Borrell closes his visit to Morocco without mentioning human rights and tiptoes through ‘Catargate’

The High Representative for Foreign Affairs of the EU concludes this Friday his first official visit to the kingdom of Morocco. And she does it at a controversial moment. The corruption scandal of the European Parliament, baptized as catargateis already redirecting its gaze from the Gulf country to the North African State, increasingly in the pillory.

Josep Borrell has assured that he discussed the matter with his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Burita. But the prevailing line in Europe is that Morocco is a “reliable friend” and “a strategic partner.” The EU takes time pampering Rabat.

Behind the stumbling block that their relationship lived during the summer of 2021 -in the framework of the Ceuta crisis-, their ties have not only been consolidated, but have been strengthened. And this is already the priority line in Brussels. “We must take advantage of what has already been achieved to build an even narrower future,” Borrell said at the beginning of his visit to the country, the first that he performs with the role of head of European diplomacy.

During the days in the Alaouite kingdom, the Spaniard has met with Burita, with Prime Minister Aziz Ajanuch and with members of civil society, but not with King Mohamed VI. In the background, the thunderclouds loom over the Alaouite monarchy.

The European Parliament commission in charge of investigating the Pegasus espionage scandal asserted in its preliminary report that Morocco was behind the use of this spyware in the Governments of Italy, France and Spain. Pegasus reached the cell phone of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez.

According to the Italian newspaper the republic, Rabat was very concerned by these revelations. So he anticipated the formation of this committee by maneuvering to incorporate Andrea Cozzolini into its ranks, in the spotlight of the investigations of the catargate; a marie arena, with equipment and herself also under the magnifying glass; already a substitute, Eva Kaili herself, the former vice president of Parliament who remains detained for the plot.

According to the newspaper, the strategy was intervene and influence in this delegation with intelligence and care “not to give the impression of working with the enemy”. In his press conference -without questions- after the meeting with Burita, Borrell did not mention the Pegasus scandal. and about him catargate the reference was contained.

The siege on Morocco’s participation in a network organized for years to influence European decisions with bribery is getting tighter and tighter. The line of investigation of the Belgian police maintains that the Moroccan ambassador in Poland paid large sums of money and made eloquent gifts to Antonio Panzeri and his family, who are detained.

Already in 2018, the former Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes denounced that in the European Parliament there paid people from Morocco. In conversation with this newspaper, after the outbreak of the scandal, the Portuguese politician was not surprised: “I saw a lot of people who I already doubted if they were corrupt. Even panzeri. They acted like agents of foreign states. The Panzeri case was particularly with Morocco, but there was more. I always fought with him over the question of Morocco. He did everything Moroccans wanted“.

Borrell, during the meeting with Aziz Ajanuch. Presidency of the Government Morocco. Presidency of the Government Morocco / efe

In the midst of this storm, which threatens to jeopardize the relationship between Brussels and Rabat, the European line goes through prudence and almost silence.

“We are very concerned about these events. The allegations are very serious [pero] we have to wait for the results of the ongoing judicial investigations, which should provide clarity. We expect full collaboration from everyone in these investigations,” said the Spaniard.

For his part, the Moroccan Foreign Minister assured that his country was the victim of a media and legal campaign against him.

Human rights and Western Sahara

Another issue that has not found space in Borrell’s statements in the neighboring country has been the human rights. Shortly before her trip, the liberal MEP Maite Pagazaurtundúa sent a letter to the European External Action Service to denounce “the strategy of judicial harassment that the kingdom of Morocco exercises against the Spanish journalist Ignacio Cembrero.”

The communicator accumulates four complaints by the Alawite regime and is called to judgment next January 13. But his situation, at least publicly, is going unnoticed in the Spanish and European political spheres. The former Spanish Foreign Minister has indeed been forced to pronounce on Western Sahara.

“We understand the fundamental importance that this issue has for Morocco. The EU’s position on the entrenched conflict: support for UN efforts to achieve a political, realistic, pragmatic, durable, mutually acceptable solution in line with theSecurity Council resolutions [de Naciones Unidas]. And we highly appreciate the credible efforts that Morocco is making to this end”, he stated. These words were measurements to the millimeter.

Media related to the Moroccan government assure that Buri canceled Borrell’s visit scheduled for September

Four months ago, his statements appealing to the need for a consultation for the Saharawi people to decide their future raised a lot of dust in Rabat. Media related to the Moroccan government assured that Buri himself canceled the visit de Borrell, which would have been scheduled for last September.

Next to entrenchment of the conflict in the Sahara and the ongoing investigations into Pegasus and the catargate, to the honeymoon that crosses Brussels and Rabat a new front opens. European Justice is called upon to rule in the coming months on the trade and fishing agreements that both maintain in force and that in September 2021 declared illegal for not having the approval of the occupied Saharawi people.

The final ruling is expected after the EU Council appealed the ruling. The opinion will be historic and key for the 35,000 million euros that drives the commercial relationship between the two.

The last shock can come from the hands of the immigration issuethe issue that most interests and conditions the EU, which sees Morocco as an example to follow when it comes to curbing irregular migration, on many occasions, as the Melilla massacre demonstrated, with an iron hand.

The famines, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, threaten to push thousands of people from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe with the last stop in Morocco. To avoid an exodus at its gates, the Europeans are preparing additional monetary items for the North African country, which is aware of the value of having the immigration letterwhich on many occasions has been a trap for the EU exploited by regimes authoritarian.

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