09 March 2022
A revised draft action plan drawn up by the European Commission on a "comprehensive migration partnership" with Morocco now suggests that the North African country should be informed of "the potential benefits of a status agreement with the European Union" that would allow the deployment of Frontex officials on its territory.
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The document (pdf), which is an updated version of a draft action plan originally sent by the Commission to the Council in October last year, notes that the country is a "leading partner" in the region and that its cooperation with EU agencies provides "a model others may follow".
Alongside calls for further "structured cooperation" with Frontex on "situational awareness, risk analysis, training, operational cooperation" and the possible signature of a working arrangement between Frontex and Morocco, it now says that cooperation between the agency and the country could include "a status agreement with the European Union."
A number of such status agreements have been signed so far, all with countries in the Balkans, although not all of them are yet operational. Following the entry into force of the 2019 Frontex Regulation, the EU is able to negotiate such agreements with states anywhere in the world (it was previously restricted to cutting deals with states bordering EU territory).
The revised draft plan also refers to EU policing agency Europol and the EU Asylum Agency, although the text here has not been changed since the initial plan was leaked in October 2021.
Morocco participates in a "strategic dialogue" with Europol, says the document, and there will be a "high level visit of Moroccan officials to Europol in 2022... Future goals include the signing of a working arrangement in the short-term and an international agreement in the longer term, as well as the involvement of Morocco in operational activities under EMPACT [the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats, a police cooperation mechanism]."
Morocco has long been targeted by the EU for a police cooperation agreement, but difficulty in securing deals with a host of authoritarian regimes has led to proposals to "streamline" the negotiating process. This will be done through amendments to Article 25 of the revised Europol Regulation, which will likely be agreed by the Council and Parliament soon.
The EU Asylum Agency is also "ready to provide capacity building support in strengthening the Moroccan national asylum system," says the draft action plan: "In the short term, EUAA will pursue cooperation at technical level with Morocco under the regional pilot project for North Africa. The EU encourages a structured cooperation between EUAA and Morocco. "
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