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The European Union and Morocco Relations


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The European Union and Morocco Relations

  1. 1. Author: Ece DINCASLANThe European Union and Morocco Relations After a decade of reforms through modernization, liberalization and relativedemocratization, the European Union (EU) granted Morocco “advanced status” on October2008. However, what does advanced status suggest is not clear. Does the EU give Morocco a fullmembership status? Answer to this question is a direct no, but other questions are harder torespond. Is the status of Morocco actually advanced for the EU, or is it just a gesture of the EU toapplause the reforms of Morocco? In addition to vagueness of the current situation, the future isnot clear either. To what extend advanced status will bring further integration of Morocco to theEU? Will this lead to a full membership, or at least accession to the common market? Or doesadvanced status not suggest any significant meaning for further integration? In order to answerthese questions, the paper analyzes the history of Morocco – EU relations, reviews the currentliterature in order to formulate the present developments, and tries to conceptualize the nature ofthe relations to predict the possible outcomes for the future. Special emphasis is given toMoroccan internal political structure since it plays a key role for EU – Morocco relations. Inaddition, the attitude of the EU towards Morocco is also essential. A strong comprehension ofthe Moroccan political structure and the responses of the EU is necessary to understand theintegration of Morocco to Europe. However, the paper first addresses the importance of theissue, and why and how the integration process develops, in order to build a strong informationalbackground. The relationship of the EU and Morocco is particularly important for the Europeanstudies because geographically Morocco is a very close neighbor of the EU and a Mediterraneanstate, which make it a part of both the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and the European-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) (Baracani, 2005). Furthermore, the case of Morocco providesa significant example for the EU, since promotion of democracy and human rights are importantaspects of the foreign policy of the EU (Haddadi, 2003, p. 74). After a series of political reformsinitiated by the King Mohammed VI and directly supported by the EU, Morocco‟s progress ondemocracy and human rights surpassed the regional standards (Kausch, 2009). Thus, Moroccoeventually became “a pioneer in the ENP” and the advanced status is granted in October 2008(Akgul, 2010). Therefore, Morocco is a test for the EU to examine its influential strength and
  2. 2. strategies, as well as a platform to illustrate its democratizing effect. Every step of Moroccotowards democracy and human rights is a credit for the EU since the EU directly backs up theMoroccan reforms. In short, Morocco can be a success story of the EU, and a showcase todemonstrate its “transformative power” (Behr, 2010). The major factor which leads to the further integration of Morocco to the EU is, as statedabove, Morocco‟s geographical location. In addition to the short distance between Morocco andSpain -Spain shores can be seen from the coasts of Morocco (Kausch, 2009), Spain holds twosmall territories, Ceuta and Melilla on the south of the Gibraltar Strait (Migdalovitz, 2010). Thusthis geographical intimacy causes crucial issues such as illegal immigration and drug trafficking(Migdalovitz, 2010), security and terrorism (Haddadi, 2003), free trade, fisheries, transportationand energy transition (Kausch, 2009). Because of these important issues, Morocco and the EUfound themselves obligated to cooperate and to develop a strong relationship. Moreover, both theEU and Morocco have further incentives. The EU is the Morocco‟s major trading partner; almost60% of Morocco‟s total trade is with the EU (European Commission, 2010). In 2007, the EUexported €15.1 billion worth products and services to Morocco (European Commission, 2010).This close trade relations consequently lead to further integration of Morocco to the EU. Although the integration process has taken a major course after the inauguration of KingMohammed VI, his predecessor Hassan II applied to the European Communities (precedinginstitution) for accession decades earlier, in 1987. However, the application was turned down onthe basis that Morocco is not considered European (Akgul, 2010). King Hassan II initiated apolitical reform process in 1992 but major reforms took place under his successor KingMohammed VI. Consequently, relationship between the EU and Morocco escalatedtremendously due to liberalization of Morocco through reforms (Kausch, 2009). Moreover, theEU launched the ENP in 2003 in order to enhance “stability, security and well being” andprevent “the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged Union and its neighbors”(Baracani, 2005, p. 6). The ENP targets to develop strong ties with the states who are not offeredfull membership incentives. (Baracani, 2005). In this respect, European Commission PresidentRomano Prodi promised “sharing everything but institutions” to the ENP states (Prodi, 2002). AsChilosi states; “the promise refers to the possibility for neighbours to have the same treatmentand economic advantages of EU membership, except the participation in EU institutions”
