France Favors A Strong Win-Win Partnership with Morocco

By IndepthAfrica
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Dec 14th, 2012
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France does not want to lose its hegemony in Morocco and is preparing to sign an “exceptional partnership” with the North African country. France was up late last year the largest investor and trading partner of Morocco. Not anymore because its southern neighbor, Spain, snatched this position this year. The two countries are strong allies and maintained excellent diplomatic relations, are competitors, and Morocco, its geographical position, its political stability and its growing economy is a place to Madrid and Paris are competing markets and areas of influence. But despite the good economic, political and diplomatic that Spain enjoys in Morocco, the French position remains hegemonic in the North African country. 750 French companies, many of the CAC 40 (the French equivalent of the Ibex 35), operating in Morocco. France has for decades been well established in Morocco and their influence in the ruling circles of the country and large sections of the upper and middle classes is considerable. It is from the standpoint of social, cultural and linguistic background. Spain, for historical reasons, came later to Morocco and North Africa as a whole, and its influence is far behind that of France.  “In a globalized world like ours, France has been somewhat asleep too easily and enjoy their past glories. