Key player: Morocco has made significant progress in strengthening both regional and global partnerships


In recent years Morocco’s foreign policy objectives have focused on spearheading intra-African cooperation, combating extremism and positioning itself at the centre of Europe-Africa relations. On these three and other fronts, the kingdom made notable progress in 2019.

EU Partnership

Trade relations between Morocco and the EU – the kingdom’s main commercial partner – improved in early 2019 after the EU gave final approval to a new fisheries agreement. In March 2019 the Council of the EU, the upper house of the European legislature, adopted the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA) with Morocco. The SFPA is a four-year agreement that grants EU member states fishing rights on the Moroccan coast in exchange for a financial contribution of €208m to the kingdom. Part of this contribution will act as compensation for access to waters off the coast of Morocco, including Morocco/ Western Sahara, and another part will support the sustainable development of the local fisheries sector. The SFPA came into force after a royal decree in July 2019 approved the agreement.

The SFPA helped to ease tensions between Morocco and the EU that arose in December 2016 after the EU Court of Justice ruled that Morocco had no legal basis to include Morocco/Western Sahara in a previous 2012 agreement to liberalise fisheries and other forms of trade between the two parties. The new agreement removes a stumbling block in the strategic partnership between Morocco and the EU. Beyond allowing fisheries trade to resume, the SFPA is expected to encourage cooperation on matters of mutual concern, such as those related to immigration and security.

African Relations

Since rejoining the African Union (AU) in January 2017 Morocco has held several leadership positions within the organisation. In January 2019 the kingdom was elected president of the AU’s Special Technical Committee for Trade, Industry and Mining Resources. Additionally, in September 2018 Morocco assumed the rotating chairmanship of the AU Peace and Security Council for one month. The country was elected to this council in January 2018 for a two-year term. Morocco had left the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity in 1984 following disagreements concerning the status of Morocco/ Western Sahara. In addition, the kingdom ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area in July 2019, which had come into force in May 2019.

Security Agreements

Morocco is a key player in international efforts to tackle terrorism and extremist violence. One of the primary channels through which Morocco has pursued counterterrorism initiatives is its security partnership with the US, which routinely refers to Morocco as a major non-NATO ally. The US and Morocco have held several joint military exercises. In April 2019 the two countries concluded the 16th annual African Lion exercise in Agadir, which involved field training, live-fire ranges, command post exercises and humanitarian civic activities. In October 2019 the US and Morocco issued a joint communiqué agreeing to “sustain cooperation to advance shared interests in regional stability and defeat terrorist groups.” Additionally, the kingdom has participated in several Africa-focused counterterrorism initiatives. In September 2019 regional media reported that Morocco plans on donating $3.3m to the G5 Sahel, an alliance comprised of Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger created to combat extremist violence in the Sahel region. The funds will be used to bolster investment in education, health and other sectors as a means of addressing social factors that motivate individuals to join extremist groups. In February 2020 Mohcine Jazouli, minister delegate for African cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called for intra-African cooperation to prevent the spread of terrorism in Sahel at a meeting of the AU’s Peace and Security Council. Morocco is also a member of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership, which was created in 2005 by the US government to strengthen regional security.