The analysts pointed to Morocco’s efforts in Libya as a matter of particular importance in securing stability in the Mediterranean Basin.
Rabat – Europe’s southern borders are facing acute threats from Turkey’s expansionism in the Mediterranean, the Libyan conflict, and unyielding flows of irregular migrants, and analysts are looking to Morocco’s unique position to advance regional stability.
In a recent analysis for Le Figaro, Thomas More Institute researchers Jean-Sylvestre Mongrenier and Antonin Tisseron outlined Morocco’s stabilizing role in the Maghreb and West Africa.
“The events of the past few weeks will have illustrated the gravity of the threats weighing on the southern borders of Europe, in the Mediterranean and in the depths of the Great Sahara,” the essay began.
France’s physical borders, as the two researchers point out, are well defended. But as the Sahel remains volatile, Libya’s ceasefire grows uncertain, and Turkey continues to test the waters of the eastern Mediterranean, France fears instability in the Basin.
With the Le Figaro essay, Mongrenier and Tisseron aim to identify the regional actors who are best poised to diffuse geopolitical tension.
In the eastern Mediterranean, where Greece and Cyprus are facing off against Turkish encroachment, Italy and several Arab states including Egypt maintain a strong alliance to keep Erdogan at bay.
The geopolitics behind France’s need for Maghreb stability
Turkish interests in Libya, however, warrant greater concern. “Turkey’s views on the ‘greater Mediterranean’ and its rivalry-cooperation with Russia are likely to have repercussions as far as the Maghreb,” the Thomas More researchers warn.
Mongrenier and Tisseron acknowledged Algeria as a territorial giant in the Maghreb and a key actor in the region’s geopolitics, particularly the Libya crisis. However, the French researchers noted the ongoing Hirak movement and “difficult” Franco-Algerian relations that call into question its capacity to ensure stability in the region.
“Great attention must also be paid to the other Maghreb countries,” they underlined.
Tunisia, though a relatively stable democracy and beneficiary of financial support from the EU and IMF, ultimately remains vulnerable due to its border with Libya.
Meanwhile, “on the western borders of Algeria, Morocco appears more solid” and remains a “pole of stability,” Mongrenier and Tisseron stated.
Distinguishing Morocco’s potential, achievements in regional leadership
Morocco is suffering the global recession brought on by COVID-19 and the pandemic’s domestic repercussions, but the two French researchers argue that the country “has distinguished itself by a vigorous health and economic response.”
The country’s special COVID-19 fund, stipend distribution, industrial mobilization, and proactive state of emergency measures earned the country international praise. Beyond its borders, Rabat engaged in “effective ‘mask diplomacy,’” the researchers said, highlighting Morocco’s COVID-19 aid to over a dozen African countries.
Morocco, then, emerges as a leader in the Maghreb that shares France’s geopolitical interests and has a hand in regional stability.
The country has maintained constant support for crisis resolution efforts in Libya, and Libyan officials recently recognized the Skhirat Agreement as a solid foundation for moving forward with the peace process.
But threats to France and Europe do not end with Libya, Mongrenier and Tisseron continued. South of the Maghreb, volatility in the Sahel has “consequences in the Mediterranean and on European borders, particularly in terms of migration.”
The two researchers pointed out the brewing tensions in post-coup Mali between the military junta, the M5-RFP protest movement, and the Economic Community of West African States.
The friction “increases the difficulties of the war against jihadist groups in the area,” they emphasized. Already fighting local terrorist factions with the ongoing Operation Barkhane, the French military and diplomacy in West Africa are now “threatened in their rear.”
Adding political tension in Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mauritania into the mix, France is unsure if it can rely on the G5 Sahel to quell jihadist threats and preserve stability in the region.
Instead, France turns to the US, the EU, and Morocco for support.
Morocco’s ongoing role in ensuring regional stability
“In the continuity of its diplomatic action in West Africa, Morocco is also investing in strengthening the dynamics of peace,” the researchers underlined.
Morocco is leading the fight against jihadism on the religious front, training African imams and promoting a “middle-ground Islam.” Morocco also mediated in Mali’s political transition, a move for which the country’s new leader has explicitly expressed appreciation.
As Morocco forges ahead with social and economic progress, strengthens its security apparatus, and consolidates its role as a powerful partner to Europe in the fields of counterterrorism and migration, France can only expect to benefit from strong ties with the North African country as developments in the Mediterranean Basin unfold.