as a partner for securing essential natural resources and protecting the climate
01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas
RELEVANCE: What relevance does Morocco have for Germany with regards to "securing essential natural resources and protecting the climate"?
Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the northern edge of the Sahara, the Kingdom of Morocco is highly vulnerable to climate change and its negative consequences. The country put the issue on its own agenda early on and drafted ambitious plans. In 2016, Marrakech hosted the 22nd United Nations Climate Conference (COP22). Today, Morocco has even become a regional leader in the areas of climate protection and sustainability. It has ranked for several years among the top ten in the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), and the 2021 Climate Action Tracker regards it as the only country in the MENA region that should be able, given continued efforts, to achieve the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 Celsius up to the year 2100. Morocco thus enjoys remarkable prestige in this regard. It can offer itself internationally as a contact and cooperation partner, serve as a role model for others, and work together with Germany to achieve collective climate protection and sustainability goals.
At the same time, however, Morocco must rely on outside expertise and international cooperation to address climate change. From a European point of view, Morocco is a partner with potential, not least because the two sides already enjoy a relationship of trust. Their power grids are connected via Gibraltar, for example, and Morocco has long been a partner in plans to bring electricity from renewable sources to . Furthermore, Algerian gas has been reaching the Iberian Peninsula via the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline (MEG) and Moroccan territory since 1996 – contributing to Europe’s energy supply. In 2021, however, the pipeline became a pawn in the bilateral tensions between Algeria and Morocco over the Western Sahara, and Algiers refused to renew the supply contract with Rabat. Once the conflict has been resolved, a resumption of the supply agreement is conceivable, as are alternative uses of the pipeline for Moroccan gas resources that are yet to be developed, or even for hydrogen.
WILLINGNESS: To what extent is Morocco willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?
Morocco depends on international support to implement its energy and climate-policy goals as well as its economic policy, the so-called New Development Model. The country’s progress in the energy sector is demonstrated, for example, by the fact that it has already achieved a 42 percent share of renewable energy in its electricity mix, which could rise to more than 60 by 2030. Also impressive is the Noor power station in Ouarzazate, the largest concentrated solar power plant in Africa, whose realisation was assisted by German companies and the KfW. Germany has long been a close economic partner of the Kingdom, but in terms of trade volumes it is surpassed by France, Spain, the USA and even China.
Despite a few joint projects, especially in the areas of environment, climate, vocational training and migration, bilateral relations are not completely free of tensions, due in particular to Morocco’s claims to sovereignty over the territory of the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara. Germany takes the position that a solution to this conflict can only be found within the negotiating framework of the United Nations. In 2021, Rabat temporarily broke off diplomatic relations with Berlin for this reason. This had a negative impact on cooperation on climate, energy and environmental policy, and valuable trust was lost. Cooperation has been slow to take off again since the bilateral rapprochement in spring 2022, when Berlin agreed to recognise an autonomy plan that Morocco had proposed in 2017 for a possible solution to the conflict in the disputed region. The diplomatic escalation made it clear that Morocco attaches great importance to its political interests in the Western Sahara, where rich deposits of natural resources are suspected and large fishing grounds lie right off the coast.
STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and Morocco's current cooperation in this area?
Morocco has to date been Germany’s second largest trading partner in Africa, with trade dominated by the automotive industry and the production of fertilisers and chemical products. The country is also a popular tourist destination. Environmental and climate protection is a key topic in German-Moroccan relations, an issue that Berlin has so far addressed primarily through development policy measures.
For example, Germany is helping Morocco to construct and expand facilities for renewable energies, to develop the corresponding markets, to promote local value creation and to transfer expertise. In 2012, the two sides agreed to establish an energy partnership focusing on technology transfer and private-sector investment as well as regulation, financing and research. A joint declaration of intent for a sustainable energy future by 2050 was followed in 2020 by another declaration on the development of the hydrogen sector, the exploration of storage technologies and the construction of a production facility for green hydrogen.
POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and Morocco in this area?
The aim of cooperation between Morocco and Germany is to help Rabat achieve its national climate goals while exploiting potential for the joint protection of resources, the climate and energy supply, thereby reaping gains for both sides – ranging from returns on technological investments and knowledge transfer to safeguarding collective assets, such as a secure energy supply. Morocco would make a valuable partner precisely because it is so well connected in the direct European neighbourhood and boasts favourable natural and infrastructural conditions for projects and investments, for example in solar or wind energy production. Cooperation hence falls on “prepared ground”. Conversely, Morocco values Germany as a reliable economic and innovation partner.
In addition, Morocco and Germany both stand internationally on the side of proponents of multilateral approaches to climate change. However, Morocco sees itself as a developing country that still has some catching up to do and thus expects and needs international support in order to pursue its chosen course. Moreover, despite its “green” agenda, the country still promotes the development and use of natural gas, including as an export product. Nevertheless, Morocco has great potential in terms of the further development and use of renewable energy sources and in the field of hydrogen. It is only just embarking on its development path here, but initial project agreements have already been signed with Germany as a potential export market for future Moroccan . Accordingly, cooperation with Morocco can help Germany to further decarbonise its own economy.
POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?
The example of Morocco shows how important it is from a foreign policy perspective to take a holistic view when it comes to climate, energy and environmental policy projects. Germany initially approached cooperation from a developmental angle, providing stimuli for research and development at both national and local levels, launching pilot projects, and helping to ensure a conducive environment. Now it is time to follow up with economic and trade policy, foreign policy and security policy concepts and measures that should be implemented strategically, for the purpose of creating a genuine foreign climate policy. So far, Germany’s climate policy with regard to Morocco has been more of a piecemeal effort undertaken by various departments.
Berlin has recently demonstrated its flexibility in disputes by recognising Morocco’s proposed solution for autonomy in the Western Sahara and by re-establishing dialogue at the highest political level. Germany should now assist Morocco in dealing with the problems it has encountered on its way to achieving the climate protection goals it has set itself by offering proactive cooperation adapted to its specific needs. This applies to technology transfer and scientific exchange as well as to incentives through legal reforms, financing and the social dimension of change. All the while, Germany must bear in mind the European (keyword: European Green Deal) and regional political dimensions of relations with Morocco (keyword: Western Sahara). And it is equally important not to give the impression that Morocco has German or European interests to serve – for example in hydrogen production. Rather, it is all about emphasising sincere common interests in climate protection and sustainability and the creation of win-win situations with respect to economic, social and environmental policy.
Ludwig Schulz is policy advisor for the Middle East and North Africa in the Department of European and International Cooperation.
02 — Foreign Office
Foreign Office Morocco
N. 24 Angle Av. Abdelkrim Benjelloun et Rue Mly. Yaacoub B.P. 559 Hassan-Rabat
04 — The region
The Middle East and North Africa
In recent years, Morocco has become an important partner for Germany with respect to migration issues. On the one hand, the Kingdom has assumed a special role within the African Union (AU) and the international community; on the other hand, it is itself one of the countries where migration is taking place in varying ways. In February 2019, Morocco presented a new migration policy for Africa at the AU and highlighted the prospect of development through migration. The new policy places particular emphasis on the fact that migration is not a security problem, and that there is, primarily, a need to combat the root causes of migration and flight.
Qatar, the second-smallest country in the Arab Gulf region (where Qatari citizens make up less than 15 percent of the total population), is located in a neighbourhood where fear of the hegemonic ambitions of larger states persists, as does the memory of the blockade imposed on the country by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt from 2017 to 2021. Against this backdrop, Qatar has spun a web of foreign policy alliances meant to ensure the emirate territorial security as well as greater geopolitical influence – a web of what are in fact contradictory alliances.
- Population: 2.982.124
- Capital: Doha
Germany and Israel maintain a close partnership based on common interests and shared values. The starting point for this special relationship and Germany’s acknowledgement of historical responsibility was the caesura of the Shoa. The way that the two statesmen Konrad Adenauer and David Ben-Gurion laid the foundation for these relations was described by former Bundestag President Norbert Lammert in a speech before the Knesset in 2015 as a “double stroke of historical luck”.
Jordan has been considered an anchor of stability at least since the Arab Spring, which shook many countries in the region to their foundations. Maintaining this stability is of paramount interest to German foreign policy.
- Population: 10.402.753
- Capital: Amman
Although Libya is the fourth-largest country on the African continent, is located in the direct vicinity of Europe and is rich in natural resources, it has so far played quite a minor role as a German trading partner, apart from Germany’s substantial imports of oil. This is understandable in view of how power struggles among various factions plunged the country into chaos after the fall of Muammar Al-Gaddafi in 2011, resulting in several civil wars and laying waste to nearly all sectors of the economy.
- Population: 7.056.971
- Capital: Tripolis
The relevance of Saudi Arabia for Germany’s economic interests results from the country’s fundamental importance for stability and development in the Near and Middle East, its efforts to modernise and diversify its economy, as well as its oil wealth.
- Population: 34,813,871
- Capital: Riyadh
Iraq has the world’s fifth largest oil and twelfth largest natural gas reserves. The country is a founding member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and, in recent years, has become its second largest producer. The Iraqi government is considering to expand the oil and gas sector in the coming years, thereby increasing production capacities even more, although experts as well as members of the government call for diversifying the Iraqi economic and energy sector.
- Population: 40,263,275
- Capital: Bagdad
As the largest country in Africa in terms of land area, linking the MENA region and the Sahel zone and as an immediate neighbour, Algeria has a natural relevance for Germany and Europe. The army enjoys a high status as an institution and defense spending is stable at 6% of GDP.
- Population: 43,886,707
- Capital: Alger
In many respects, Tunisia plays a special role in the MENA region. As Europe’s direct neighbour, trade, migrant workers and close political relations have left a strong European imprint on Tunisian society. Secularisation and modernisation have shaped Tunisia’s policies since independence and continue to have an impact today.
- Population: 11,824128
- Capital: Tunis
Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and the northern edge of the Sahara, the Kingdom of Morocco is highly vulnerable to climate change and its negative consequences. The country put the issue on its own agenda early on and drafted ambitious plans. In 2016, Marrakech hosted the 22nd United Nations Climate Conference (COP22). Today, Morocco has even become a regional leader in the areas of climate protection and sustainability.
- Population: 36,930,188
- Capital: Rabat