  3. 3. (Chilosi, 2006, p. 2). Thus, the ENP brought Moroccan – EU relations to a new dimension. Theposition of Morocco was enhanced as an ENP country. Morocco is the first country in the regionto conclude the Action Plan with the EU on 2005 (Kausch, 2009). In addition, Morocco is also inthe EMP; a party to Agadir Agreement and an important member of the “Euromed process”which seeks to establish a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area (European Commission, 2010).European Commission defines the aim of the EU and Morocco as to establish “a close economicrelationship that is more than association, less than accession” (European Commission, 2010).This integration process consequently led the EU to grant „advanced status‟ under the frameworkof ENP to Morocco in October 2008 (Kausch, 2009). The close relationship between the EU andMorocco reached a new peak with the Granada Summit in March 2010. The joint statement ofthe EU and Morocco underlines the importance of the summit: “This summit between the EU and Morocco constitutes an unprecedented event for both parties. … It bears witness to the pioneering and distinctive nature of the EU-Morocco partnership. It illustrates the degree of maturity and confidence attained in the political dialogue and highlights the strategic importance of the EU- Morocco partnership” (Council of The European Union, 2010, p. 1). As stated above, the political structure of Morocco plays a crucial role on its relationswith the EU since promotion of democracy and human rights are integral parts of EU‟s foreignpolicy (Haddadi, 2003). This nature of the EU-Morocco relations is also significant in the JointStatement of Granada Summit: “The EU and Morocco reaffirmed their attachment to respect forand protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the consolidationof the rule of law, democracy and good governance, which are one of the fundamental pillars ofthe EU-Morocco partnership” (Council of The European Union, 2010, p. 5). After severalreforms influenced from the EU and its member states, Morocco emerged as “a shiningexample” among Arab countries, and its level of political liberalism is distinctive in the region(Kausch, 2009, pp. 165-166) Thus, its peculiar status in the region contributed to the Morocco-EU relations (Kausch, 2009, p. 169). However, reform process is still controversial, as scholarsunderline that Morocco‟s current ambition for democratization has not reached to an absolutelevel since achievements indicate relative regional successes rather than “irreversible” stepstowards “genuine democracy” (Haddadi, 2003; Kausch, 2009, p. 166). One of the most important reformation step was the establishment of Equity andReconciliation Commission (IER) to investigate human rights violations between 1956 and 1999
  4. 4. (Kausch, 2009). Additional projects to compensate the victims of human rights violations (e.g.disappearances) conducted such as EU backed MEDA Democracy Programme (MDP) (Haddadi,2002). Even compensation was a starting step, it was not sufficient: “Though compensation wasgranted in hundreds of cases, the issue still occupies centre stage as some victims and theirfamilies ask for truth and justice as the only way of achieving settlement and reconciliation”(Haddadi, 2003, p. 77). Nevertheless, these improvements are still important since it shows anambition to promote human rights. In addition to IER, several other reforms were also important such as a comprehensiverevision of the civil personal code (mudawanna), decentralization steps by the establishment of“super walis”, “granting official recognition to the Berber language as part of the Moroccancultural identity and future integration in the school system” (Haddadi, 2003, p. 76), legislationabout torture, and “the opening of the political space for political parties” (Kausch, 2009, p. 167).In 2002, Morocco witnessed so-called the first free and fair elections. In 2007, internationalobservers as well as observers of NGO‟s admitted to monitor the elections for the first time inMorocco history (Kausch, 2009). The election of 2007 is celebrated by important political actorsof the EU such as the Portuguese EU Presidency, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel AngelMoratinos and Nicolas Sarkozy (Kausch, 2009). Even though the 2007 elections metinternational standards, “only 37% of the voters turned out and 19% cast blank ballots, reflectingwidespread disillusionment with the political process and popular understanding of thepowerlessness of the legislature” (Migdalovitz, 2010, p. 1). Furthermore, the EuropeanCommission underlined that “the low voter turnout might be an indicator that voters do not seetheir votes translated into meaningful change” (Kausch, 2009, p. 172). The political space for the political parties, indeed, is very narrow in Morocco. Althoughthere were elections in 2007 which met international standards, the real power is still in thehands of the Monarchy and its surrounding elite, the Makhzen: “The powers are distinguished in law and discourse, but in practice there is neither separation nor balance of powers, with the palace-led executive exerting leading influence over the legislature and judiciary. Government and parliament execute the will of the Makhzen rather than the will of the electorate. The King presides over the Council of Ministers and appoints the government as well as high officials in strategically important ministries (interior, foreign affairs, defence, and religion). Royal counsellors, loyal technocrats of the King’s personal entourage, are the true decision makers in the ministries. At the local level, the regional governors (Walis), usually close to the palace, take all significant decisions. The King also approves and adopts legislation, can rule by decree and can veto any parliamentary or governmental decision. Political
