agreement on Mobility Partnership: Towards the first readmission
agreement with an African country?
On 1 March 2013, the President
of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the
EU's Commissioner on Home Affairs, Cecilia Malström, met
with the Moroccan authorities in Rabat. In a press conference,
Barroso and Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane announced
a "new step in the relations" between the EU
and Morocco, including a political agreement on the signature
of a Mobility Partnership which, some suggest, may finally lead
to the conclusion of a readmission agreement which the Moroccan
authorities have so far refused to sign.
In a laudatory introduction, Manuel Barroso stressed the "very
positive" nature of the EU's relations with a "privileged
partner". Morocco is the only country in the region
to have obtained, in 2008, "advanced partner"
status in the European Neighbourhood Policy.
"The advanced status is reflected in the willingness
to strengthen political dialogue, co-operation in the economic,
social, parliamentary, judicial and security fields and in different
sectors, namely agriculture, transportation, energy and environment.
It also aims at the progressive integration of Morocco into the
common internal market as well as at increasing legislative and
regulatory convergence. Financial co-operation plays an essential
support role for the success of this status."
The Action plan 2012-2016 foresees many areas of cooperation
in addition to the EU's support to democracy and the rule of
law in Morocco.
Cooperation includes, inter alia:
- formal and informal meetings between the EU and Morocco in
the framework of the 'Reinforced Political Dialogue'
- ad hoc participation of Morocco in meetings of several working
groups of the Council of Europe such as the Maghreb/Mashreq working
party, the Human Rights working group and the working party on
- reinforced dialogue on cooperation in the European Security
and Defence Policy (ESDP)
- parliamentary cooperation between Morocco and the European
Parliament; observatory status at the Council of Europe
- cooperation on civil protection and security especially in
view of the potential signature of a cooperation agreement between
Morocco, EUROPOL and CEPOL and the future creation of the Higher
Institute for the fight against criminality (Institut Supérieur
de lutte contre la criminalité)
- Cooperation on countering terrorism and organised crime
- Cooperation on migration, border management and international
protection in view of the signature of a Mobility Partnership
and the reinforcement of asylum law and effective access to international
protection in Morocco.
The EU and Morocco have cooperated on migration issues for some
years, in particular through the framework of the Euro-African
conference in 2006 and the Union for the Mediterranean as well
as the Rabat process, which has been praised by officials of
all the participating countries as shown in a video  produced
by the International Centre for Migration Policy and Development
(ICMPD), one of the coordinators of the inter-governmental forum.
In recent years, the EU has sought to conclude a Mobility Partnership
with Morocco. This was given further impetus in 2011 when the
EU and Morocco launched a "Dialogue on migration, mobility
and security." After Tunisia, Morocco was the second country
to "benefit"  from this cooperation scheme, established
in the wake of the Arab Spring which began in December 2010 in
During the press conference on 1 March 2013, Barroso announced:
"Today, we are launching an agreement to facilitate visa
issuance procedures for certain categories of persons, especially
students, researchers, business men and women. In the long term,
it seems fair to support an evolution towards full visa-free
mobility for Moroccan citizens, taking into account the global
bilateral relations between the EU and Morocco, and on the condition
that safe and well-managed mobility can be ensured."
Beyond the relevance of a Mobility Partnership at present for
Morocco - which has signed many bilateral agreements on labour
migration with EU countries including France, Spain, Italy, and
Germany. A Mobility Partnership would not really change much
for its workforce: it has signed many bilateral agreements on
labour migration with EU countries including France, Spain, Italy
and Germany. It can therefore be reasonably assumed that the
prospect of a visa liberalisation regime for all Moroccan citizens
is the main reason the government agreed to sign a Mobility Partnership.
The Mobility Partnership will enter into force only after some
Member States have proposed avenues for mobility in their country.
Precedents exist in the EU's agreements with Georgia and Cape
Verde, whose Mobility Partnerships led to labour migration schemes
in Member States who expressed an interest in accepting temporary
migrants. News circulated by French Press Association AFP (Agence
France Presse) and relayed in many Moroccan newspapers after
the visit of EU delegates said that:
"The EU and its agencies (EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the EASO
and the European Training Foundation) and 8 Member States of
the EU (Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands,
Portugal and the United-Kingdom) have put forward concrete initiatives
towards the implementation of this partnership and reinforced
cooperation with Morocco on all aspects linked with migration
The Commission is making the signature of a Mobility Partnership
(MP) with Morocco dependent on one key condition:
"The implementation [of MPs] will be conditional
upon a genuine commitment from the third-countries concerned
to readmit irregular migrants who are not entitled to stay in
the territory of the Member States and take effective action
aimed at preventing irregular migration, establishing integrated
border management, document security and to fight organised crime,
including trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants."
For the past ten years Morocco has refused to sign any such agreement.
It would be a major shift if it became the first African country
to conclude a readmission agreement with the European Union.
Morocco already readmits its own nationals based on readmission
agreements signed with Spain, France, Italy and Germany. Moreover,
the EU association agreements foresee a readmission clause applicable
to nationals of the third country signatory of the agreement.
Association agreements have been signed with several countries
of the regions, including Morocco in 1996 but no readmission
agreement has been signed yet.
The reluctance of Morocco
to sign a readmission agreement with the EU is mostly linked
with an unwillingness to readmit irregular non-Moroccans that
have passed through the country before entering the European
Union. In August 2012, Moroccan Foreign Minister Saâdeddine
El Othmani stated that Morocco would not be the "gendarme
of the European Union."
