The EU was ineffective in encouraging political reform in Algeria and Morocco this year and failed to use opportunities such as the Election Observation Mission in Algeria.
The challenge for the EU in Algeria and Morocco is to pool influence in national capitals to drive much-needed political reform. While technical cooperation driven by the European Commission and the EEAS continued in 2012, and in the case of Algeria expanded, there was little evidence of real reform in either case. After years of procrastination, Algeria agreed in early 2012 to come to the negotiating table regarding an ENP Action Plan; and in May it invited an EU observation mission (EOM) to its legislative elections for the first time (though there were concerns about malpractice by the ruling party and allegations of voter fraud in municipal elections in December). But in the second half of the year, as France and the US focused on efforts to win Algerian support for an ECOWAS-led mission in Mali, the centre of gravity in the EU–Algerian relationship shifted back to member-state capitals with a focus on energy ties – particularly Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the UK. In November the Netherlands joined this group as it signed a deal for shale-gas exploration in Algeria. By the end of the year, there were few signs that the EU–Algerian partnership had deepened or that meaningful reform had taken place.
There was little evidence of real reform in Morocco either. In February, the European Parliament signed off on a deal on agriculture and fisheries after years of negotiations, but as an incentive rather than a reward: the ENP progress update in May had no substantive reform in Morocco to report. In the autumn, scoping reviews were completed, allowing negotiations for a DCFTA to begin. Morocco’s Autonomy for Western Sahara plan, launched in 2012, was the first move on this frozen conflict in a number of years but, as the year closes, the situation remains blocked. A Joint Communication on a Maghreb Strategy, published in December, proposed measures to increase regional integration through a range of economic, energy, and security measures, but only alluded to the Western Sahara as a challenge and did not propose a solution.