Discovering economic opportunities in Mediterranean Countries: an Italian Governmental Mission in Morocco

  • 22 October 2014

On October 21st, 2014 was held on in Morocco a mission organized by the Ministries of Economic Development and Foreign Affairs, Confindustria, Real Ice, Abi, Rete Imprese Italia and Union-camere. The delegation was composed by the Deputy Minister of Economic Development (Carlo Calenda), and by 160 entrepreneurs, 70 companies and 7 banking groups.

According with this aim, the investment plans that the Moroccan government has recently launched become very important. In fact, Moroccan Government decided to cover investments of 10 billion Euros in the next five years for highways, railways, and infrastructure. This amount is intended to boost the tourism sector, school construction and to complete the construction of 800 000 new housing units.

In agricultural field (which accounts for 15% of GDP) Morocco has embarked on a program to modernize the cultivation of the land and the conservation sector. This opens up large areas of our exporting companies of agricultural machinery, systems, storage and processing of the products.

With regard to the automotive sector – before heading Moroccan exports, thanks to the two Renault factories and related industries – the Rabat government announced the creation of a fund of € 1.8 billion as incentives for enterprises that installed in Morocco and form the local staff.

Ultimately, as far as health care system concerns, the goal over the next five years is to double the number of beds in the country.

The spokesman of the delegation -Carlo Calenda- has repeatedly stated that Italian companies have to implement long-term strategies in a small number of foreign countries (including Morocco) in order to focus energy and resources.

Calenda, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, met with the Moroccan Prime Minister, the Ministers of Agriculture, Infrastructure and Energy. In addition, with the Moroccan government had established “a series of detailed action plan aimed, sector by sector.” Agreed the first phase will last eighteen months, at its term will be carried out a review of the work done. The economic sector in Morocco, after the constitutional reform of 2011, it is now very open and gives full guarantees to foreign investors, as pointed out by the Italian Ambassador Roberto Natali.

Calenda indicated to the Moroccan government the excellent partnership opportunities between the two systems business, based both on small and medium enterprises, and asked to “protect SMEs will invest” to bring forth in full each potential collaboration.

The economic Moroccan is sufficiently encouraging. In fact, before the crisis, Morocco was able to set levels of growth on a quarterly basis even 14 percent. In 2009 there was a sharp downturn, with the worst period represented by the two tips of the Arab uprisings – 2010 and 2012 – but always with growth of more than 2%. The economic growth forecast of the World Bank stood at 3.6% for 2014 and 4.7% for next year. UNCTAD also noted that in 2013, while in the entire North Africa foreign investment came down by 1.8%, Rabat received a capital of $ 3.5 billion, an increase of 24% compared to ‘the previous year.

The economic liberalization and openness to trade began in the early twenty-first century. At the same time, the reference rate of the Moroccan Central Bank has been halved, from 6% in 1999, to the current 3% – and for ten years does not rise above 3.5 per cent. With this system, the economy has suffered a sudden acceleration, driven mainly by exports, tripled in the past decade to more than $ 22 billion. Morocco also boasts the minimum wage of 300 Euros per month (plus EUR 100 for social security contributions), inflation of 1.9% and a degree of openness to international trade: the FTA with the United States (in force since 2005) agreement on liberalization with the EU, which for two years allows zero duty on agricultural and industrial products exported by EU countries.

Silvia Giuffrida, director of the ICE office in Casablanca said that “the difference of Morocco was represented by the far-sighted policy of the king, the young Mohammed IV. Have been defined development plans that focus on different sectors of the economy and society, with long-term prospects. In addition, Morocco has opened strongly in international trade, with a free trade agreement with the United States, and an arrangement of “association” with the European Union, in force since 2000 “.

The prescription of deficit spending has allowed Morocco to survive the toughest avoiding the downward spiral of the global economic crisis. The investments made by the government, of course, led to the increase of the budget deficit, which in the second quarter of 2012, the balance of public finances Moroccan was 7.6 percent and the national debt has risen from 48% of GDP in 2010 (and it was down to four years) to 56% in 2013. But Morocco has not emerged unscathed from the crisis. The level of growth achieved in the second quarter of 2013, 4.8%, is comparable to that of 2009, but then the state budget was in surplus (+ 1.2%) and the reference rate of the central bank was slightly higher.

