Crisis and upheaval in Europe’s southern periphery have shaken the strategic landscape of regional security in the Western Mediterranean. The Arab uprisings radically transformed the political and security environment within some countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean (Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya). The resultant political tumult and the proliferation of transnational violent extremist groups and organized criminal networks, including human smugglers and drug traffickers, have stirred major security concerns in Europe. The initial response of European policy-makers to the tectonic shifts transpiring in the Maghreb, however, seemed quite promising. As early as March 2011, EU leaders brandished the tantalizing lure of a strategic partnership with countries of the Southern Mediterranean that was to be underpinned by money, market access and mobility.

This “three Ms” approach seemed bold and transformative, a much-needed break from the lame policies of the past. Unfortunately, the much heralded EU support to its southern neighbors never really transpired. The new approach mainly repackaged and recycled the same old piecemeal policies and instruments that failed to spur political reforms and address the economic needs of countries buffeted by multiple internal and external shocks. EU policy towards the Maghreb is still reflective of the disjointed self-interests of member states who favor their own short-term political and security interests. For example, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which was launched in 2004 and governs the EU’s relations with its southern neighbors, remains too technocratic, lacking the political support and financial muscle necessary to translate its lofty goals of democracy promotion and shared economic prosperity into reality. The same problems handicap the Western Mediterranean Forum, referred to as the 5+5 Dialogue. Since it was launched in Rome in 1990, the forum has taken an ad hoc approach, focusing mainly on short-term crisis and security management strategies.

Anouar Boukhars
Boukhars was a nonresident fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program. He is a professor of countering violent extremism and counter-terrorism at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University.
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As they stand, the current instruments in the toolbox of EU foreign policy are illequipped to address instability and insecurity in the Maghreb. To accomplish their missions, they need to be radically revamped on the technical side as well as empowered with political support. Such a process also has to take stock of the new realities affecting security in several countries of the Maghreb. This article purports to do just that. It examines the crisis of security and stability in the Maghreb, with a particular focus on the three countries lying on the southern rim of the Mediterranean (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia).

The State of Affairs in the Maghreb

The great exuberance that the 2011 Arab uprisings provoked in the Maghreb faded as quickly as it came. The process of political change has been tortuous and punctuated by violence, squandered opportunities and dramatic setbacks. Morocco’s swagger about its unique process of tranquil democratization has turned to a limp. The kingdom is the most stable in North Africa but the pace of political change has been slow. In Algeria, Africa’s largest country, the big questions of stability loom large. The oligarchy that oversees the state hopes that its wheel of fortune does not burst, as the system remains imperiled by the unresolved succession question and low energy prices. To the east of Algeria, Libya is in tatters. The country’s chaos threatens to spread beyond the gates of its neighbors to reach Europe's southern flank. To Algeria’s southwest, Mauritania stands surprisingly, if delicately, stable. This uneasy stability, however, will be difficult to maintain in a context of mounting internal stresses and external shocks. Mauritania, which ranks as the least populated and least developed country in the Maghreb, is confronted with an increasingly precarious political landscape, exacerbated by rising dissent, risks of ethnic confrontations, plummeting state revenues and the volatile geopolitics of the Sahel and Sahara regions.1 Only in Tunisia is democratic hope still standing. But even there, the stubborn persistence of economic, social and regional disparities is having a dangerous effect on the country’s stability and democratic transition.

The woes of the Maghreb are amplified by the threat of violent extremism. The revival of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the introduction of Islamic State (IS) franchises have sent shivers throughout the region. The consequences for stability are most acutely felt in Tunisia where a wave of attacks by IS and AQIM affiliated groups has tested the country’s nascent democracy. Algeria also remains a prized target for the violent extremist organizations still operating in the country’s northeastern region of Kabylie and the areas bordering Libya, Mali and Tunisia. Morocco, which ranks amongst the safest countries in this troubled zone, is not immune from terrorist contamination. In recent years, the country’s security services have busted dozens of cells suspected of IS links. In Libya, the threat of militancy is the most confounding as it is ensconced in the country’s political, tribal and regional fractures. Complicating things even more for Libya and the region as a whole is the return of foreign fighters.

Exactly how this threatening environment in the Maghreb is unfolding is unclear. The prominence of transnational violent extremist and criminal networks should give urgent impetus to regional security cooperation. Unfortunately, the Western Sahara dispute remains a sore in the geopolitics of the region, with Morocco and Algeria battling each other for influence in the Maghreb and Western Africa. The most significant contribution that states with the biggest stakes in North Africa can make is to help the region’s two giants dial back their rivalry and revive their diplomatic ties. Europe in particular has a strong incentive to help Morocco and Algeria unlock their problems over the Western Sahara. Much of the continent’s southern flank is exposed to insecurities emanating from the Maghreb and the adjacent areas of West Africa and the Sahel. It is therefore critical for the EU and all concerned member states to strive to de-escalate regional power rivalries and mitigate the conditions that fuel the spread of violent extremism. So far, however, the main driver of EU attention has been counter-terrorism and migration control. Both are viewed as vital to the continent’s security, but their effectiveness necessitates addressing the causes that enable the rise of instabilities in the Maghreb.

Moroccan-style Gradualism

Five years after street protests nudged the king to change the constitution and allow an Islamist party (PJD) to form a coalition government, the Moroccan monarchy and the PJD remain uneasy companions. The royal palace maintains a strong grip on the political process even as the Islamists score notable electoral successes and try to expand their reach into the broader power structure. The PJD’s strong showing in both the September 2015 local elections —the party won some of the biggest cities including the capital Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier, Fez, Marrakesh and Agadir— and the October 2016 parliamentary vote where it increased its seats from 107 to 125, seems to vindicate the party’s gradualist approach. Gradualism is the eternal buzzword in Morocco. It is often a slow and frustrating experience, but all the important forces in the country sing its praises and recite its virtues. The monarchy brandishes it as proof of its reformist credentials. Democratic evolutionists dominating the PJD see it as a proven winner, especially that Islamists have been forced into retreat everywhere. This trend extends to the broader society where most Moroccans prefer the slow pace of change to the syndrome of stale authoritarianism or instability that ravages the region.

Where Morocco’s politics goes next is the subject of much speculation. The monarchy remains dominant and popular. King Mohammed VI exercises a great deal of power and enjoys system-based authority that also encompasses popular legitimacy. But the slight empowerment of democratic institutions brought about by constitutional reforms in July 2011 have created arenas through which political forces may challenge the preeminence of the Makhzen (literally: storehouse), the so-called deep state centering on the royal palace. In Morocco, such contestation plays fiercely in the electoral arena. The triumph of the PJD in the 2015 local elections deeply shook the system, unleashing a powerful counter-campaign to undermine the Islamists in the October 2016 legislative elections. In Morocco, electoral contests are not state-sponsored comedy, and hence are taken very seriously by the ruling elite of Morocco’s Makhzen. Notwithstanding the PJD’s patient and non-threatening formula for political change, the extended power apparatus that is firmly tied together by loyalty to the monarchy fears the Islamists’ encroachment into other institutions.

If the PJD expands its electoral footprint, the next territory of contention might become the legislature. Already, the important presence of Islamists in government and parliament has been an irritant to the country’s governance style, historically guided by unwritten codes and neo-traditional norms. The PJD’s hitherto stubborn persistence creates a dilemma for the Makhzen. The party is pragmatic, adaptive and accommodating. But tolerating its expanding reach generates high uncertainty and anxiety among the informal power holders who fear that if the PJD’s electoral successes proceed, they will upset the uneven balance of power between the formal institutions of democracy and the powerful parallel pillar of governance revolving around the monarchy. This explains the selective constriction of democratic spaces, aggressive cooptation of potential opposition and subtle propping of political allies. In the run-up to the October 2016 parliamentary election, the PJD and its junior collation ally, the Socialism and Progress Party (PPS), implicitly accused Makhzen networks of supporting the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), whose founder is now a close palace adviser.2 The PJD justice minister also took to Facebook to complain that "The justice minister used to decide with the interior minister on all election matters but now, three weeks before the October 7 elections, weird and strange things are happening."3

These inherent tensions have so far been manageable. The country is stable, economically open and slowly and hesitatingly edging toward some semblance of limited democracy. The majority of Moroccans credit the monarchy for this state of affairs.4 The fruits of this political tranquility and security manifest themselves in the transformation of the country into a major destination for foreign manufacturers. The kingdom’s welcoming business environment, tax advantages and good infrastructure have lured major European car makers. Morocco’s welcome mat also explains the boom in the aeronautics and aviation industry. Another industry that is helping create jobs and reshape the Moroccan economy is solar power. The country is building the world’s largest solar-thermal plant. These mega projects reflect Morocco’s ambitions to become a leading hub for renewable energy and manufacturing. The country also hopes to boost its own industrial capacity in these sectors, create local supply chains and help local firms thrive.

Accompanying this economic dynamism, which required significant investments in ports, roads, railways, air transportation, water supply, as well as a range of other measures to attract private-sector investors and train workers, has been a tighter control of the country’s account and budget deficits. The PJD-led government has smartly taken advantage of low fossil fuel prices to implement some painful public subsidy reforms, avoiding social unrest as the political opposition had warned.

But not everything is smooth in the kingdom. Major initiatives and projects that are ordained by the king move faster, while those that are not get bogged down in staggering bureaucracy, political squabbling and cost overruns.5 Graft is reducing economic efficiency and distorting the allocation of resources. Corruption remains so widespread in the political, economic and judicial system that a 2015 corruption index compiled by Transparency International ranked Morocco 80 out of 168 countries. Ordinary Moroccans are well aware that the economic system is prone to rent-seeking and manipulation. At the 15th annual commemoration of his accession to the throne, the king himself addressed this problem head-on when he asked, “Where has Morocco’s wealth gone? And who is benefitting from it?!” For the first time, Mohammed VI acknowledged that the kingdom can no longer tolerate "a two-speed system in which the rich reap the benefits of growth, thus becoming richer, while the poor are excluded from the development process, thus getting poorer and suffering more deprivation."6

The trouble is that to foster sustainable and inclusive economic growth requires good governance, independent courts, and a strong civil society. To be sure, some institutions are reformist and non-corrupt. Since his ascent to the throne in July 1999, the king has incontestably propelled new dynamism to the economy and investment patterns. The PJD’s tenure in government has been largely free of scandal. The party has sustained its political integrity and enacted some bold reforms that all previous governments shied away from, even as the great expectations for combating corruption faded into disappointments.

This uneasy coexistence of the monarchy and the PJD has fostered stability and economic progress. The trajectory of political change may remain deeply contradictory and inconclusive, but most Moroccans are loath to disrupt this state of affairs. After all, when compared to the authoritarian regression, political stasis and instability rampant in the region, the kingdom looks like an oasis of tranquility, and is a reliable ally of Europe and the United States. The stability of the status quo, however, should not lead to complacency. Unemployment is still stubbornly high, especially among the young and educated. Hundreds of disenchanted Moroccans are believed to have joined transnational violent extremist organizations in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Moroccan authorities are also on high alert over terror threats from extremist movements operating on the Sahel and West Africa. In the Moroccan administered Western Sahara, the Royal Armed Forces and Gendarmerie personnel have stepped up their monitoring of the border with Mauritania, recently targeting trafficking and smuggling networks in the Guerguerat region.

Algeria Adrift

In the midst of North Africa’s tumultuous political landscape, Algeria remains adrift but stable. As its neighbors wallow in instability, the country has managed to maintain order within its vast territory. Yet, underneath this stability lies a volatile mix of demographic stress, political alienation and economic mismanagement. The slow-motion denouement of the Bouteflika era adds to the list of economic and security worries already confronting the country. Algeria would be fortunate enough to avoid a disruptive political transition, as the internal headwinds and regional maelstrom that its leaders have to navigate are growing in peril.

For now, the country remains stranded in stasis. As the guessing game of the postBouteflika sweepstakes heats up, the network of decision-makers are actively working on staging a managed transition of power. In the process, the orchestrators intrigue and compete over turf and distribution of power, but the reality of common interests takes precedence over convivial rivalry. After all, the end goal of this game of necessity is survival. It should therefore not be surprising that the primal impulses of the deep state – that hidden group of senior military officers and their civilian allies that Algerians call 'le pouvoir' – is to double down on the same policies that have hitherto kept the ship of state afloat.

The contours of the emergent leadership will be no different from the groupings feeding off the system that has long characterized Algeria. Personalities and personnel change within the informal power networks that govern Algeria but the web of dependencies that ties networks and relationships together remains impervious to change. For example, during Bouteflika’s long reign in power, the presidency, the newly-enriched and business elite may have gained in political prominence at the expense of the intelligence and security services (DRS) but the system remains as indefinable as ever. The underlying forces that power the opaqueness of the system are the same ones that determine its evolutionary character. In other words, the DRS may have been dismantled in January 2016 and its once all-powerful head, General Mediène, whisked into retirement in September 2015, but the intelligence and security agencies still wield the same powerful influence within the apparatus of the state. In essence, the deep state adapts on its own terms, ruling behind a façade of formal institutions that don the trappings of electoral politics and pseudo-freedom of expression. This superficiality where the oligarchy that controls the state co-opts resistance exploits ideological fissures within society and patronizes political parties, namely the FLN and the Rassemblement National Démocratique (RND), will continue regardless of who takes over after Bouteflika exits the scene.

Therein in lies the problem of Algeria. The hidden mechanisms of power and the domestication of politics have widened the disconnect between the state and Algerian society. The irremediable ineffectiveness and corruption of state bureaucracy leave serious grievances to fester. At times of moribund political institutions and feeble civil society, only rioting seems to catalyze calls for public and government action.

As things stand, the state apparatus and its network-based system of governance will struggle to tame the socioeconomic storm clouds that threaten Algeria’s stability. Falling oil prices is a reminder of how dangerously dependent Algeria is on fossil fuels. The looming pivot to austerity conjures up the dark memories of the late 1980s when the government’s decision to reduce imports and cut spending and subsidies stoked civil unrest and the subsequent bloody civil war in the 1990s. So far, Algeria has used its backup of foreign-currency reserves to temper the effect of low prices. But that cushion is slated to erode as the reserves shrink from about $193bn in 2014 to $136bn in 2016.7 Algeria's dinar currency has also come under severe downward pressure, aggravating the country’s import bill and decreasing consumers’ purchasing power. To alleviate the financial pressures on its foreign currency reserves, the Algerian government cut spending by 9 percent in 2016,8 suspended a number of infrastructure projects, and imposed restrictions on some imports such as cement, steel and certain cars.9 Other fiscal measures to boost plummeting government revenues included a tax amnesty for Algerians with undeclared businesses.

These stop-gap measures are important to slow the downward slide in revenues but they remain only half-measures, unable to tackle the real obstacles to reforming an economy that still relies on hydrocarbons for two-thirds of government revenues and 95 percent of export earnings. During the great oil boom of the Bouteflika years, the regime squandered a golden opportunity to reduce reliance on energy exports and spur more inclusive models of growth and development.

The current economic crunch makes it harder to enact the necessary economic and social reforms for a post-oil economy. In late 2016, the government pledged to introduce a new "economic growth model" to boost the role of the private sector and prioritize investments in high-value added sectors, such as renewable energy, mining industry, agribusiness and oil and gas refinement.10 In a bid to raise funds for the development of non-oil sectors, the country eyes a 30% expansion of energy oil output by 2020.11 This is an ambitious goal in light of the country’s difficult business environment and the endemic corruption in its hydrocarbon industry. Another complicating factor is the growing domestic consumption of oil and gas. Algerian leaders hope to rescue their conventional energy sources through harnessing the global shale gas revolution. After all, Algeria is estimated to have the third or fourth recoverable shale gas reserves in the world.12 The problem, however, is that hydraulic fracturing requires the extraction of large quantities of water. Worse, most shale-rich deposits are based in Algeria’s remote south. This has put the state’s ambitions on a collision course with the inhabitants of the Sahara’s driest areas, who fear that fracking will destroy their livelihoods and water supplies.

