Hussein Majdoubi: Is Morocco ready to divorce the EU yet?


The marriage of convenience between Morocco and the EU is becoming strained, in light of recent corruption scandals and the new tone which the EU takes with Rabat. If it is really time for a separation, who could be Morocco’s new partner though?


In light of the European Parliament’s condemnation of Morocco in the human rights file, mainly the three journalists Taoufik Bouachrine, Suleiman Raissouni and Omar Radi on January 19, 2023, voices rose in Morocco attributing this “punishment” or “narrowing” to what they consider a reaction to Morocco’s diversification of its partners in the international arena, especially its reliance on China, the United States and Israel, and its expansion in Africa. The question remains, is Morocco really capable of finding an alternative to the European Union now, and in the coming years? Will these countries become Morocco’s strategic partner in the future?

The paradox remains that, in response to the violent criticism of the Moroccan parliament against its European counterpart, the government remains silent, and has not issued any position so far. In general, this crisis is not the first between Morocco and the European Union. Worse crises occurred during the 1990s, when the European Parliament linked the signing of any agreement with Rabat to the release of political prisoners, especially the remaining radical left detainees or what was known as the “new left”

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The Moroccan semi-official version says that the main reason for the European Parliament’s decision is the Europeans’ concern about Morocco’s tendency to diversify its partners, by weaving strong relations with Israel, the United States and China, and expanding in Africa. And a relationship with the justification novel, so do economic figures and political relations support the thesis of the Moroccan novel? In this regard, we review the partners that part of the elite in Morocco is talking about, and not the entire elite, especially in light of the government’s silence.

The real conspiracy is to obstruct Morocco’s availability of a military industry, as the Europeans do not want to repeat the scenario of Iran, Turkey and Pakistan with military industrialization.

Israel: It is Morocco’s new partner after the Abraham Accords, but this partner has not benefited Morocco in anything. In relation to the Sahara conflict, Israel categorically refuses to recognize the Moroccanness of the Sahara, and the Moroccan state modestly admitted that there is no Israeli recognition. At the same time, Israel cannot become an economic partner among the top twenty of Morocco. And a relationship with military cooperation, it goes back decades, and although it is public now, Israel has not provided any vital weapon to Morocco, unlike other countries such as Turkey and China. It began to become clear that the cooperation with Israel and the accompanying exaggeration resembled the “Talsnit” incident, when Morocco believed that oil had been found in the year 2000, and it turned out that it was only a mirage.

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China: Exchanges between Morocco and China increased, always in favor of the latter. China is considered a major partner for the countries of the entire world, not just for Morocco. China’s investments in Morocco remain meaningless, compared to other countries, as it has not accumulated a billion dollars for many years. In the Sahara file, China does not recognize the Moroccanness of the Sahara, and Morocco does not worry much. Militarily, Beijing contributed to strengthening the Moroccan military arsenal to achieve a kind of balance of power with Algeria and with Spain, thanks to offensive weapons and an advanced aviation system. The file that worried the West, mainly Paris and Washington, was the decision to grant Morocco the high-speed train between Marrakech and Agadir to China. France opposed, but the rest of Europe did not care, while the veto came from Washington because it did not wish to see advanced Chinese technology in a partner country.

The United States: The United States cannot be a concern for the European Union, given that the two are in the same bloc. Morocco does not interest American investors, despite the existence of a free trade agreement between Morocco and the United States, bilateral trade did not develop significantly, and achieved the highest rate in 2019 at five billion dollars, and always in favor of the American side thanks to arms exports, while it usually does not exceed three billion dollars such as The year 2021. The accumulation of American investments for many years in total did not exceed two billion dollars, and the year 2021 invested nearly 70 million dollars, which is a number that does not mean anything.

Africa: There are no African countries among the first 15 partners for Morocco, whether in exports or imports, and the brown continent in the balance of Moroccan trade exchange does not exceed 6%, according to the data for the year 2021. West Africa has turned into a major destination for Moroccan foreign investments, and it fluctuates from year to year. Others, but France remains the first destination for Moroccan investments.

On the other hand, the European Union remains Morocco’s main economic and political partner, whether in trade exchange or investments, which France leads undisputedly and at a distance from major economic powers such as China and the United States, and even compared to Spain, which is Morocco’s first trading partner, but not the economic partner. Because Spain’s investments in Morocco declined dramatically. As 55% of Morocco’s exports and imports are with the European Union and 65% with the European continent, according to 2021 data. The European Union is the first source of tourism for Morocco with more than 70%, and the remittances of Moroccan immigrants constitute nearly 9 billion euros annually (8% of the gross national product). More than five million Moroccans live in the European Union. The quasi-Moroccan narrative echoes the European Union’s hostility to Morocco. Let us ask, did the European Union prevent Morocco’s exports to the European market? Did the European Union block aid to Morocco?  Did the European Union stipulate that Morocco not deal with the United States or China?

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The European Union has not demanded any of this from Morocco, and continues to provide financial aid to Rabat. Is the European Parliament’s position on human rights issues the same as that of other partners? The answer is: Yes, because Washington demanded the release of the detained journalists, the Rif Movement and the rest of the detainees, and the last request occurred last week when US Assistant Secretary of State Michelle Chaison visited Rabat. In turn, the United Nations called on Morocco to provide justice to the political detainees, especially the three files mentioned, as it issued memorandums demanding their compensation. The real European conspiracy against Morocco is not manifested in the human rights file. There are violations that cannot be denied. Rather, Morocco accepts European financial aid to reform its judiciary, and it must accept criticism; The real conspiracy is the West’s tendency to ensure that Morocco, like the rest of the Arab countries, does not have nuclear energy. France had promised Morocco in 2007 a nuclear plant and broke the promise, and Morocco did not search for an alternative despite its dire need for a nuclear plant to produce electricity and water desalination. The real conspiracy is to obstruct Morocco’s availability of a military industry, as the Europeans do not want to repeat the scenario of Iran, Turkey and Pakistan with military industrialization in a country from the south, noting that Morocco has not established programs in this sector. The conspiracy is for Morocco to receive investments that are light, such as assembly of cars, and non-essential, not to miss out on manufacturing technology.

This article originally appeared in the arab language website

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