This attitude is not specific to Morocco. In its evaluation of
EU readmission agreements in February 2011, the European
Commission noted that, due to the reluctance of many third countries
to be forced to readmit non-nationals, "[t]he concrete
need for third country national [TCN] clauses should be
thoroughly evaluated for each country with which the EU enters
into readmission negotiations." The study concluded
that no third-country national clause should be imposed on countries
where it will constitute a major disincentive.
This position was re-affirmed by the Commission's head of DG
Mobility and Transport, Stefano Manservisi, during a meeting
of the LIBE committee at the European Parliament on 21 February
2013. However, this proposal has so far not been put into
effect, for two reasons. On the one hand, the European Commission
cannot decide alone whether to withdraw the third country national
clause from a readmission agreement under negotiation. Member
States have to agree on this, which they do not seem very keen
to do, as demonstrated by the case of Armenia.
"We did not make the proposal to return third country
nationals in the readmission agreement with Armenia but Council
outvoted our proposal. Therefore we were obliged to follow the
mandate which is covering also the readmission of third country
nationals, even in a country which has no common border and therefore
where we assess the risk much lower."
This quote shows the second reason why the "TCN clause"
is hard to withdraw: the geographical location of the third country.
The Commission's position on Armenia, which does not share a
common border with the EU, will certainly be different when it
comes to Morocco.
Despite the Moroccan authorities' opposition to "pay[ing]
for the permissiveness of neighbouring countries,"
it remains unclear whether a readmission agreement will be signed.
Nevertheless, based on the Commission's insistence that the signature
of a Mobility Partnership is conditional upon the signature of
a readmission agreement, it seems very likely that it will.
Whether this potential agreement will include a "TCN clause"
remains uncertain. However, an EU readmission agreement with
Morocco applicable to Moroccans only would not be in the interest
of the EU.Bilateral readmission agreements are well enforced
and Member States will be reluctant to negotiate an agreement
without a "TCN clause", especially as Morocco is increasingly
known for being a transit country for migrants en-route to Europe.
Ongoing informal removals
In practice, the signature of a readmission agreement applicable
to third country nationals would only make official informal
removals of third country nationals to Morocco which are already
being carried out, in particular by Spanish border guards.
According to Migreurop:
"Expulsions to Morocco target all migrants arrested in
Moroccan waters and in the border area. They take place without
any control or respect for human rights. Numerous migrants' stories
testify to violations of these rights, both by Moroccan and Spanish
These practices are reinforced by tightened immigration laws
that have been denounced as directly linked with EU-Morocco cooperation.
In its 2009-2009 report, Migreurop emphasised that:
"In October 2008, the principle of 'advanced status'
[was] granted during the 7th EU-Morocco Association Council.
The EU 'welcome[d] the efforts by Morocco to tackle illegal immigration,
which have led to a substantial decrease in the flows arriving
from this country'."
Although most irregular migrants in Morocco come from neighbouring
Maghreb countries, sub-Saharan migrants are used as scapegoats
to prove to the EU their good will, the report argued:
"Sub-Saharans are the collateral victims of a Euro-Moroccan
policy that far outweighs their own cases. In 2004-2005, they
were subjected to 20,000 particularly harsh refoulement [to
the Algerian border mostly]. In this period when Morocco had
to demonstrate its 'good will' towards Europe, it did not hesitate,
particularly after the events in Ceuta and Melilla [in September
2005 when Sub-Saharan migrants were shot trying to cross in the
Spanish enclaves], to multiply deportations to the middle
of the Sahara with deadly consequences that aroused the disapproval
of human rights defenders and the press throughout the world."
coverage on related aspects:
Statewatch Analysis, The
Global Approach to Migration and Mobility: the state of play,
Statewatch Analysis, A
radically changing political landscape in the Southern Mediterranean?
The Dialogue for Migration, Mobility and Security with the Southern
Mediterranean countries, July 2011
and Cooperation - Morroco, EuropAid's webpage
 European External Action Service, Projet
de plan d'action pour le Maroc pour la mise en oeuvre du Statut
Avancé (2012-2016), 25 April 2012
 ICMP, Rabat
Process: results and opportunities, 10 January 2013
 EU Neighbourhood Info Centre, EU
takes another stride towards mobility partnership with Morocco,
18 October 2011
 Unofficial translation of Barroso's statement during
the press conference in Rabat on 1 March 2013. Video available
 Unofficial translation
Réadmettre les clandestins en échange de visas
pour les Marocains', Ristel Edimo in Yabladi,
1 March 2013
 Marie Martin,
Extension of Mobility Partnerships with Euro-Mediterranean Partners,
Annual Yearbook 2012 Institute for the Mediterranean IEMed
 ' Le
Maroc, gendarme de l'Europe? A quel prix?', Tahar Abou
El Farah in La Vie éco, 6 August 2012
de réadmission ou chantage à l'expulsion? Rencontre
internationale sur les accords de réadmission,
Migreurop, 27 November 2009
 European Commission, Evaluation
of EU Readmission Agreements, COM(2011) 76 final, 23
 Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs,
afternoon session, 21 February 2013 (video link)
 Ibid at 6
 European Commission, Communication
on migration, COM(2011) 248, 4 May 2011
 Migreurop, European borders: Controls, detention
and deportations, 2009-2010
 Migreurop, Europe's murderous borders, 2008-2009
 Ibid at 15