From Italy, Morocco imports mainly machinery and petroleum products, and, to date, our country is in sixth place in the ranking of exporters. “Italy is underrepresented in Morocco – says the Deputy Minister Calenda – both from the point of view of our exports (1.5 billion Euros in 2013, the lowest among all the countries of North Africa) that investment. The political stability of this country than the turbulent North African area makes it a market to which to direct our attention in the years to come. Trade with Italy in 2013, totaled 2.18 billion Euros. Despite an increase of 12%, has not yet reached the pre-crisis level (2.29 billion euro in 2008)”.

The Italian companies are more than a hundred. “For foreign investors, said the Italian ambassador in Rabat, Roberto Natali, following the amendments to the Constitution of 2011, the environment is favorable, there are no restrictions.” From the fiscal point of view there are a number of benefits, particularly for the automotive industry that Morocco wants to develop. Good relations with the banking system available to businesses, said Guido Rosa, chairman of internationalization of ABI, there is a limit of 900 million, only used for a quarter. Even among the local Confindustria, CGEM, and there are reports that Italian for years.






European migration policy: the cases of Ceuta and Melilla, Spanish cities in Morocco

  • 21 October 2014

The cities of Ceuta and Melilla, which have respectively 74,000 people in 19 square kilometers and 68,000 in 12.3 square kilometers, are located in the northern coast of Morocco, but they are Spanish territory since the fifteenth century. These autonomous cities (as far as concerned both legislative and many executive aspects) are under pressure of thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, who, dreaming Europe, venture into perilous journeys through Morocco to the two Spanish enclaves.

Precisely because of that migration pressure the two Spanish enclaves in Morocco are protected around the perimeter border by a double barrier of wire mesh, highs six meters, costing 140 million European, invested in 15 years.

In recent years, as a result of attempts to attack the protective barriers of the city, the Moroccan and Spanish security forces have put in place strong measures to clamp down on illegal immigrants. Besides, Civil Guard officers monitor day and night passes by land as well as those by sea.

It is estimated that in the last decade the influx of migrants managed to enter Ceuta and Melilla was 28,000 people. According to sources, the local prefecture, in fact, the migratory pressure in Melilla in 2014 has doubled since 2013. The migrant objective is to arrive at the center of temporary residence for immigrants. The means they use ranging from assault to fences, travel on boats or concealed in false bottoms of vehicles or in propellers of the ferry crossing the Strait of Gibraltar.

The Spanish government has announced plans to amend the legislation to control the huge influx of migrants at the borders of Ceuta and Melilla, in order to legalize returns ‘hot’, that are immediate, the Moroccan authorities against illegal immigrants who manage to climb over the barrier border. To this end, it was an amendment to the law of citizen security, currently before Parliament, for a change in the law relating to aliens.

The change in law provides for an action protocol, drawn up by the Interior Ministry, which provides a continuous alarm, with the continuous surveillance of borders, in cooperation with the Moroccan authorities to intercept as soon as the mass arrival of immigrants. They will be hindered attempts to climb, following the principles laid down by law, for which agents will provide help and protect the physical integrity of migrants, informing them of the causes and purposes of any arrest. The legislation also provides for the use of officers in riot gear, in the event that migrants adopt violent attitudes, but always respecting the principles of opportunity, congruence and proportionality. And agents will be required to call the health care services in the event that any of the illegal showing wounded. The migrants who manage to cross the border and that will be intercepted by the security forces to be transferred to the police station, where they will be identified and registered.

In addition, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concern about the situation on the borders of Ceuta and Melilla “because the number of incidents related to border control may prevent persons in need of international protection access to Spanish territory and to the asylum procedure.”

For this reason, UNHCR is paying particular attention to the various news and recent reports of expulsions and other difficulties faced by people in need of international protection in an effort to reach Spanish territory. “We understand very well the legitimate concerns of governments that want to protect and monitor their borders, as well as the complexity involved in being a national border and at the same time an external border of the European Union, as in the case of Ceuta and Melilla, the only two land borders with Africa, “said Francesca Friz-Prguda, UNHCR’s representative in Spain.”While we understand the complexity of the situation, it is essential to manage the borders and mixed migration flows in harmony with the fundamental rights of national and European legislation and international treaties to which Spain is a party, in particular the 1951 Convention on the Status of refugees”, said Friz-Prguda.

