Column: Morocco Should Stand Up to the European Union Trade Provocations

Hassan MasikyBY: Hassan Masiky*

After enduring years of economic, diplomatic and public relations manipulation at the hands of some European nations, the Moroccan diplomacy is rousing with a new assertive approach to defend its vital interests and to build a relationship based on mutual respect and shared interests. Morocco warning to the EU is away overdue.

The EU needs to reconsider its neo-colonialist approach to its economic relations with Morocco. For years, the North African nation has been a good neighbor, an understanding partner, a flexible negotiator and an active cohort in every common pursuit with Europe, Yet, the European attitude has been arrogant, hypocrite and condescending.

Since his accession to the throne, King Mohammed VI made every efforts to build strong and equitable relations with Europe especially Spain and France. While Paris has been a good friend, Madrid has been flaky, unreliable and double-dealer.

From its unconditional cooperation in stopping “illegal immigrations” and drugs to its proactive support in tracking terrorists and extremists, Morocco has been a model partner for the Europeans. To the contrary, Brussels has been second-guessing Moroccan positions in the Sahara conflict opposing the Kingdom to Algeria. The EU has taken Morocco for granted for years and views Rabat sympathetic positions on immigration and security  as  a weakness and vulnerability.

Morocco’s opponents, namely Algeria and its allies, have portrayed the Moroccan-European relations as one way street where the North African nation collects all kinds of benefits and grants as handouts. The truth is that both entities gain form a healthy bilateral trade.

The strengthening of the Moroccan economy is good for the EU since it strengthen the domestic market and enhance the purchasing powers of the locals who tend to buy European products. A trade hiatus would damage some European economies that deals extensively with Morocco and would lead to great instability and insecurity in the Mediterranean  and an unescapable wave of migration and illicit drugs.

The recent harassment in some European ports of the Norwegian vessel “Key Bay”, that was transporting fishing oil from a Moroccan port to Europe, is unacceptable. In fact, Morocco should counter any attempt to block Moroccan agriculture products from entering into the European market by a halting intelligence and security cooperation with the EU.

Furthermore, Morocco should expel Spanish fishing boats from its territorial waters. Spaniards cannot have their cake and eat it. Morocco may not be looking for confrontations; however, such unfriendly attitudes cannot go unnoticed and unanswered.

If the EU decides to pick and choose the type of Moroccan fishing and farming merchandise to allow into its territory based on the “origins” of the product, then Rabat should also establish the kind of cooperation needed to keep this “selective” relations alive. Nevertheless, the deal should not stay as it stands today unless the EU treats all Moroccan products “equally.”

A Moroccan product , be it from Tangier or Laayoune, is “made in Morocco” the same way as a  Spanish product that is manufactured in Madrid, Barcelona or Bilbao is sill “made in Spain”.”

Morocco has kept the Western Mediterranean in a largely peaceful atmosphere when it can easily create periods of tension that would develop into political crisis for some European governments. Rabat understanding attitudes on immigration and shared intelligence alone is key to political stability in some European capitals.

Regardless of the fate of the Morocco-EU deal, Rabat should expand its economic outreach further in Africa and build stronger commercial ties with India, China, Japan and Russia. Furthermore, the close diplomatic and political bonds between the Kingdom and the Arab Gulf monarchies should translate into even bigger economic ties. Morocco’s newfound markets will easily offset EU investments and grants offered to Rabat.

Moroccan officials need to do their part also by appointing competent ambassadors who are well equipped to deal with the types of judicial hurdles the country will encounter in Brussels.

Moroccan embassies, in some European capitals, need to have “resident legal experts” familiar with the Western Sahara conflict. Moreover, economic attaches at Moroccan diplomatic missions should have strong negotiation skills and a good knowledge of the legal aspects of the Sahara dossier.

*Hassan Masiky is a blogger and freelance writer. He is a former spokesman for Amnesty International USA and worked as a consultant for USAID funded democracy projects in Mexico, Haiti, Republic of Georgia and the European Parliament.

(Published in Morocco World News on Feb. 6, 2017)