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The Interest of Moroccans toward their Euro-Med Neighbours

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Fadma AIT MOUS

In analysing the trend variations between the previous and most recent Anna Lindh/Gallup polling, Fadma Ait Mous tackles the hopes and perspectives of Moroccan citizens about the coming years, and their perceptions towards their European and Southern Mediterranean neighbours. The author highlights the expectations of Moroccans towards the Union for the Mediterranean process, as well as the emergence of a renewed level of Euro-Med engagement principally as the result of new migratory trends in the region.

As part of the 2014 edition of the Anna Lindh Report, this text presents a comparative analysis of the results of the two waves of the Anna Lindh/Gallup Poll carried out in Morocco in 2009 and 2012, with a underlying common question: ‘Do the ruptures/convergences in the region have an impact on relations between societies and within in the region?”

The Poll enquiry is centered on a set of issues classified into four main areas: identification and perception of the Mediterranean, importance of mutual learning, interactions in the region and finally perceptions about values. This paper describes the evolution of the results of Moroccans surveyed in 2009 and 2012 in relation to these issues and attempts, to the extent possible and with the limitations of the method used, to interpret the stagnations and developments.

Perceptions of the Mediterranean region: identification, characteristics and uses

With respect to the issue of countries linked to the Mediterranean, the responses of Moroccans in 2012 confirm the 2009 results. Asked about the countries that come to mind when thinking about this region, Moroccans respondents identify Spain (81%) and Morocco (80%) clearly in first place as countries of the region. In 2009, they identified their neighbors in the Maghreb in the third and fourth position, while in 2012, even if Algeria was again identified on third position (61%), Tunisia ranked only in fifth position (57%). Italy is identified in fourth position (47%) and France in sixth position (39%). Always at the end, the two least cited countries, less associated in the minds of the Moroccans surveyed as part of the region are Turkey and Greece - despite the current cultural and tourist attraction of Turkey among Moroccans (IEMed, 2013). Knowledge of the Mediterranean by Moroccans respondents appears to be related more to the geographical proximity to Spain, and the Maghreb neighbors, Algeria and Tunisia, than to countries such as Egypt, Turkey and Greece.
In general, respondents maintain a good image of the region: and associate it with hospitality (86% in 2009 and 89% in 2012), history and common cultural heritage (88% in 2009 and 89% in 2012). To these positive features is to be added also the ‘Mediterranean lifestyle and gastronomy’ which is still widely cited with a net increase in 2012 (81% from 72% in 2009).

Despite highlighting these positive values, which are also at the core of the collective image about neighboring countries, the Mediterranean is also referred to as an ‘unsettling’ area. The countries bordering the southern Mediterranean shore experienced a turbulent year in 2011 in terms of regime change (Tunisia, Egypt, etc.) and constitutional changes (Morocco), as a consequence Moroccan respondents seem wary facing these evolutions and disillusioned about their impact as they insist on resistance to change as an important feature of the Mediterranean with a sharp increase since 2009 (from 72% to 81% in 2012).

The other feature, negative if we can say, is to perceive the region as a source of conflict. The mention of this trait has increased significantly since 2009 (from 69% to 81% in 2012).

Wide expectations vis-a-vis the Union for the Mediterranean

When asked about the contribution to their country of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), still in an embryonic state, the Polled Moroccan expressed broad expectations both in the socio-economic, cultural and political field. Thus, they consider that the UfM will inspire more energising aspects for their society at the cultural level for increase respect for cultural diversity and commitment to spiritual and moral values; at the socio-economic level in terms of social solidarity, innovation, entrepreneurship, concern for the environment, dynamism of youth; finally, at the political level, for greater freedom (individual, gender equality, consolidation of the rule of law). These high expectations are prioritized as follows: respect for cultural diversity comes first (93%) with a slight increase over the 2009 results (87%); social solidarity which is cited by 92% (89% in 2009) and innovation and entrepreneurship (with almost the same percentage in the two waves: 92% in 2012 and 93% in 2009). Thus, Moroccan citizens think that the UfM will contribute to make their economy more innovative and dynamic.

The expectation which seems a little shifted with respect to the dynamics of social movements that took place in Morocco, particularly in late 2010 and all 2011 (examples of unemployed graduates, ‘20 February movement’) is linked to youthful dynamism. Moroccan respondents consider that the UfM will have positive effects on youthful dynamism in their society (90% in 2012 and 86% in 2009). Expectations related to freedoms and to the rule of law are cited in 2012 (90%) with a same percentage as concern for the environment, marking an increase of 4% since 2009 (86%). The attachment to spiritual and moral values also had an increase of 3% (89%) compared to 2009 (85%) reflecting Moroccans expectations towards the UfM also in relation to these values. Finally, another variable related to the realm of freedom, is the expectation for gender equality which remained at the same level (88%) since 2009.

The interest and attraction of Europe

The most significant change: Europe is identified as the first place to start a new life. Moroccans have identified this destination with a sharp increase in 2012 (45% compared to only 19% in 2009); while destinations in other SEM countries seem not to interest Moroccans as much as they did in 2009 (from 68% in 2009 to 45% in 2012). In various studies on the perceptions of Moroccans, the attraction to Europe always dominates. If it has decreased somewhat during the ‘economic crisis’with the issue of ‘return of immigrants,’from the Poll results it would appear that Moroccans return to their first choice attractive destination. The remaining destinations (America, Golf, Asia, Africa etc.) do not seem as interesting to Moroccan citizens. Thus, America that was preferred in 2009 by 8% of respondents, decreased in 2012 to only 6%. Gulf countries have gained 3% since 2009 (from 2% to 5%).

