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How serious is the EU about supporting democracy and human rights in Morocco?

By Kristina Kausch (29/05/2008) Working Paper

While clearly ahead of other countries in the region in terms of human rights and liberalisation, Morocco is still a centrally-steered autocracy, not the ‘model’ of Arab democratisation it likes to be portrayed as. European member states, influenced by other policy priorities such as migration, anti-terrorism co-operation, regional conflicts or trade, are doing little bilaterally to foster democracy in Morocco. This task is largely left to the European Commission, which provides diplomatic cover and has with the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) the necessary policy structures in place.

The Action Plan for Morocco of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) contains a number of ambitious but selective reforms, which indirectly follow the Moroccan ruling elite’s course of modernisation and selective political reforms in carefully chosen areas which do not touch on the distribution of powers. At the same time, tame official statements reflect how the favourable light of regional comparison has distorted Morocco’s image in Europe into one of a shining model democratiser. If the EU is really serious about supporting genuine democracy and human rights in Morocco, the author suggests, it should take five measures to strengthen its practical commitment and impact with regard to its declared policy goals. 

Morocco’s keen interest in greater integration with the EU, and the country’s efforts to push the EU towards granting it an ‘advanced status’ of partnership, provide particularly favourable conditions for the EU to use its leverage to encourage Morocco to commit to a deeper, systematic level of political reform. The increased leverage should be used to sharpen implementation mechanisms and enhance democratic substance and coherence of the Moroccan Action Plan in 2008.

In this Working Paper, Kristina Kausch,argues that likewise, a new contractual agreement granting Morocco 'advanced status' must reflect the ‘advanced’ partner’s maturity by committing to a measurably deeper, advanced level of democratisation. This could provide a proof both for the seriousness of the EU’s commitment to democracy and for the now-tame ENP’s potential as a framework for democratisation through integration where EU membership is not an option.

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Middle East and North Africa. Euro-Mediterranean relations. Mediterranean geopolitics. Democracy and human rights

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