UNHCR has offered its full support to the authorities in order to improve international protection and the asylum system in the two Spanish cities, providing a number of specific recommendations and, to that end; he is engaged in a constant dialogue with the relevant authorities. “We have to work, and we are working together to restore the confidence of people in need of international protection in the asylum system in Ceuta and Melilla. In addition to safe territory and to the asylum procedure, it is essential to have an environment free of violence and where fundamental rights are respected, “he added Friz-Prguda.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch published on 10 February, the police in Spain are “a disproportionate use of force at the time of the summary expulsion”, while on the other side of the wall, “the Moroccan police is used to accommodate those who do not got through the fence with sticks and batons, beatings while migrants are frequently deprived of their property.”Speaking of rejections – made without any real knowledge of the situation of those who have faced and may be potential political refugees and persecuted in their countries of origin – the NGO is categorical, “as well as prevent any possible claim for asylum or humanitarian protection , expulsions happen to a country – Morocco – that deliberately violate the rights of these people. Spain is aware of the situation, already documented by other organizations such as Medecins sans Frontieres, and must immediately stop this practice. “Although the Spanish government has ensured that such incidents are only the exception and not the rule, Madrid is far from being oriented towards a climate of detente with respect to migrants. Quite the contrary has among its plans at a cost of 2.3 million Euros which will fortify the borders that divide the Spanish territories from those Moroccans, with a series of measures aimed at improving the ‘buffer capacity’ fences coating them with a metal mesh which, according to the Minister of the Interior -.Jorge Fernández Díaz – “prevents anyone from climbing.”

Also, as if you were fighting a war, there are reinforcements to the team of the Civil Guard present in the two enclaves, which will be equipped with a helicopter to fly all along the coast and watch towers equipped with cameras sensitive to heat.

Meanwhile, in addition to not wanting to release anywhere near the iron fist, Spain has called for economic aid to Brussels just to deal with what Fernández Díaz defined as an “emergency situation.”

The European Union itself has asked Spain to strengthen police checks at the borders of Ceuta and Melilla, in order to prevent the possible entry of jihadists. Madrid will train officers because “they can identify terrorist elements” in order to avoid that the four terrorists come across the borders of the Spanish enclaves might increase.

The European Commission, in fact, taking into account migratory pressure resulting from the Arab Spring, then presented a number of initiatives aimed at developing a comprehensive European migration policy, which can better meet the challenges posed by migration. This policy must comply with the European tradition of asylum and protection, while avoiding the illegal border crossings. The Global Approach to Migration and Mobility is, as of 2005, the overall picture of EU external policy on migration and asylum, and defines the way in which the Union shall conduct political dialogue and operational cooperation with third countries. It is based on clearly defined priorities, which reflect the strategic objectives of the EU, and is integrated in the overall foreign policy of the Union, including development cooperation.

The purpose of the comprehensive approach is to promote dialogue and cooperation with third country partners in four areas: better organize legal migration and mobility promote a well-managed; prevent and combat irregular migration and eradicate trafficking in human beings; to maximize the impact of migration on development; promoting international protection and enhancing the external dimension of asylum.

The implementation of the Global Political dialogue takes place through regional and bilateral (with policy tools such as mobility partnerships), legal instruments such as agreements on visa facilitation and readmission agreements, forms of operational support and development capabilities, and a wide range of initiatives to support programs and projects (open to a variety of stakeholders including civil society, migrant associations and international organizations).

“A well managed migration offers real benefits to all parties involved both for migrants to countries. Our success depends heavily on dialogue and cooperation with third countries and international organizations. The mobility partnerships, agreements the facilitation of issuance of visas accompanied by readmission agreements, and the common rules on visas remain important policy tools, but we have to work even harder to promote economic growth and competitiveness and to address together with third countries the problematic aspects of the migration, such as trafficking in human beings and smuggling, “said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.

With regard to the control at the external borders of the EU, EU action must be effective and allow you to maintain a high level of security, while facilitating the movement of persons authorized to enter the EU. The Commission intends to reinforce the existing common standards. It provides, inter alia, to create a European system of border guards. The Commission also insists on strengthening cooperation between national authorities and the exchange of operational information about any incident at the external borders, in particular thanks to the EUROSUR. Should also be strengthened operational capacity of Frontex.

The evaluation of the application of the Schengen rules by the Member States must take place at the EU level, with the participation of experts from Member States and Frontex, directed by the Commission. The latter is also planning to establish a mechanism to decide, at European level, the reintroduction exceptionally of internal border controls.

Finally, to prevent illegal immigration, the Commission stresses the need for a European return policy (return to their country of illegal immigrants who have no need of international protection) balanced and efficient. The Commission insists that all Member States to transpose the Directive into their national law the “return” on common standards and procedures for the return of illegal immigrants, and the directive sanctioning the employment of illegally staying third-country nationals. Finally, recognizing the effectiveness of readmission agreements with third countries, but believes that such agreements should be considered as part of the EU’s overall relations with the countries concerned and accompanied by incentives that help countries implement them.

