EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2016

North Africa

44 - The Maghreb

Grade: B-
Unity 4/5
Resources 3/5
Strategy 3/5
Impact 2/5
Total 12/20
Scorecard 2015: B- (11/20)

The Maghreb countries avoided outright crisis, but look precarious; the EU should find better ways to promote long-term stability

European relations with the Maghreb are stronger than with the rest of the region: these countries remain free from widespread disorder and seek to deepen their engagement with the EU. Nevertheless, the countries are, in different ways, precarious; Europe’s aim to reinforce their stability and encourage broad economic and political reform to make the state more responsive to popular concerns will require further work.

In February, Tunisia elected a coalition government that brought together secularist and Islamist parties. However, terrorist attacks in Tunis and Sousse undermined the fragile tourism industry, threatening to worsen the difficult economic picture. Unemployment and deprivation could encourage the drift of young Tunisians towards Islamist groups, and much of the state remains unreformed. The EU has stepped up its support for the country, and should increase this further in 2016.

Algeria is a puzzling partner for the EU. Driven by the force of economic necessity, due to falling energy prices, the country’s elites seem increasingly to recognise the need for reform. But the opaque political system has so far blocked change, and power struggles ahead of the anticipated exit of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika consumed much attention. Algeria is keen to engage with the EU on energy and counterterrorism, where it feels it can enhance its standing, but broader reform efforts seem to be off the table until the political leadership changes, and the country’s problems are mounting. European – in particular French – cooperation on the Algeria-backed peace agreement in Mali represented a rare achievement.

The EU has an easier relationship with Morocco. King Mohammed VI’s government is eager to work with Europe on security, economic development (including renewable energy), and some political questions. But the country’s reform agenda is limited, and it recently cracked down on freedom of expression. Member states are not eager to press Moroccan authorities on human rights when terrorism and migration are priorities; while the country currently seems stable, the EU should beware of assuming that popular consent for its political order is guaranteed.