The World Today for January 30, 2023


Sharp Elbows


Moroccan lawmakers recently voted to “reconsider” their North African country’s relationship with the European Union. The origins of the diplomatic shift began with Morocco’s alleged persecution of journalists, as Reporters Without Borders recounted. The triggering event, however, was the European Parliament’s decision to urge Morocco to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press, reported Agence France-Presse.

The Moroccan lawmakers felt that the European Parliament’s resolution was a slight. They, therefore, moved to threaten a 1996 agreement that tightly binds Morocco’s economy with the EU, the largest single-market region on the planet.

As the Associated Press explained, Moroccan officials said journalists who were supposedly targeted unfairly in the country were actually just serving prison sentences for crimes like espionage and sexual assault. Investigative journalist Omar Radi, for example, was convicted of sexual assault and espionage in 2021 and sentenced to six years in jail. He continues to deny any wrongdoing, and observers say his trial was unfair. His work highlighted human rights injustices in the constitutional monarchy.

Moroccan leaders made similar protestations last year against supposed slights when Belgian authorities alleged that Moroccan and Qatari officials had bribed members of the European Parliament to gain influence, including muffling criticism of Qatari human rights injustices in the run-up to the World Cup held in that Middle Eastern country, noted Africanews.

It was not clear what aspect of the Moroccan-EU relationship might be reconsidered. Morocco’s free market-oriented economy has been experiencing a boom, Euronews reported. Domestic investment has helped. A leading exporter of fertilizer, for example, the Africa Report added, Morocco has benefitted greatly from petrochemical price hikes after the pandemic subsided and Russia invaded Ukraine. But foreign investment, especially European, and technical aid have been crucial to progress.

Morocco is at odds with other foreign nations, too. The US is currently considering building a military base in the country, Middle East Monitor wrote. Such a base would counter a proposed Russian base in Algeria, Morocco’s regional rival – and neighbor. Algeria and Morocco have disagreed for years about Morocco’s claims in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colonial territory on the African coast, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Algeria broke off relations with Morocco in 2021 over the still-simmering issue.

Recently, for example, even though Morocco’s national soccer team earned the country high honors and respect at the World Cup in Qatar, as the Washington Post reported, Morocco withdrew from the African Nations Championship because of disagreements with Algerian officials over transportation prohibitions between the two countries, Al Jazeera wrote.

One might guess from all this that the Moroccans don’t like being pushed around.

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