Leonello Gabrici, head of the Commission’s Maghreb unit in the External Relations Directorate- General, stressed that the question of human rights should be considered in relation to the big picture of cooperation with Morocco on migration and the European Neighbourhood Policy, which had made positive progress in recent years. Discussions on relations with Morocco should not be dominated by “accidents” like the incident at the end of last year. The Commission official rejected the idea that EU policy induced Morocco and other countries to violate human rights in the fight against irregular migration. Furthermore, the EU’s competency in external relations was still too limited to enforce effectively the respect of the international human rights in third countries.
The Moroccan ambassador to the EU, H.E. Menouar Alem, stressed that his country had registered an increase in asylum claims only because it was a transit country for people en route to Europe, a sort of “anti-chamber” to Europe. People used asylum applications as an opportunity to stay longer in Morocco in order to prepare their journey to Europe. Morocco had limited resources to protect refugees, however, and Europe had to assist his country. Mr Alem underlined that Morocco was prepared to do its part in the fight against irregular migration, but it could not be Europe’s policeman and Europe had to do its share, too.