Saturday, July 20, 2024
European Union

How Morocco is beating the EU

Spanish primer minister Pedro Sánchez during a meeting with the king of Morocco Mohamed VI, 2022 (Source: Ministry of the Presidency. Government of Spain)

The tentacles of Moroccan diplomacy are neither new nor confined to Europe, but have been spreading to other circles of power around the world for more than a decade now

Małgorzata Wołczyk

As the search engine algorithms suggest, the average Pole is usually interested in Morocco when searching for answers to a crossword puzzle. The Moroccan national team’s high ranking at the World Cup has turned the eyes of the world on this small and seemingly inconspicuous country. Is it really inconspicuous? Nothing could be further from the truth – Morocco has been daringly playing Europe for decades, is a pied-à-terre of the US, and the geopolitical shrewdness of the Alawite clan should put to shame us Poles, who are mostly used to dying for our homeland instead of living, while knowing how to force others to respect us and our place on the map.

Morocco is the westernmost Arab country and is part of the Maghreb region. It is from this particular geographic location that its Arabic name al-Maghrib, meaning west, is derived from. The country has Arab-African roots and is strongly connected to its traditions and religion (Sunni Islam), yet it directs its foreign policy primarily toward Europe, without renouncing its culture and customs. According to experts, it is one of the Arab nations of the Muslim faith that is best able to reconcile Islam with the demands of modern society. A clear picture to confirm these words was the composition of the Moroccan national team, the least national team at the World Cup: as many as 15 players were born outside the country (three in Belgium, three in Spain, three in France, four in the Netherlands, one in Italy, and one in Canada), and yet they chose the colors of their homeland, because the identification with their parents’ land and identity is so strong.

In order to better understand Morocco, it is important to remember that the current king, Mohamed VI, is from the Alawite dynasty, which considers itself descended from Muhammad’s line of his daughter, Fatima. Therefore, the king demands public recognition of his family as descendants of the prophet and heirs of the caliphs, and he is both the state and spiritual leader of Morocco. It was with him that Pope Francis met in 2019 to discuss tolerance and dialogue between Islam and Catholicism. In addition to a fabulous fortune estimated at 5 billion euros, Mohamed VI is famous for a lifestyle that contradicts the basic precepts of his religion. He is one of the richest monarchs, and Forbes magazine used to rank him among the top 20 richest people in the world, to which, according to my Spanish friends, we Poles and all European Union member states also contribute. In what way?

The simplest way is to quote El Pais from August 15th, 2022: “Morocco will receive more money than ever from the EU to control its borders. Brussels is finalizing a package worth at least 500 million euros, which will cover part of Rabat’s efforts to stop illegal immigration. This new financial framework, which covers the years 2021-2027, far exceeds (by almost 50%) the €343 million from the previous framework. […] Negotiations for the 500 million have been ongoing for months. Rabat has maintained high expectations and demands for the distribution of European funds.”

Despite the allocation of such huge funds, Morocco believes that they do not cover its expenditures on deterring immigration and detecting jihadist cells, as it has committed to with its association agreements with the EU.

MOROCCO’S GEOPOLITICAL IMPORTANCE

Morocco’s geopolitical importance has increased after globalization and has made it a priority country not only for neighboring Spain, but also for Europe and the US for strategic cooperation on security issues: border control, organized crime, and terrorism (especially jihadism). The abolition of internal borders between most European countries, adopted in the Schengen Agreement, has made Morocco a gateway connecting Africa and the Arab world to Europe. The Alawite clan, having recognized its momentous role in geopolitics, has learned to play its interests quite boldly, and even more often, foully.

We only heard how long and effective Morocco’s tentacles are when the affair called “Katargate” erupted, although it should actually have a different name. In the words of the Belgian service: “The Qataris actually got caught up years later in a conspiracy organized by the Moroccans.” The names and faces of MEPs bribed to reorient EU foreign policy in favor of Morocco have come to the fore. The Alawite kingdom has many interests to defend in Brussels, from fisheries and association agreements with the EU, to the Moroccan character of the Sahara, to avoiding convictions for human rights violations. True, corrupt MEPs were “fished out,” but as practice has shown, decisions were already being made in the EU at the end of the year that favor Morocco over neighboring Spain. Surprisingly, despite solid indications pointing to Morocco, the EP approved by majority vote a resolution imposing sanctions only on Qatar.

MOROCCAN ENERGY OF THE FUTURE

The European Union’s investment arm, the European Investment Bank (EIB), has just presented a study on the potential of green hydrogen in Africa. The report highlights Morocco’s ability to harness the potential of solar energy and produce the clean gas that Brussels is so committed to producing. The Alawite kingdom could thus take over the production of what is called the energy of the future. This was met with righteous indignation by Spain, because, not knowing why, it was considered Morocco (non-EU) that better meets the two key conditions for hosting green gas: it has plenty of sunshine and space.

Brussels is beginning to see the African continent as a strategic partner to guarantee access to clean and sustainable energy and to become a global energy player by exporting green hydrogen. “Harnessing Africa’s solar energy to produce 50 million tons of green hydrogen per year by 2035 can help secure global energy supplies, create jobs, decarbonize heavy industry, improve global competitiveness, and transform access to clean water and sustainable energy,” the report highlights. In addition, “the production and transmission of clean hydrogen could involve an investment of one trillion euros and a corresponding huge increase in GDP, creating hundreds of thousands of permanent and skilled jobs across Africa.”

It seems, then, that the commissioners are completely unperturbed by the quality of the democracies there to open the tap of investment and generously distributed funds from the pockets of all EU members.