In recent years, the south has seen an escalation in protests against social exclusion and high unemployment. Unfortunately, political disgruntlement and frustration with injustices is not always channeled into social mobilization and non-violent protests.13 Some, especially the disaffected youth, gravitate towards the regional criminal and smuggling networks long established in Algeria’s south and its periphery. The growing extent and interconnectedness of these networks, increasingly enmeshed into the drug trade, car theft, illicit cigarette trafficking, weapons smuggling and counterfeiting, is a source of major concern for Algeria, which fears cross-pollination with extremist actors roaming the Algerian and Sahelian deserts.

This is a moment of high anxiety in Algeria. The economic problems are immense and the details to tackle them are still scarce. The barriers to creating a modern economy are not new. Bold promises of good governance, economic diversification and sustainable development have so far remained a mirage. And there is little reason to believe that a change of guard at the head of the presidency will deliver the efficient and accountable government Algeria needs to escape its political and economic predicament. The only question is whether this enduring political stasis exacerbates Algeria’s economic and unemployment woes. Any such deterioration risks plunging the country into a spiral of unrest and repression.

In a context of rising external insecurities, the best that the Algerian regime can hope for is that its politics of continuity staves off a rapid economic deterioration and an explosion of rising popular frustrations.

Tunisia in Flux

Five years after the revolution that ousted Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia remains in flux. The convergence of politics into a secular and Islamist pole is a salutary experience that can contribute to peace and stability. The maintenance of the elite political consensus between the secular Nidaa Touness and the Islamist Ennahda fits Tunisia’s need for unity in the face of multiple threats. Unfortunately, there is more than meets the eye in Tunisia’s transition to consensual politics. The country is still caught in a turbulent grey zone where strong authoritarian tendencies threaten to pull down the country’s tortuous march to democratic stability. Some developments are particularly worrisome. The fallout from the rise of terrorism is an unmistakable drift towards illiberalism. The grand designs to reform the security sector have been abandoned. The all-powerful ministry of interior, the backbone of old authoritarian rule, remains an unreconstructed bastion of secrecy and unaccountability. Other vestiges of restrictions and control are still firmly in place. Old laws and regulations continue to stand as linchpins of abuse of government power. The unreformed penal and military codes is a symbol of the ominous shadow of impunity that still hovers over fragile Tunisian democracy. Numerous other laws remain unreconstructed or lay dormant till resurrected. The 1978 state of emergency decree is a classic example of the extraordinary powers still assigned to the executive.14

The recurrent invocation of the law seems to fit the pattern of the resurgence of the national security state. After three high-profile terror tragedies in 2015, the government is flexing its counter-terrorism muscles. The crackdown has led to blanket measures against populations suspected of radicalism. Police raids have returned in full bloom, “rogue” mosques have been closed, arbitrary travel restrictions on people under 35 have been imposed, and an “anti-terror” wall is being erected on Libya’s border. As the crackdown intensifies, fears abound that the terror-fighting strategy is short-termist, privileging tactics over strategy. Untargeted surveillance and disproportionate reach into neighborhoods considered as dangerous urban zones yield very little actionable intelligence, but they have pushed alienated citizens from the mainstream.

The institutions entrusted with checking the abuse of emergency power are either weak or intimidated into acquiescence. At a time of rising insecurities and terrorism, it is politically inexpedient for the parliamentary opposition to scrutinize the application of the laws and their conformity to the constitutional guarantees of legality and necessity. Being branded as terrorist sympathizers is such an existential threat to be greatly feared by the political opponents of the government.

Other examples of the government’s backtracking on reforms abound. The government has rowed back on promises to punish past economic crimes and other unlawful gains.15 The proposed law on economic reconciliation is a barely masked attempt to undermine the work of the Truth and Dignity Commission and whitewash corrupt officials and business people. The bill proposes amnesty for corrupt politicians and businessmen who agree to pay a fine and return the public funds they embezzled. As a sweetener, the money would be invested in impoverished areas. Supporters of the bill, President Essebsi foremost among them, argue that the settlements would help unlock business investment and expedite the recovery of stolen assets. Opponents, however, see the bill as part of a broader Machiavellian drive to absolve the old establishment and reverse the country’s democratic gains.

