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date: 27 September 2023

The Maghreb in International Relationslocked

The Maghreb in International Relationslocked

  • Yahia ZoubirYahia ZoubirKedge Business School


Since their independence from colonial rule, the three Maghreb states (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) have interacted with foreign powers bilaterally rather than as an integrated region. Despite the foundation of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) in 1989, the Maghreb countries have pursued discrete foreign policies that reflected the nature of their anticolonial struggle and the ideological choices that they made following, or even prior to, their independence. While Algeria chose nonalignment as the foundation of its foreign policy, Morocco and Tunisia remained attached to the West despite proclaiming attachment to nonalignment. In the decade from 2010 to 2020, the Maghreb states have faced numerous political and socioeconomic challenges which created complicated geopolitical constraints. Thus, even if they wished to drastically reduce their dependency, primarily on the European Union (EU), their “pressing financial constraints and security imperatives in their borderlands ultimately prevented any change of direction or transgression of the existing patterns of their foreign policies,” for “structure prevailed over agency.” Nonetheless, the region is gradually moving away from Europe and the United States in some areas. At the same time, the 2019 pandemic and other constraints have created new geopolitical dynamics that were already in the making, for outside powers had already shown increased interest in the region. While the United States (under President Trump) neglected the Maghreb until September 2020, Russia, China, the Gulf countries, and Turkey have increased their presence. With the extension of the Belt and Road Initiative to the Mediterranean, China has increased its economic presence and extended its Maritime Silk Road, which requires access to ports. Russia has made its return in search for opportunities, including access to ports, which will position it close to NATO’s southern flank. The competition among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states (e.g., Qatar versus the UAE), on the one hand, and the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and UAE, Turkey, and Israel (since normalization with Morocco), on the other, have spilled over onto the Maghreb. Thus, domestic challenges and evolving geopolitical dynamics have compelled the Maghreb regimes to seek the support of outside powers to offset their internal instability and to compete with one another (Algeria versus Morocco).


  • Diplomacy
  • Foreign Policy
  • Political Economy

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