EU MILLIONS FOR OLIVES IN MOROCCO

The fact that a few weeks ago, through the “EU Green Program,” Morocco received a sum estimated at €115 million “to invest in planting 600,000 olive trees” (again to the bitterness of an overlooked Spain), may give food for thought to us who are already following this convulsive dance for our due NIP funds without much hope. The opposition continues to tell Poles that we owe our economic success to EU funds, hence we should contribute to the common coffers without a murmur as part of European solidarity, while the program of support for Morocco and its agriculture has been going on at best since 2012, and only Spain’s right wing (VOX) seems to oppose the permanent blows to their vital interests.

The agricultural organization ASAJA Jaén published an objection: “It is unacceptable that now that we have a new CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and with it we are risking the future of European agriculture, money continues to flow into Morocco to promote its agriculture to the great detriment of European agriculture.” The drought and fires in Spain have resulted in disastrous harvests, yet Brussels felt it had to help Moroccan farmers. The question of how entangled EU officials are in corrupt deals with Morocco remains rhetorical. Alawites have already used aid from Brussels, for example, to exploit tomato and melon plantations in Western Sahara (a territory outside the trade agreement with the EU), condemning Spanish farmers to lose out in unfair competition.

MOROCCO’S SPY EMPIRE

The tentacles of Moroccan diplomacy are neither new nor confined to Europe, but have been spreading to other circles of power around the world for more than a decade. Already in 2018, the Belgian security services reacted decisively, arresting the “Moroccan Mata Hari” – Kaoutar Fal, a female spy who had attempted to infiltrate the European Parliament with some success. A year after the agent’s expulsion, former Belgian Prime Minister and current European Council President Charles Michel became a target of Moroccan services through the Pegasus software. The French daily Le Monde revealed in 2019 the affair of Pegasus spying on President Macron, the prime minister and several members of the government by “unidentified Moroccan secret service spies.” Of course, how else, Morocco denied everything, although it is a real “empire” of intelligence services: it has about fifteen in total.

The most important of these is Morocco’s intelligence and counterintelligence service, the DGED (Direction Générale des Études et de la Documentation), represented in all Moroccan embassies and consulates. It is dependent on the armed forces and has a budget estimated at 100 million euros. Its head is Gen. Yassin Mansouri, a friend of Mohamed VI from his youth. The DGED has about 4,000 agents generally deployed in Africa, Asia and Europe, of whom only 1,600 are civilians and the rest are military. Internal reports from Spain’s secret service reiterate that Moroccan espionage is, after Russian espionage, “the most aggressive.”

In 2022, the Spanish government decided to reveal that the cell phones of Pedro Sánchez and several of his ministers were also infected with Pegasus. Mohamed VI’s kingdom conducts systematic unscrupulous espionage, both against its subjects and against foreign officials. This is also the alleged reason why some EU commissioners or state leaders tremble at the secrets held by the Moroccan king and may be vulnerable to corrupt proposals. Even the notorious assault on Spain’s Ceuta on May 17th, 2021, when 8,000 Arab migrants – mostly minors – were turned away in a single day as revenge for Spain’s gesture toward Morocco’s hated Algerian leader, the Polisario Front, did not receive an adequate response from EU commissioners. Yes, some circular formulas were uttered condemning the attack on the border and supporting the Spaniards, but no decision was made to take any steps to strengthen the southern Schengen border.

All this European powerlessness against the Moroccan satrap king, who blackmails and ogles the Eurocrats (or bribes them), may surprise Europeans, but in the case of Spain the situation could turn into a conflict. Rabat is making increasingly absurd territorial claims on Madrid, and territories he considers historically “his own” (Ceuta, Melilla, the Canary Islands) are being sneakily populated with a continuous wave of his immigrants. What adds spice is that the vast majority of the “refugees” are young men after their compulsory military service in Morocco. Thanks to the mafias and NGOs operating offshore, 29,999 people entered Spain illegally in 2022 alone (the statistics are certainly understated), so the huge “tribute” paid by the EU, as well as Madrid, to its neighbor to the South is proving futile, as there is simply no political will on either side to stop the influx of people from Africa.

The problem is that Morocco is behaving aggressively not only toward its eternal rival and enemy Algeria, but also toward Spain, with which it officially has partnership ties. That’s why the June NATO summit in Madrid, which was supposed to bring us a strengthening of the security of NATO’s eastern flank, was also vitally important for the people of the peninsula. Spaniards expected a clear answer on whether NATO would respond if Morocco attacked Ceuta and Melilla in another act of hybrid warfare. Although Spain is one of the member countries of the Atlantic alliance, the two Spanish autonomous cities do not fall under the defense umbrella because they are on African territory. Article 6 stipulates that collective defense can only be applied if the said attacks take place in Europe, North America, or island territories in the Atlantic north of the Tropic of Cancer. Thus, there are territories belonging to member states that are outside the NATO umbrella.

The ritualistic nodding from NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, however, has not brought the Spaniards the expected relief, because Morocco’s agility and audacity in enforcing its claims is already proverbial. Also because behind Morocco’s back is its “eternal” greatest ally: the US. Morocco was one of the first countries to recognize the 13 rebellious colonies as a sovereign state in the midst of the Revolutionary War. The two countries signed a treaty of friendship in 1786. According to the US State Department, it is the longest-lasting treaty of friendship signed by the country.

What does it mean to be able to count on such a powerful protector, and how does one ensure a privileged relationship with Washington? Due to the size of this fascinating topic (although strangely neglected in Poland), this matter ought to be discussed in a separate piece. One can confidently put forward the thesis that, unfortunately, Poles have a lot to learn from the cunning Alawite clan. A skillfully played geopolitical position can be a springboard to success and a way to humiliate even the greatest powers.

This article was published in January 2023 in “Do Rzeczy” magazine.