Moroccans are interested in news about European countries since they represent their first ideal destination to rebuild a new life. The clear change since 2009 concerns the interest in the religious and economic aspects. Thus, the level of interest in information related to religious beliefs and practices has evolved significantly of 16% from 46% in 2009 to 62% in 2012. Similarly, interest in economic conditions has also increased by 14% from 60% in 2009 to 84% in 2012. Finally, the interest in the Europeans’ lifestyle and cultural life saw an increase from 70% in 2009 to 82% in 2012. This interest reflects the information needs about countries to potentially build a new life in. This is why the cited religious, economic and cultural aspects seem more interested in the extent that these are the areas that usually cause problems (integration and others) once in Europe. On the other hand, political information does not appear, according to these results, as a priority interest.

Process of Interactions in the EuroMed region

According to the 2012 Poll, Moroccan respondents claimed to have interacted extensively with people from Europe (57%), a clear evolution compared to the 2009 Poll (38%). On the other hand, their answers about the ways and places of interaction do not seem to give us clear and decided results. Indeed, the choice of 27% of respondents in 2012 (against 3% in 2009) for the ‘others’options in their response does not help in the identification of the methods and space of these exchanges. The only type of interaction that clearly evolved is within the same neighborhood: from 10% in 2009, it increased to 21% in 2012. This result is significant insofar as it provides information on important sociological evolution, namely the Europeans settlement in Morocco, going from the profile of expatriation to the one of emigration.

Beyond gentrification processes of old medinas and riads purchased by retired Europeans, and associated more to the ‘neocolonial’profile, it is currently the profile of the ‘middle class migrant’and ‘illegal’migrant that is visible in the so-called ‘popular’neighborhoods of several Moroccan cities (Tangiers, Casablanca, Marrakech, Essaouira, etc.). This visibility in these areas makes the interaction possible and identifiable by Moroccan respondents.
We can take as an example the emigration of Spaniards to Morocco, driven by the economic crisis and the high unemployment rate that increased by 32% between 2008 and 2012 (Tchounand, 2013). According to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (SNI), the number of Spaniards officially registered as residents on Moroccan soil quadrupled between 2011 and 2013 (Garcia, 2013). Over the past two years, 62% of Spanish workers, were sent to Morocco by their companies, corresponding to the ‘middle class migrant’profile including managers and workers in general. Beyond that, there is a high ‘illegal’immigration of unemployed Iberians who try their luck in Morocco, doing small jobs (waiter in cafes, mechanic, artisan, cook, mason, etc..) and settling in popular neighborhoods.

Other modes of interaction (meeting in the street, public space, internet, tourism) actually went down. The popularity of social media in Morocco since 2010 and especially since 2011 with a yearly growth of 3G internet subscribers of 70.44% between late 2010 and 2011, according to figures by the National Agency of Telecommunications Regulation , does not appear to influence the virtual interaction with Europeans. In general terms, Moroccans have interacted more with Europeans in 2012 than in 2009.

Perceptions of the similarities and differences in values related to children education

For the identification of priority values that parents focus on in the education of their children a choice among six values was offered to respondents (curiosity, obedience, independence, respect for other cultures, religious beliefs and family solidarity). Respondents were asked to identify and prioritize those that seem important to them personally, and those they think European societies would prioritize and finally the priority for southern and eastern Mediterranean countries.
Brought to choose from this list of six core values for their children education, Moroccan respondents identified first of all independence. This value increased from 23% in 2009 to 52% in 2012 as an important value. In second position came respect for other cultures that evolved significantly since 2009 when it was last in the list of the personal preference as most important values (29%) and reached 48% in 2012. This constitutes a clear change since 2009 when these two values were not considered the most important in children education.

Another very significant development was the decline of religious beliefs as an important value in children education compared to 2009 (63%). In 2012, only 30% of respondents said that religious belief was, for them personally, the most important value to be emphasized in the education of their children. But even with this decline, religious values are always emphasized as they ranked in the third position as well as the value of family solidarity mentioned by 33% of respondens in 2009 and 30% in 2012. Values considered less important are obedience (which fell sharply from 40% in 2009 to 23% in 2012) and curiosity (also decreased in responses from 22% in 2009 to only 16% in 2012).

In terms of values to be conveyed to children in Europe, the perception among surveyed Moroccans highlights again independence (59%), with little change since 2009 (58%), followed by respect for other cultures (48%) that was in third position in 2009 (29%) and was in second position in 2012. A significant difference regards family solidarity which was classified as last in 2009 (8%) and which was promoted to the third most important values in 2012 (27%). Another significant change in this ranking exercise of the educational values in Europe concerns the decline of the value of curiosity in 2012 (ranked 4th with only 21%) while in 2009 it was the second most important value (52%). Finally and without big surprises, the values of religious belief and obedience ranked last.

In terms of Moroccans’ perception about priority values that people in other SEM countries wish to convey to their children, no significant changes in answers can be observed in 2012 compared to 2009. Thus, the value of religious beliefs is clearly ranked first (63%), followed by obedience (from 41% in 2009 to 52% in 2012), and family solidarity (from 28% in 2009 to 39% in 2012). Independence, respect for other cultures, and curiosity, which are considered fundamental in the Moroccans and Europeans upbringing of their children, are classified here last.

Fadma AIT MOUS is Professor and Project Manager at the School of Governance and Economics of Rabat.