, port management, air transport (Royal Air Maroc), etc. In more than 20 sub-Saharan countries.

 

Conclusion

It appears from the present analysis that the Kingdom of Morocco's application does not fully meet the criteria for accession to ECOWAS. The current partnership could be strengthened through the conclusion of a cooperation agreement. However, given the current context of grouping on the basis of political and economic interests, the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government may accede to this request. This implies that they have carefully studied the implications of such a decision.. Morocco is an added value to ECOWAS thanks to its political, human, historical, religious and economic ties with its member countries.

 

References
 

1. See press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco: Morocco informs the President-in-Office of ECOWAS of her
desire to join this regional group as a full member, Rabat 24.02.2017. Available online at https://www.diplomatie.ma/English/English/Language/English/tabid/136/vw/1/ItemID/14476/language/en-US/Default.aspx.

2. See Article 1 of the revised ECOWAS Treaty.

3. See Article 1 (d) of the Treaty of Abuja establishing the African Economic Community of 3 June 1991.

4. See  Resolution CM / RES.464 (XXVI) of the Council of Ministers of the OAU, 23 February to 1 March 1976, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

5. This Protocol entered into force in June 1997 and constitutes a management framework for cooperation and coordination of activities which confirms the leading role of the African Economic Community and the Organization of African Unity, which has become the African Union and That the indispensable function of the Regional Economic Communities as technical bodies in achieving the objectives of the Abuja Treaty.

6. On the multiplication of the experiences of integration in Africa, see Luc Marius Ibriga, Saïb Abou Coulibaly, Dramane Sanou, West African Community Law, Burkina Faso Law, University of Ouagadougou, U.F.R. Of Political and Juridical Sciences, November 2008, 510 p., Spec. p.43.

7.  See UN Economic Commission for Africa, «ECOWAS at 40: An Assessment of Progress Towards Regional Integration in West Africa», Addis Ababa 2016, 171p., Spec. p.104-105. Available Online at http://www.uneca.org/sites/default/files/PublicationFiles/uneca_ecowas_report_en_web.pdf.

8. See Article 2 §2 of the ECOWAS Treaty of 28 May 1975.

9. For more details on the membership and admission of ECOWAS members at the beginning of its creation, see Jean-Claude Gautron, "The Economic Community of West Africa: Antecedents and Prospects", French Yearbook International Law, Volume 21, 1975. p. 197-215, p.202-203.

10. See Article 5, §§1, 2 and 3 of the revised ECOWAS Treaty.

11. See Article 4 of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty.

12. See Article 9, § 2 of the revised ECOWAS Treaty.

13. See Article 4 of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty.

14. See Jean-Claude Gautron, "The Economic Community of West Africa, Antecedents and Prospects", French Yearbook of International Law, volume 21, 1975, p.202.

15. United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, «ECOWAS at 40: An assessment of progress towards regional integration in West Africa», Addis Ababa 2016, 171p., Spec.p.20. Available Online at
http://www.uneca.org/sites/default/files/PublicationFiles/uneca_ecowas_report_en_web.pdf.

16."Towards an association agreement Mauritania-ECOWAS (Exclusive)", Drafting Financial Afrik, September 25, 2015. Available Online at http://www.financialafrik.com/2015/09/23/vers-un-accord-
dassociation-mauritanie -this-exclusive / WLWDlm_JzIU. See also Economic Partnership Agreement, available online at http://www.ecowas.int/faire-des-affaires-da-la-cedeao/ape/?lang=en.

17. On these aspects, see below «The conclusion of a cooperation agreement».

18. Final communiqué of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, Abuja, 24 March 2011.

19. See Interview with Marcel Alain de Souza, «Opening ECOWAS in Morocco», extending the West to the North?» Available Online at: http://www.rfi.fr/emission/20170307-marcel-souza-cedea-o-maroc-
gambie-jammeh-guinee-bissau.

20. The Treaty of Abuja of 3 June 1991 establishing the African Economic Community provided that the Community will be gradually established during a transitional period of not more than thirty-four (34) years, subdivided into six (6) stages Article 6 of the Treaty.

21. For more details on the obstacles and challenges of West African integration, see ECOWAS Commission, ECOWAS Vision 2020. Towards a Democratic and Prosperous Community ", Abuja, June 2010, 40p., Spec. pp.15 and s. See also John O. Igué, «Challenges and Prospects of Regional Integration in West Africa», in ECOWAS, Symposium on Development: Moving Out of Underdevelopment: What Are New Leads for West Africa? Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) 03-05 October 2010, p.10.

22. For more details on the obstacles and challenges of West African integration, see ECOWAS Commission, ECOWAS Vision 2020. Towards a Democratic and Prosperous Community ", Abuja, June 2010, 40p., Spec. pp.15 and s. See also John O. Igué, «Défis et Perspectives de l’Intégration Régionale en Afrique de l’Ouest», in ECOWAS, Symposium on Development: Moving out of Underdevelopment: What Are New Leads for West Africa? Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) 03-05 October 2010, pp.10 and s.

23. See Article 83, § 1 of the Revised Treaty, as specified in Article 83, §3 of Additional Protocol A / SP.1 / 06/06 of 14 June 2006 amending the revised ECOWAS Treaty. The President of the Commission is in favor of such agreements, see Interview of Marcel Alain de Souza, «Opening ECOWAS to Morocco», extending the West to the North?». Available Online at: :http://www.rfi.fr/emission/20170307-
marcel-souza-cedea-o-maroc-gambie-jammeh-guinee-bissau.

24. See Article 1 of the revised ECOWAS Treaty.

25. See Article 79, §2 of the Additional Protocol A / SP.1 / 06/06 of 14 June 2006 amending the revised ECOWAS Treaty.

26. On these aspects, see Sami El Khayat, "The stakes of the African policy of Morocco", Revue Geographical Space and Moroccan Society, n ° 15, 2016, pp.65-81. See also Amine Dafir, "Moroccan Economic Diplomacy in Sub-Saharan Africa: Realities and Challenges", GeoEconomy 2012/4 (n ° 63), pp. 73-83; Bakary Sambé, "Morocco in the South of the Sahara: a strategy of influence to the test of
 geopolitical mutations", in "Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa: convergences and dynamics". Available Online at http://timbuktu-institute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/English-STRATEGIES-INFLUENCE.pdf.

27. See   Amine Dafir, «Moroccan Economic Diplomacy in Sub-Saharan Africa: Realities and Challenges», GeoEconomy 2012/4 (n ° 63), pp. 73-83, spec. p.79.

 

 

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