It is too early to decide what shape the political order in Tunisia will take. There are some reasons for optimism as well as pessimism. Whatever the complexities, however, one thing is clear. The likely character of the political transition will be decided to a large extent by the ability or failure of the governing coalition to handle the multiple crises the country faces, the most daunting of which are terrorist threats and rising social tensions in the interior and border regions. Already, the failure to build a clear and coherent development policy that confronts the harms of economic exclusion and regional asymmetries has exacerbated youth resentments in Tunisia’s poorest neighborhoods and marginalized periphery. The January 2016 outbreak of social unrest in Kasserine, a desolate wasteland town in western Tunisia, is a reminder that the anger and despair that propelled the revolution from the hinterland are alive and well.

The stakes are high and the threats are real. Social inequality and regional asymmetries are undermining Tunisia’s democratic transition. They are also making it harder to secure the country. Thousands of disgruntled young Tunisians have joined the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Libya. This gravitational pull of militancy was clearly on show in the March 2016 terrorist attack on the south-eastern border town Ben Guerdane. This attack also illustrates the destabilizing aspects of the IS presence in Libya, as well its potential to tap into the pervasive discontent in Tunisia’s border regions.

The challenge for Tunisia is to understand this youth revolt. Blaming Islamic fundamentalism as the main driver of radicalism misdiagnoses the problem. So far, Tunisia’s current security framework against terrorism and other insecurities reflects the maxim that “every problem looks like a nail if the only tool you've got in your tool bag is a hammer.” Anytime there is a terrorist attack, the state cracks down on suspected radicals. Alternative approaches to combating terrorism are confined to the margins of public discourse and policy-making. A dispassionate assessment of Tunisia’s Jihadi problem, however, points more to sociological and political factors than it does to religious fundamentalism.16


After a brief historical interlude of revolutionary fervor and democratic aspirations, the mood in the Maghreb has turned sour. The underlying causes of tensions and instability are complex and differ from country to country. But political stasis and economic distress is by far the region’s Achilles heel. Europe has a huge stake in helping its southern neighbors put their house in order, as the region’s problems tend to quickly become the continent’s woes. Morocco is the least complicated case, as the country remains politically stable and an attractive investment destination. But all is not bright in the kingdom. The country’s economic potential is held back by bureaucratic sloth and corruption. The dividends of economic progress have also not been shared equitably, leaving those left out in the cold frustrated. The big question for Morocco’s allies in Europe is how to incentivize more reforms that expand political freedoms and economic participation.

Europe’s task is much more complicated in Algeria. The country’s ruling elite is extremely sensitive to “meddling” in the country’s internal affairs. Political and economic engagement therefore requires a great deal of subtlety and delicacy.17 The good news is that a growing chorus within the deep state seems to recognize that Algeria needs to reform. With dwindling reserves, the country needs European investments and technology to help it build a cushion against the mounting economic blows caused by low oil prices. Algeria desperately needs to modernize its economy and address the huge deficits in governance. So far, however, the country’s partners in Europe have focused mostly on how to prop up the Algerian gas industry to help the continent reduce its dependence on Russia. Another belief is that helping Algeria increase its gas production will stem a potential disastrous destabilization of the country. The focus on boosting investment in the gas industry is important, but it is ignoring the big elephant in the room: political stasis. What Algeria needs most is political openness and serious economic reforms that will help improve the business climate and lure foreign investors to areas beyond hydrocarbons.

Tunisia constitutes Europe’s major test for supporting democracy. The country deserves support and is eager for international aid. The EU should significantly increase its economic aid as well as mobilize international support and resources to ease the social situation in Tunisia’s interior and border regions. EU officials, in coordination with their American ally, should also put pressure on the Tunisian government to keep its infringements on civil liberties in check. Police abuse and torture instill in young people profound feelings of humiliation and bitterness towards state authority. They are also the best recruiting tools for terrorist groups.

