Morocco on Monday asked to join the European Communities, a move reflecting the North African country's concern for its farm exports to Western Europe, but the bloc's foreign ministers said Morocco is ineligible.
Ministers told reporters that the Common Market's founding Treaty of Rome allows only European states to become full members. Moroccan Foreign Minister Abdellatif Filali was informed that the Arab country thus does not qualify for membership in the 12-nation bloc.
Diplomats said Morocco's King Hassan II must have expected the negative response after being told that only European countries could join when he first extended informal feelers two years ago.
"In doing this, he (Hassan) wanted to express the importance he attaches to relations with the EC and a desire to receive specific treatment from the communities," an official of the bloc said.
Diplomats said the application could be aimed at winning concessions for Rabat in tough talks on the terms of a new economic cooperation accord with the bloc.
The Common Market is Morocco's most important trading partner, taking over half its exports, and it is a major source of development and food aid.
But Morocco fears that its agricultural sales to the Common Market will suffer as Spain and Portugal, which joined the bloc at the start of last year, gain an increasing foothold in those markets.