The European Green Deal is the European Union’s roadmap to making the bloc climate neutral by 2050. It sets out how the EU plans to turn climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas, and how it will ensure the green transition is just and inclusive for all. The Green Deal’s goals include cutting carbon emissions, making industry and transport sustainable, using green technology to boost the European economy, and decoupling economic growth from resource use. Another important, and explicit, goal of the European Green Deal is to strengthen the EU’s global leadership. One of the ways it seeks to do this is by establishing environment, energy, and climate partnerships with the states of the EU’s southern neighbourhood.
In that region, Morocco and Tunisia are two of the countries that have historically had the closest relations with EU member states – each country has already engaged, to a greater or a lesser extent, in the green transition, seeking investment in renewable energy. To that end, there are opportunities for the EU to increase its influence in its southern neighbourhood through the Green Deal. The EU can achieve this by pursuing key policy actions that could collectively be embedded under ‘Green Deal diplomacy’. In particular, the EU should exploit opportunities to pursue its strategic interests and positively contribute to the green energy transition in Morocco and Tunisia.
The southern neighbourhood presents a range of challenges in the bilateral relationships between North African countries and the EU, from the pursuit of climate neutrality and the management of migration to the promotion of economic resilience and the need to respond to economic competition from China. While an integrated approach to these issues would undoubtedly be beneficial to making a success of Green Deal diplomacy, such an intensified EU approach also needs to earn the endorsement of Europeans’ Moroccan and Tunisian counterparts. They will interpret any approach that leans on European conditionality as the EU unilaterally promoting its interests rather than seeking an alliance with equal partners on a common green transition agenda. Such reliance could cause friction and tension in the diplomatic relations between the parties, and potentially cause them to turn towards China.
Morocco and Tunisia have clearly expressed their ambitions to work closely with the EU on the green transition. Alongside this, the EU is keen to pursue the global leadership dimension of the European Green Deal. With this in mind, there is a clear opportunity for enhanced cooperation with the two countries, and the EU can now take a series of steps to advance this agenda, which include: awarding “Green Partner” designations, creating a Mediterranean Community for Renewable Energy, making use of the EFSD+ financing mechanism, importing green hydrogen from Morocco and Tunisia, building new green electrical interconnections in the Mediterranean to increase energy interdependence, increasing technical and capacity building assistance to key Tunisian energy stakeholders and, last but not the least, targeting the European Green Deal on creating jobs in fragile areas of Morocco and Tunisia.
The EU and its member states have an opportunity to draw on the international dimension of the European Green Deal to consolidate European leadership and influence in their southern neighbourhood. The decarbonisation of energy is an increasingly important policy priority on both sides of the Mediterranean. Without it, the EU will fail to fulfill the ambitions it set out in its climate policy and the commitments made by both member states and North African countries under the Paris Agreement. If European policymakers swiftly implement the actions recommended in this paper in close coordination with the Moroccan and Tunisian authorities, this will benefit the EU, Morocco, and Tunisia. These actions will strengthen the EU’s position on the world stage, increase its influence in a key part of its neighbourhood, and help it ward off other global powers’ efforts at encroachment into the region.
‚Power Surge: How the European Green Deal Can Succeed in Morocco and Tunisia‘ – Policy Brief by Amine Bennis – European Council on Foreign Relations / ECFR.