Morocco: the first country to sign Green Partnership with the EU – will the benefits be shared equally?

In this guest post, Tereza Němečková and Mohamed Jaouad Malzi, present the findings of their research recently published in Environmental Politics, Unveiling Moroccan perspectives on the EU-Morocco Green Partnership and assessing its potential for a sustainable future for Morocco. Through this post, they aim to underscore the importance of discussing the shared benefits of currently negotiated Green Partnerships between the EU and developing countries, aiming to aid in transformation into green and climate-resilient economies.  

The European Union (EU), like many other global actors, has committed itself to transforming its fossil-based and energy-consuming economies into carbon-neutral ones. The EU strives to lead this transformation by becoming a global pioneer in climate action. However, the success of its Green Deal hinges, among other things, on securing access to renewable energy sources and minerals for the production of green technologies. The recently adopted Critical Raw Minerals Act only underscores how challenging these efforts will be.

Africa’s pivotal role in the EU’s Green Deal stems from its climate vulnerability and abundant natural resources. Therefore, Africa’s support will be crucial for achieving the European low-emission economy and meeting its green goals. However, criticisms arise regarding the Green Deal potentially shifting environmental burdens to African countries, resembling climate colonialism. Concerns persist about Africa being continuously seen by the EU only as a raw material source for its energy transition, risking strained relations. Balancing resource access and environmental justice remains paramount for both parties.

Morocco plays a vital role as an African partner for the EU. Partly because its borders are only 12km from the EU, prompting European states to explore ways to enhance renewable electricity trade with Morocco in alignment with the EU’s green objectives. Additionally, Morocco possesses significant reserves of Critical Raw Minerals (CRMs) essential for European industries. Furthermore, Morocco leads the African green energy transition, offering strategic opportunities for EU involvement, particularly within the context of the rising geopolitical rivalry with China. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that Morocco became the first country in 2022 to sign an unprecedented Green Partnership on Energy, Climate, and the Environment with the EU. This new agreement aims to advance the external dimension of the Green Deal and is anticipated to serve as a model for similar partnerships with other countries. Structured around three main thematic domains—climate and energy, the environment, and the green economy—the partnership’s primary objective is to progress towards their common goal of becoming low-carbon, climate-resilient economies, and transition to a green economy.

Not only do the EU’s official representatives endorse the Partnership, but high-level Moroccan politicians, ministries, and relevant agencies also express a highly positive view, emphasizing its benefits for the country’s green transition and sustainable development. Proponents of the Partnership view it as crucial for addressing Morocco’s growing energy demands and environmental challenges by welcoming European investments and knowledge transfer. They envision Morocco becoming a net exporter of green energy to the EU, leveraging its competitive renewable resources in the Middle East and Africa.

However, the signing of the Partnership has also sparked critical views and concerns, particularly regarding whether such an initiative will genuinely benefit both sides or potentially harm Morocco, ultimately resulting in more advantages for the EU. Our research has revealed that critics of the new Partnership, primarily from Moroccan academia and mostly from the business energy sector, cast serious doubts about its advantages for Morocco. The general argument put forth is that the EU’s challenge in achieving its carbon-neutrality goals, coupled with the inability of European countries to meet their energy needs solely from its own renewable resources, serves as the primary motivation behind the cooperation. These views align with concerns about the Green Deal, which is seen by some as a new tool for the continuous exploitation of African resources for the EU’s benefit, resembling climate colonialism. The EU need for production of green hydrogen to import emerged as a commonly cited rationale supporting this argument. Some others view the Partnership as an European instrument of influence in the region, responding to the China Belt and Road Initiative. This argument aligns with Europe’s global policy and its approach to neighbouring regions, as reflected in various recent strategies and initiatives such as the Global Gateway.

Some also doubt the emphasis of both the Moroccan government and the new Partnership on renewables in the country’s national energy strategy. Concerns extend to the fear that the EU’s promotion of green energy imports from Morocco, which heavily demand scarce water resources in the country, may further harm the local environment and worsen the country’s water stress. The recent announcement of Moroccan government to allocate 1 million hectares to green hydrogen projects only fuel these concerns. No less importantly, the recent discovery of natural gas reserves in Morocco adds weight to arguments against renewables. Stakeholders in favour of gas investments cite superior benefits, including environmental impacts. They argue that the intermittency of renewables due to natural fluctuations and concerns over storage complexities pose serious obstacles to energy supply security. Additionally, renewables face criticism for not being entirely environmentally friendly, considering indirect greenhouse gas emissions.

These diverse perspectives highlight varying opinions among Moroccan stakeholders regarding the Partnership’s potential benefits or drawbacks for the country’s energy transition and sustainable future. The more the concerns of its critics are not addressed, the greater the risk to the EU, as this Partnership should serve as a model for other countries. The implementation of such green partnerships across the developing world may only fuel critical voices against the EU as a climate colonizer, thus endangering the EU’s ability to secure access to resources needed for its own green future. The key questions arise then: Can Europe secure access to African resources crucial for its own green future while efficiently addressing Africa’s ‘just transition’ needs? These needs include climate change mitigation, securing energy access for its people, and combating environmental degradation, often related to enormous natural resources exploitation, in a way that is fair and inclusive as possible for everyone concerned. Furthermore, can Europe alleviate rising concerns about potential climate colonialism in Africa?


Tereza holds a Ph.D. degree from Prague University of Economics and Business in Czechia. In 2022, she obtained an associate professorship in international economic relations from the same university. Her expertise lies in the areas of the world economy, international development, and trade, with a specific focus on Africa. Her most recent research centres around the new African geoeconomic dynamics in the politics of green transition. Currently, she heads the African Studies Centre Prague, the only research centre in the country focused on current economic and geopolitical dynamics in Africa. In addition to her research role, she also lectures at Metropolitan University Prague and the University of Hradec Králové.

Jaouad holds a master’s degree in energy economics from Paris Dauphine University in France and a Ph.D. degree in applied economics from Mohamed V University in Morocco. Jaouad is a young researcher and professor in economics at Cadi Ayyad University (Morocco). He is also a non-resident research fellow at the African Studies Centre Prague. His research interests include modelling energy markets, environmental and climate change analysis, energy policy in Africa, and the economic development of Africa. He has published in journals such as Resources Policy, Materials Science Forum, and the International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy. Additionally, he has contributed to monographs like “Natural Gas: New Perspectives and Future Development”. Jaouad is also a scientific reviewer for international journals.

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