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EU considers Morocco a “pillar of stability” and migration a major issue

After the excitement about the bribery scandal subsided somewhat, the EU has opened up again, at least towards Morocco. Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer concluded a first migration agreement with Rabat. According to the EU Commission, illegal migration will now be replaced by legal migration.

The palace is in charge of foreign policy. The foreign policy of the Kingdom of Morocco is the prerogative of the sovereign, i.e. King Mohammed VI. The conservative-Islamic and nationalist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which has lost its majority in parliament since 2021 but has a much more critical opinion on Israel than the palace, also had to accept this verdict. But the current Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, heir to the large oil and gas conglomerate Akwa Group (formerly Groupe Afriquia), also has to stay out of Moroccan foreign policy.

What does this mean for the so-called Qatargate, which is also a Moroccogate, an affair of EU dimensions, in which an NGO with perfect connections to the EU Parliament received funds from the Moroccan ambassador in Poland, among other things? The EU Parliament has drafted two of its famous resolutions, which always sound like pastoral letters. The first, in January, went on the offensive, accusing Rabat of dwindling press freedom, although according to Reporters Without Borders the problem has existed for at least 25 years. Is this perhaps intended to placate the EU’s local journalists?

In the second resolution of February 16, the parliamentarians demand that the measures and tightening measures taken against Qatar also apply to Morocco. Accordingly, entry permits for representatives of Morocco would have to be suspended, visa liberalization withdrawn and official visits not made at all.

Shock, anger and betrayal in the S&D faction

Trips to Qatar – were they registered or not, sponsored or not? – are among the informal charges that must now be investigated in order to uncover the full extent of the affair. After all this, however, it does not look as if Morocco is the case. Here the affair is again diligently in the sand.

As it turned out, some Social Democrat MPs, even those who initially acted very innocent, maintained close ties with the emirate’s “noble donors”. As Politico  reports, a climate of distrust has broken out in the S&D group : who is lying, who is telling the truth? The further course of the scandal and the reporting about it can be influenced by this.

The EU Social Democrats were actually looking forward to conducting a militant election campaign with Olaf Scholz and the Finn Sanna Marin behind them, but now they are stuck in an internal crisis. SPD MP Gabriele Bischoff confirms that it is not easy to adapt to such a crisis: “Some of these people were trusted.” This could mean not only Vice President Eva Kaili from the Greek Pasok-Kinal, but also MP Maria Arena and Marc Tarabella, both members of the Belgian Parti Socialiste.

The EU Parliament as a whole has now given itself new rules, as the Süddeutsche Zeitung  reports: Ex-MPs should wait a full six months until they officially become lobbyists and can also officially meet their ex-colleagues in Parliament (the so-called ” cooling period”). In addition, they should apply for day passes instead of being able to enter unnoticed with house passes. It cannot be assumed that this would prevent any form of corruption. It’s more of a cosmetic change, even insiders say.

Panzeri’s long friendship with Morocco

The scandal came particularly badly for the Kingdom of Morocco. In fact, the relationship with the EU, which had long been burdened by the extortionate behavior of the Maghreb state with regard to illegal migration, had recently been announced. In December, the French government therefore eased its visa requirements for Morocco. But the country’s name had already been mentioned in one of the arrest warrants used to arrest the suspected profiteers of corruption and influence-peddling.

To this end, even Parliament Speaker Roberta Metsola had to travel from her Maltese home country to be present at the searches of the homes of Eva Kailis and Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella (both S&D), in accordance with the law; because the suspects enjoyed parliamentary immunity. Metsola’s shock at what happened was evident in the plenary session of Parliament over the next few days.

In the course of the investigation, it turned out that Pier Antonio Panzeri – the alleged head of the gang – had already supported Moroccan causes when he was an MEP, including the provision of commission money for the kingdom (as early as 2010). Panzeri also held official posts in the years that followed. According to Politico , he chaired  the joint EU-Morocco parliamentary committee from 2011 to 2019 together with the Moroccan ambassador to Poland, Abderrahim Atmoun.

In 2014 Panzeri received the highest Moroccan order “Ouissam Alaouite” (third class) for his services to Morocco. And as late as September 2022, four MEPs traveled to the disputed territory of Western Sahara, which Morocco would like to annex definitively, at the expense of the Moroccan parliament. The Sahara Press Service thus sees the whole affair as a sinister operation by Moroccans who hope to do even better plundering of the Sahrawis (the natives of Western Sahara) with the help of MEPs .

Morocco – Pillar of Stability for the EU’s Economic Highway?

But it’s not just about the EU or Spain, which has special interests in North Africa. The former EU enlargement commissioner, the Brit Michael Leigh, notes that Emmanuel Macron is also treating the Kingdom of Morocco with kid gloves in order to take the pressure off of the issue of migration and the Moroccan community in France: Macron’s “Realpolitik” reduces the risk Zero that “Morocco’s alleged role in bribing members of the European Parliament casts a shadow over bilateral relations”. In short: where the scandal is of no use to a Realpolitiker like Macron, it is simply ignored.