Europe and the international community also have a role to play in beefing up the security architecture of the region. The most important contribution is to help stabilize Libya and resolve the Western Sahara dispute between Morocco and Algeria. The continuing chaos in Libya threatens to unleash more migration and terrorism on North Africa and Europe while the standoff between Algeria and Morocco torpedoes much needed regional economic integration and security cooperation. The 5+5 Dialogue, which brings together the five countries from the Maghreb Union and those from the northern shore (Spain, France, Italy, Malta and Portugal), offers a good forum to explore the best ideas to face the challenges confronting the Western Mediterranean region. Most importantly, this dialogue has already been expanded to include issues that are critical to Maghreb integration and the development of the Mediterranean, such as education and research, the environment, energy, agriculture, food security and transportation. All these initiatives need to be translated into concrete action plans and technical support structures, as has already happened with the Transport Group of the Western Mediterranean (GTMO 5+5), supported by the CETMO (Centre for Transportation Studies for the Western Mediterranean).18

The new European Neighbourhood Policy, released in November 2015, also emphasizes the importance of EU engagement in boosting investment, trade and energy cooperation with southern neighboring governments. Whether the new ENP policy delivers on its promises depends on the level of political support the EU and its member states provide. So far, the ENP has never been given the necessary financial resources or conditionality incentives to have any leverage with the countries of the Maghreb.19

This article was originally published European Institute of the Mediterranean.


1 For a detailed analysis of the domains of insecurity that threaten Mauritania’s stability, see Boukhars Anouar (2015), “As Threats Mount, Can Mauritania’s Fragile Stability Hold?”, World Politics Review, 16 June, /articles/19084/as-threats-mount-can-mauritania-s-fragile-stability-hold

2 El Yaakoubi Aziz (2016), "Moroccan king defends adviser over election comment in rare remarks", Reuters, 14 September,

3 El Yaakoubi Aziz (2016), "Tensions within Moroccan government heat up as election nears", Reuters, 19 September,

4 "The pluses and minuses of monarchy" (2016), The Economist, 9 June,

5 “Factories in the sun" (2016), The Economist, 2 June,

6 "New wealth rubs shoulders with old poverty in Morocco" (2015), Al Araby, 17 August, english/politics/2015/8/17/new-wealth-rubs-shoulders-with-old-poverty-in-morocco

7 Ould Ahmed Hamid (2016), "Algeria dinar's fall hits finances, but may bring reserves benefits", Reuters, 31 May,

8 Ould Ahmed Hamid (2016), "Algeria to implement 'new growth model' to cope with oil price drop", Reuters, 27 July,

9 Ould Khettab Djamila (2016), "Algeria economy: 'The worst is to come'", Al Jazeera English Online, 11 May,

10 Hamid Ould Ahmed (2016), "Algeria to implement 'new growth model' to cope with oil price drop", Reuters, 27 July,

11 Brown Lincoln (2016), "Algeria plans to boost oil output by 30%", CNN online, 28 July, 2016/07/28/investing/algeria-oil-boost/

12 Daragahi Borzou (2015), "Environmental movement blocks fracking in Algeria’s remote south", Financial Times, 9 March,

13 Armstrong Hannah (2014), “The In Amenas Attack in the Context of Southern Algeria’s Growing Social Unrest”, CTC Sentinel, 12 February,

14 Marzouki Nadia (2015), “Tunisia's Rotten Compromise”, Middle East Research and Information Project, 10 July,

15 Saleh Heba (2015), “Egypt and Tunisia row back on corruption”, Financial Times, 13 September,

16 Lamloum Olfa (2015), “Observations about Jihadists in Tunisia”, Assafir, 6 August,

17 Joffé George (2015), “The Outlook for Algeria”, Instituto Affari Internationalali, files/iaiwp1538.pdf

18 Busquets Gabriel, "Regional Integration in the Western Mediterranean: the AMU and 5+5", IEMED, observatori/arees-danalisi/arxius-adjunts/anuari/anuari-2014/Busquest_5-5_Dialogue_ArabMaghreb_Union_IEMed_yearbook_2014_EN.pdf

19 Furness Mark and Schäfer Isabel (2015), “The 2015 European Neighbourhood Policy Review: more realism, less ambition”, The Current Column, German Development Institute, November 26, 2015, /article/the-2015-european-neighbourhood-policy-review-more-realism-less-ambition/