  5. 5. parties have so far been too weak to provide meaningful political alternatives. The lack of independence of the highly corrupt judiciary and the gap between legal provisions and their practical use undermine the practical value of many legal reforms. In short, decision-making power on significant political change does not lie in the hands of elected individuals and institutions, and a separation of powers, both institutionally and in terms of political practice, is not even under consideration” (Kausch, 2009, p. 168). Even the reforms were conducted as royal initiatives and introduced a “new conceptauthority” rather than spontaneous steps to a genuine democracy (Haddadi, 2003, p. 76). In thissense, reforms mostly introduced a fast political liberalization whereas democratization processwas, in fact, very slow (Haddadi, 2003, p. 77). In addition Kausch suggests that “the switch fromopen repression to a semi-authoritarianism with formally democratic structures and discourse inMorocco … suggests that incumbent regimes increasingly see open repression as less sustainablethan making concessions to liberalism as a way to retain power and privileges” (2009, p. 170). Both Haddadi and Kausch underlines the EU‟s soft response to Morocco‟s dedication toconserve the very nature of its political structure. In a nutshell, the EU focuses on theachievements of Morocco while neglecting the authoritarian political structure, and it does notpush for further reforms and steps towards genuine democracy and human rights, but settle withwhat Morocco‟s Monarch and political elite presents. Haddadi states that the EU‟s policy isneither imposing nor demanding but “too cautious, worried about upsetting the government andpersistent in its attitude of „change within continuity” (2003, p. 87). Furthermore he warns that“such a slow attitude towards promoting democracy in Morocco might risk discreditingdemocratization itself in the eyes of the population” (2003, p. 87). Kausch asserts that “bothdiscourse and action suggest that European policies towards Morocco do not aspire to back fullpolitical freedom and genuine democracy in Morocco” (2009, p. 175). In addition, Kauschcriticizes the EU‟s response as “applause policy” which “creates a distorted image of what theEU perceives as the reality of Moroccan political life, thereby indirectly bolstering the rulingelite and weakening the position of Moroccan democracy activists” (2009, p. 172). Ivan Martin is skeptical on the advanced status of Morocco (2009). In his selfexplanatorily titled article “EU-Morocco Relations: How Advanced is the „Advanced Status‟” heclaims that “the Advanced Status does not introduce any novelty” (2009, p. 241). Furthermore,he adds that the advanced status does not suggest “a clear legal status” either (2009, p. 243).Martin underlines the lack of rules and guidelines, and the vagueness of the concepts such as „anincreasingly close and mutually beneficial partnership” (2009, p. 244). Hence the relations have
  6. 6. not been building on concrete guidelines and legally binding frameworks but ad hocarrangements. Moreover, the status of Morocco may be „advanced‟ in rhetoric, but in reality theposition of Israel and other ENP states under „Eastern Partnership‟ are far more advanced thanMorocco since their relations are conducted by the European Council (Morocco-EU relations arehandled through Association Council) and based on concrete guidelines and legal frameworks(Martin, 2009, p. 243). In addition, the „Eastern Partnership‟ set „full visa liberation‟ and „labormobility‟ goals which are omitted for Morocco (Martin, 2009, p. 243). Although Behr is morehopeful than Martin, he also underlines the possibility of advanced status turning into “justanother empty bureaucratic shell” (2010). In conclusion, Morocco‟s current political structure is far from the EU norms eventhough its performance is outstanding in regional standards. It is true that relationship betweenthe EU and Morocco has been gradually escalating, but we can not talk about a genuineintegration so far, and it is not prospected even in the long term. Integration will not go beyond aFTA, the EU funding to Morocco, collaboration in the foreign policy and some gestures ofpositive intent such as current observer status of Morocco in the EU institutions, technical andfinancial cooperation, participation of Morocco in EU programmes and the EU-Morocco JointParliamentary Committee foreseen in the Granada Summit (Council of The European Union,2010, pp. 8-9). Accession of Morocco to the customs union with common external tariff policyor the common market with free flow of capital and labor is as unlikely as the full membership.In short, the close relationship between the EU and Morocco refers to a relative case; beingcloser than other regional actors rather than an absolute closeness, and advanced status does notnecessarily indicate advancement but a gesture for the reforms of Morocco.
  7. 7. BibliographyAkgul, A. (2010, March 8). Barroso: ‘The Morocco-EU Summit Is an Unprecedented Event’ . RetrievedApril 14, 2010, from The Journal of Turkish Weekly:, E. (2005, June 16-18). From the EMP to the ENP: A new European pressure fordemocratization? The case of Morocco. Florence: The Centre for the Study of European Politics andSociety.Behr, T. (2010, March 9). EU-Morocco Summit: How Special a Friendship? Retrieved April 15, 2010, fromThe Finnish Institute of International Affairs:, Alberto (2006): The European Union and its neighbours: "Everything but institutions"?Unpublished: of The European Union. (2010, March 7). Joint Statement European Union-Morocco SummitGranada, 7 March 2010 (7220/10 (Presse 54)) . Brussels, Belgieum: Council of The European Union.European Commission. (2010, March). The EU and Morocco. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from BilateralRelations: Morocco:, S. (2003). The EMP and Morocco: Diverging Political Agendas? Mediterranean Politics , 8 (2),73-89.Haddadi, S. (2002). Two Cheers for Whom? The European Union and Democratization in.Democratization , 9 (1), 149-169.Kausch, K. (2009). The European Union and Political Reform in Morocco. Mediterranean Politics , 14 (2),165-179.Martin, I. (2009). EU-Morocco Relations: How Advanced is the Advanced Status? Mediterranean Politics, 14 (2), 239-245.Migdalovitz, C. (2010). Morocco: Current Issues. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.Prodi, R. (2002, December 06). Europa - Press Releases. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from Peace, SecurityAnd Stability International Dialogue and the Role of the EU: