Why the EU elections matter for the Maghreb

Why the EU elections matter for the Maghreb
Mark Seddon

As European go to the polls across the European Union this week, amidst fears in some quarters of substantial gains by the far Right, consider these words from Adriana Maldonado López,  a member of the EU Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries back in 2021; ‘The EU’s Southern Neighbourhood Policy is key for strengthening and maintaining relations between the European Union and Maghreb countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.’ She continued; ‘This type of policy is essential for providing these countries with stability in the economic, social, health, labour and security sectors, to name but a few.’ Furthermore; ‘Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are geographically strategic countries for Europe, and working closely with them is key. Europe considers this region as so important that we not only have the EU-Maghreb Delegation, but we also do a great deal of work under the umbrella of the Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean’. To some extent and certainly in Morocco, this verbal commitment to strong relations between the EU and Morocco was reciprocated. Because also back in 2021, Morocco rated highest in terms of its perception of relations with the EU, with 71 percent of citizens considering the bloc’s influence on the country’s development as ‘positive’.

A big question now arises over that relationship between the Maghreb and the European Union, as the far Right continues its likely electoral advance. Early predictions suggested that it could win a quarter of the seats in the new Parliament, this coming on top of the big gains it made back in 2014 and 2019 and would amount to an increase in support of between 4% to 5%. And while the power centre in the European Parliament will likely remain with the centre Right since there are splits between various European far Right parties in for instance Italy and Hungary, there can be little doubt that pressure will be exerted to push the agenda further, especially on the environment, i.e. more push back against policies aimed at arresting climate change and immigration, i.e. taking an ever tougher line. Factoring in a general rise in Islamophobia and the fact that an increased number of Parliamentarians will have been elected having successful played this obnoxious card, and those warm words from Adriana Maldonado López may become dated very quickly. 

Of course we must await the final outcome of these European elections, before speculating further on what they could amount to in terms of relations with Morocco and the rest of the Maghreb. What will be the expectations when it come to migration and illegal migration? What will this mean to budgets allocated to assist countries like Morocco and what is the future direction of travel in general? To which another question may be added; will the more Right leaning EU Parliament see nations of the Maghreb as equals or will it see them as convenient scapegoats if extravagant claims about ‘stopping the boats’ and controlling illegal migration are not met?  

*Mark Seddon is a former Speechwriter to UN Secretary-General Ban ki moon & former Adviser to the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly

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