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Title: The ‘Moroccogate’ scandal and European parliament decision-making on Western Sahara
Authors: Fernández-Molina, Irene
Khakee, Anna
Keywords: European Parliament -- Decision making
Political corruption -- Morocco
Morocco -- Foreign relations -- European Union countries
European Union countries -- Foreign relations -- Morocco
Western Sahara -- International status
Issue Date: 2024
Publisher: Routledge
Citation: Fernández-Molina, I., & Khakee, A. (2024). The ‘Moroccogate’ scandal and European parliament decision-making on Western Sahara. Mediterranean Politics, 10.1080/13629395.2024.2312767
Abstract: This profile examines the institutional significance of ‘Moroccogate’, i.e., the suspected Moroccan bribery of members of the European Parliament, as a case that casts doubts on this body’s assumed democratic and normative input to EU foreign policymaking. We place the analysis in the context of the ‘parliamentarization’ of the EU-Morocco-Western Sahara triangle and the (para)institutional mechanisms of Rabat’s sway in the EP. We show that the EU-Morocco Joint Parliamentary Committee, while established as a regular instrument of parliamentary diplomacy, ended up becoming a conduit for corrupt connections and practices. In its actual operation, this official structure overlapped and converged with the more informal and elusive EU-Morocco Friendship Group, sponsored by Rabat as a means of parliamentary lobbying. We then explore the potential effects of this twofold influence channel in parliamentary votes and missions. Since 2009, relevant EP votes have mostly concerned parliamentary consent to EU-Morocco bilateral cooperation agreements, such as those on fisheries and agricultural trade, which included Western Sahara’s territory, thus going against the emerging case law from the Court of Justice of the EU. The links between ‘Moroccogate’ and the S&D group may have contributed to the parliamentary passing of these deals. Regarding the 2018 official EP mission to Western Sahara prior to the votes, besides its poor reporting, it was mired in controversy because its head was on the board of a foundation linked to Morocco. More broadly, this corruption scandal reveals the in-built tension inherent to the EP’s combination of parliamentary diplomacy and oversight roles.
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