The European Union and Democratization

By Paul J. Kubicek | Go to book overview

8

The European Union and democratization in Morocco

Bradford Dillman

Morocco is a political exception in North Africa and in the wider Arab world. Resting only a few kilometers away from the Rock of Gibraltar, it is geographically closer to the European Union than any other Arab country. It has a long historical relationship with Europe through colonialism and trade, and more than a million people of Moroccan descent live in the European Union. In 1987 Morocco was the first Arab country to formally seek membership in the European Economic Community. No other Arab country has since followed this example. While Egypt and Tunisia witnessed a reinvigorated authoritarianism in the 1990s aimed at crushing Islamists, and Algeria plunged into a civil war after a brief political opening from 1989 to 1991, Morocco in the last decade has experienced a steady political liberalization characterized by dramatically improved human rights protections, pluralistic elections with significant competition, and the installation of an opposition-led government in 1997. The most recent parliamentary elections in September 2002 were the most honest in Morocco's history, with a moderate Islamist party tripling the number of seats it holds in the Assembly of Representatives. In Freedom House's 2001-2002 survey of freedom in the world, Morocco received a score of "5" for political rights and "5" for civil liberties, tying Jordan as the freest country in the Arab world after Kuwait. 1

Despite measurable progress in political liberalization, Morocco has yet to make a democratic transition and begin the process of democratic consolidation. The monarchy remains the dominant political institution, unwilling to cede key decision-making powers to the elected parliament. Like his father, King Hassan II, since his accession in 1999 King Mohammed VI has been reluctant to transform his regime into a constitutional monarchy. Like the other "reluctant democratizers" examined in this book, Morocco can be seen as a country in political transit subject to considerable political and economic pressures from Europe, but averse to accepting the full package of political reforms proffered by Brussels. Morocco provides an important case for assessing the influence of EU democracy promotion efforts in countries that have little chance of ever joining the Union. As a non-European country, it lacks the cultural and geographic attributes of would-be EU

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