The Maghreb Integration Report 2020: Economic Partnerships as an alternative for Political Stalemate

The Maghreb is one of the least politically and economically integrated regions in the world. The trade exchanges within the region stands at less than 5% of the overall foreign trade exchanges of the Maghreb countries, which is much lower than all other regional trade blocs around the world. This has major negative impacts. A 2018 report by the International Monetary Fund indicates that furthering integration among the Maghreb countries does have positive repercussions from an economic point of view. This will make the region more attractive to foreign direct investment, help reduce costs of trade within the region and bolster capital and labor mobility. This will equally increase the efficiency of allocating resources and make the Maghreb more resilient to shocks and market fluctuations.

The end of the 1980th constituted a remarkable opportunity to achieve Maghreb integration, and hopes were placed on the “Arab Maghreb Union” organization to build a Maghreb bloc, but it was a born dead project. The establishment of this organization was merely a response to domestic and external events of that period, especially the economic hardships experienced by the countries of the region and the emergence of extremism. On the other hand, a number of researchers attributed the failure of the Maghreb Union to the tensions between Algeria and Morocco, which constitute the main obstacle to achieving any progress in the path of the Maghreb integration, especially because of the Moroccan-Algerian dispute regarding the Western Sahara.

Regardless of the “political” reasons that led to the failure of this project, the cost of integration was high, especially in social terms. This failure has generated frustration among citizens who have an extensive social network and a shared cultural identity. The closure of the borders between Morocco and Algeria since 1994 and the crackdown on the smuggling trade since 2014 have had significant social impacts, especially on the citizens who live in the bordering areas.

Although there is an abundance of studies highlighting the importance of regional integration, they all share a focus on a macro-level approach to integration, i.e., focusing on the political and economic aspects of integration. Despite the relevance of these literature for understanding the economic and political cost of the failed Maghreb integration, there is a lack of research that examines citizens’ perceptions of the issue of Maghreb integration.

Therefore, MIPA Institute chose to focus on alternative way to look to the Maghreb Integration by paying attention to the micro-level, especially the social relations and perceptions of citizens on the issue of Maghreb integration. In this regard, this research project was designed by the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis to study the perceptions of citizens and the degree of public opinion support for the issue of integration among the Maghreb countries.

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