The Commission calls for better mobility organized based on cooperation (between European agencies Frontex and Europol and between customs authorities and national police) as well as on new technologies. A European system input / output ensure that the data relating to border crossing by citizens of third countries are available for the relevant authorities. A registered traveler program would, however, automated border control for those who travel frequently.

Also the visa policy is an important tool in terms of mobility. To prevent any abuse in the area of visa liberalization, the Commission proposes to introduce a safeguard clause that would allow the temporary reintroduction of the visa requirement for nationals of a third country.

At the same time, the Union recognizes that immigrants are a labor required for the EU, both to meet the shortages of workers in certain sectors such as highly skilled workforce. It is therefore important to recognize their skills and facilitate administrative procedures. The Commission expects progress on the project for a single permit authorizing foreigners to live and work in a Member State, and calls on EU countries to transpose the Directive into their national legislation the European blue card which would facilitate the recruitment of highly qualified people. He also submitted proposals for seasonal workers and persons temporarily transferred by their company.

Finally, the integration of migrants into European society must be a balance between respecting the rights of migrants and the laws and cultures of the host country. It requires effort on the part of both migrants and the host country. Successful integration is essential to maximize the economic, social and cultural benefits of immigration of people and society.










European Arab Strategic Partnership: the Ansa-Al Ahram Conference in Egypt

  • 17 October 2014

The Ansa-Al Ahram Conference on the Euro-Mediterranean partnership (“European Arab Strategic Partnership”), held on October 16th in Cairo, had as its main objective the need to intensify dialogue and trade cooperation between Europe and the Arab world, and in particular between Italy and the new Egypt. Europe and the Arab world must indeed be at the forefront in the fight against terrorism and human trafficking; but also know how to take the opportunity of the changed regional policy framework to start a new season of growing political, economic and social.

“Rome and Cairo should take the opportunity in this historic moment and invest in the future of the two countries linked by deep relationships,” said the CEO of ANSA Giuseppe Cerbone. “Reports cultural, economic and the issue of immigration must be at the center of bilateral relations,” he added.

“We are crossing a critical moment in the history of the region and between the two shores of the Mediterranean,” noted the general manager of Al Ahram, Mohamed Sabreen. “Libya, Syria, Iraq, the Isis: it’s time to come together to figure out how to ensure stability,” he added.

“The winds of war and images of the tragedies of immigration, said the Vice President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, wake us up every day”, with news coming mainly from the Mediterranean. “This news requires Europe to change many attitudes.” So far “Europe has looked to the north, east,” now must focus “on its Mediterranean vocation”. The EU and the Arab world may have a common view on global issues, both on the economic and social.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab reassured Europeans Egyptian political climate, inviting tourists to return to the country and criticizing both the Isis is the jihadist formations active in North Sinai and neighboring Libya: “Terrorism has no leaders, no religions, no borders- said Mahlab-. It is difficult, but we can defend ourselves from terrorism”.

The Italian Ambassador in Egypt, Maurizio Massari, observing the changes in the Arab world as they grow internally, pointed out that after the Arab Spring “the regional framework has completely changed”. Now there is an emergency terrorism and security, but there are also many opportunities for investment. An effort should be “a more human exchanges between the two shores of the Mediterranean, people to people, just to create a connective tissue that can lead to greater stabilization of the area”, finished the Italian ambassador.

Egypt has recently regained political and social stability, making it possible to return to the role of secure reference for the region. A sure reference under different perspectives: not least as a hub for commercial production of this region.

This perspective can become an opportunity that our companies are called to grasp. Italy, today, boasts a major presence in Egypt and articulates, but it must undoubtedly increase, allowing the Italian SMEs to find new markets and profit margins in a difficult time like the present.

Italy, in fact, with trade of about EUR 6 billion, is the first commercial partner among European countries (third overall, after China and the United States) and, given the more important and significant, Egypt is the first country customer, buying about a tenth of the entire Egyptian exports.

The data from January to June 2014 confirm this performance. Italy exported to Egypt – in the first six months of 2014 – 375 million euro of industrial machines (28% of the total), Euro 96 million chemical products (7% of the total), Euro 90 million motors and transformers electric (6.8% of the total).

Italian imports from Egypt have the same importance. In the first 6 months of 2014, Italy imported from Egypt Euro 146 million of chemicals products (11% of the total), Euro 113 million of metal products (8.5% of the total), Euro 60 million of agricultural products (4, 5% of the total).