The EU’s Southern Neighbourhood Policy is key for strengthening and maintaining relations between the European Union and Maghreb countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. This type of policy is essential for providing these countries with stability in the economic, social, health, labour and security sectors, to name but a few.
In the various Delegations of the European Parliament, such as the Maghreb Delegation, we work to promote the fundamental and democratic values of the EU in other regions, with the aim of increasing their prosperity and emphasising the three pillars that we consider fundamental: economic, social and the role of women.
“Morocco rates highest in terms of its perception of relations with the EU, with 71 percent of citizens considering the bloc’s influence on their country’s development as positive”
Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are geographically strategic countries for Europe, and working closely with them is key. Europe considers this region as so important that we not only have the EU-Maghreb Delegation, but we also do a great deal of work under the umbrella of the Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean.
Here, the European Parliament plays an important role, being the only Delegation where the President, David Sassoli, holds the Presidency. Both bodies aim to strengthen relations on both sides of the Mediterranean with cooperation programmes as well as evaluating and implementing projects that have an impact on the citizens of the countries involved.
Collaboration initiatives in sectors such as energy are particularly noteworthy and are undoubtedly aligned with the European Commission’s Green Deal priorities. According to data from the EU Neighbours programme, the citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia consider their country as having positive relations with the European Union.
In the case of Algeria, which is embroiled in protests with substantial demands on its institutions, 45 percent of those surveyed say that there is a good framework for cooperation between the EU and their country. The areas where there is the most cooperation are trade and health, but they would like to see greater levels of aid.
Tunisia, meanwhile, has been immersed in the tenth anniversary of the Arab Spring uprisings, which marked a significant change in the development of its democracy, while also dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and health crisis. In any case, Tunisians have a very positive image of the EU and consider the tourism sector, economic development and trade as strategic sectors for this collaboration.
The Electoral Observation Mission that was carried out in 2019 for the Presidential elections (with a satisfactory evaluation report) is a symbol of the interest of European institutions in this country. Morocco rates highest in terms of its perception of relations with the EU, with 71 percent of citizens considering the bloc’s influence on their country’s development as positive. So much so, in fact, that the percentage rises to 76 percent when asked if the EU is a key partner with whom they share certain common values.
It is worth mentioning the special assistance that EU institutions have provided to these countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. This aims to support the health sector and reduce the negative socioeconomic consequences that the pandemic may have caused in different areas such as education, industry, aid to SMEs and social protection, among others.
“It is worth mentioning the special assistance that EU institutions have provided to these countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. This aims to support the health sector and reduce the negative socioeconomic consequences that the pandemic may have caused”
For example, the EU pledged €450m to Morocco in this regard. In Tunisia, several programmes have been put in place, one of which aims to provide greater assistance to migrants with €9.3mn and another giving €5mn to enable mobility arrangements for young professionals and seasonal workers. These two social groups are considered the most likely to be affected by the negative consequences of the pandemic.
Clearly, the fundamental priority is to escape from the situation caused by the pandemic and help these countries in their vaccination plans which - either for economic or logistical reasons - are struggling to cope with the need for mass vaccination of their citizens.
All of this should be carried out without forgetting the main areas of cooperation in the development of their democracies, with respect for the rule of law and collaboration in strengthening their economic systems, applying equality in their social systems, with the most vulnerable - women and youth - as the driving force for development, in mind.