However, the same can be said of the EU as a whole. The recent visit of the current EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, the Hungarian Olivér Várhelyi, to Rabat is just one example. A French geostrategy expert explained that EU-Morocco relations were “obviously reaffirmed” – also with this visit . Of course, the North African press complains about the “smear campaign orchestrated by some MPs” against the Maghreb kingdom. It was more likely prosecutors who cleared up the scandal and drove the deputies in front of them.

But that doesn’t matter, because Morocco is a “pillar of stability” in Africa – presumably in a similar way to Qatar on the Persian gold – something that you absolutely want to lean on, a partnership of “extreme importance”, according to Varhélyi in Rabat . The country is said to be moving stormily towards “European values”, which, of course, hardly anyone in everyday politics has to define to use the expression. The cooperation programs that the EU now wants to start with Morocco are worth 500 million euros (5.5 billion dirhams) after the bribery scandal in the EU Parliament.

Morocco: Land of professional witnesses, ISIS cells and well-motivated terrorists

Of course, there are reasons for this too – for example, as already mentioned, the importance of the country when it comes to migration. In addition, the king’s foreign policy prerogative is useful where one wants to secure another partner for Israel. It’s a well-known fact that despotism has a practical side, so a little freedom of the press will more or less not matter. Morocco, according to one expert, is a “haven of peace and stability” and as such plays a key role for EU investments in Africa, which will be supported in the near future (until 2027) by a €300 billion program called “Global Gateway”, with which Brussels is attempting to compete with the Chinese’s new Silk Road. The aim is to earn the chance to make the EU a “geopolitical player”,said the permanent representative of Germany to the EU, Michael Clauss. In North Africa, however, they are still playing more on the defensive, which also applies to Morocco, by the way, which is not at all happy about the growing influx of sub-Saharan migrants.

Incidentally, Morocco is also the country of bought “professional witnesses”, in which another ISIS cell was recently raised and from which well-motivated terrorists also come in Frankfurt. Even the Maghreb Post knows about it.

The defensive status of the Europeans is also proven by the visit to Morocco of another EU size, which, however, acts quite independently. At the end of February, the Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer also visited Rabat. He thus continues his carefully planned and published steps, which are intended to suggest a Viennese fight against illegal migration. does it really exist? In the case of the migration and mobility agreement with India from the beginning of the year, doubts arose. How many of the 18,000 Indian asylum seekers from 2022 were still in the Alpine country? Didn’t they all (except for a few hundred) move further to the Mediterranean, to France, Italy and Spain, to hire themselves out there as harvest hands? Migrant worker agreements of these countries with India would be more helpful in this case, to cut off the influx of people smugglers in the Balkans, as an agreement with India. The mobility pact is more likely to open up new legal routes to Austria.

In his “Kanzlerwort” newsletter, Nehammer boasts of other border protection initiatives on the Balkan route. This includes the agreement with Serbia that visa-free entry would be withdrawn from Indians and Tunisians. In addition, Austria has formed a close alliance with Hungary, which it helps out with border guards at the EU’s external border as part of “Operation Fox”. Another drop in the ocean, which is not to say it’s wrong.

New opportunities for legal immigration are emerging for the EU

Now the Austrian Chancellor was one of the first EU heads of government in Rabat to usher in a new era of cooperation between Morocco and the EU and Austria in particular. Moroccan asylum applications in Austria had increased sharply in recent months – after a similar boom in Tunisian and Indian applications. After the negotiations in Rabat, Nehammer wrote at the beginning of March: “Moroccan citizens without a valid asylum decision” should be “repatriated more quickly” in the future, and they could then “be deported quickly”.

Now there is a difference between “faster” and “fast”. Above all, “criminal Moroccans” should in turn “be deported more quickly”. The agreement also stipulates that delinquent Moroccans should serve their sentences in Morocco. The language – somewhere between pithy and correct – announces the small-scale nature of the problems he is tackling. For the time being, this EU cannot be used for a big hit, as the migration researcher Ruud Koopmans calls for with a view to the Australian model .

And what does the EU have to say about it? The spokeswoman for Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson, Anitta Hipper, said after the Nehammer trip: “Morocco is a strategic partner and we work very closely together on migration management.” Apparently, a so-called migration cooperation with Rabat (and other third countries) is sought . “The reduction of irregular migration through improved returns can pave the way for more legal migration.” “Partnerships of professionals” should help here, in addition to Morocco perhaps also with Tunisia, Egypt, Bangladesh or Pakistan, according to the Wiener Kronenzeitung . In this way, the activities of the left hand of the EU could ultimately destroy the goal of Nehammer’s “right hand”.

Source: tichyseinblick