18th Plenary Session of the Congress
Strasbourg, 17 March 2010
Rachid Sassy: “Morocco is counting on the support of the Congress as a benchmark for local and regional government models”
Rachid Sassy, Vice-President of the Municipality of Rabat (Morocco), addressed Congress members during the debate on the launch of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) and the role of the Congress. In an interview, he explains the key issues for Morocco in the dialogue with its European partners. His country, which is currently co-chairing ARLEM, has also proposed that Rabat be a pilot city in the application of European local democracy standards.
Question: Morocco is Co-Chair of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), which was launched in January. What do you expect from this new body?
Rachid Sassy: The partnership between Morocco and Europe is marked by increasing and varied involvement of all Moroccan governmental and parliamentary players, local and regional democracy stakeholders and also civil society. The award by the EU of advanced status to Morocco in 2008 has speeded up the process of establishing closer ties with both the European Union and the Council of Europe. The unique nature of Morocco’s involvement in the Euro-Mediterranean region led to its obtaining the co-chairmanship of ARLEM, in the person of the President of Taza-Hoceima-Taounate Region in the north of the country.
Naturally, we expect the new assembly to ensure that the values of democracy, human rights, peace and tolerance prevail in the region. We also expect the transfer of expertise and know-how in the area of good governance and the participatory approach. Morocco, a country very close to Europe, has chosen modernity, openness and a strong commitment to peace and tolerance, as well as cultural dialogue; through ARLEM, we expect support and backing for activities to establish closer ties between Morocco, the Mediterranean countries and Europe with a view to implementing values which are shared, at least by my country and Europe.
Question: A huge project has just been started in Morocco concerning regionalisation, with the establishment of a consultative committee. How can the Congress’ expertise be of assistance to you?
Rachid Sassy: Morocco is promoting a new form of local and regional governance, with the establishment of a consultative committee tasked with considering an advanced regionalisation model for the country. A corresponding report is due to be submitted at the end of 2010 following various consultation processes. In this connection, we appreciate the support and backing of the Congress, in particular as a benchmark of member countries’ local and regional experiences and models in this area. Following adaptation to Morocco’s specific cultural features and economic and social constraints, these experiences can clearly make a contribution to the development of a Moroccan model that is in line with the values shared with Europe.
The regionalisation reform in Morocco is a major national concern, which explains the ongoing debate about the matter among all the key players in the country. Moroccan leaders are fascinated by the achievements of regional governance models, especially in Europe. We therefore expect a lot from the Council of Europe Congress.
Question: The Congress was involved in the establishment in 2002 of the national association of local authorities in Morocco. What impact has the establishment of this association had on Moroccan local governance and what is its position today?
Rachid Sassy: The Congress was indeed involved in the establishment in 2002 of the national association of Moroccan local authorities. The aim of the association was to provide a forum for exchanges of ideas, transfers of know-how, diversified co-operation and training. It has already carried out several activities, in particular in terms of contributing to improvements in the legislation on local democracy and of holding a number of seminars, and it is due to boost its presence in the local and regional landscape. We hope that the new councillors elected in June 2009, recognising the challenges in the field of local democracy, will give greater impetus to the association’s activities and will mobilise skills and goodwill so as to meet the expectations of the stakeholders in local and regional democracy in the country, as well as those of our national and international partners.