Arab Maghreb Union

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political body created 17 february 1989, consisting of algeria, libya, mauritania, morocco, and tunisia.

Five North African states fashioned the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU; Union du Maghreb Arabe) in the image of the European Union (EU), originally intending to create a body through which members could negotiate trade relationships with the EU and improve relations among its member states. Specifically, the AMU sets out the conditions for an eventual free-trade zone among member states, a unified customs regime for extra-union trade, and a common market where people, products, and capital circulate freely.

The AMU is governed by a council made up of the heads of state of the five member states. The council meets biannually, with the chairmanship rotating annually. The union also includes a council of the ministers of foreign affairs from member states, a secretary general, and joint committees made up of the heads of various ministries, including the interior, finance, energy, tourism, and postal ministries. A judicial body made up of two magistrates from each member country serves to mediate issues between member states and advise AMU councils on matters of law.

Strained relations between Morocco and Algeria during most of the 1990s paralyzed the AMU, with Morocco claiming the Western Sahara as part of its territory while Algeria backed the Polisario Front in winning independence. The AMU's stance against Libya in the bombing of an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 also prevented further collective agreements.

The AMU has become more active as relations between Algeria and Morocco have improved and as Libya has attempted to make amends for the Locker-bie incident. Since 1999 it has established a number of joint bodies to address common concerns, including the International Organization for Migration, the Maghrebi Bank for Investment and External Trade, the Working Group on Fisheries, and the Maghrebi desertification observatory.

see also algeria; libya; mauritania; morocco; tunisia; western sahara.


Arab Maghreb Union. Available at <>.

Zoubir, Yahia H. North Africa in Transition: State, Society, and Economic Transformation in the 1990s. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999.

David Gutelius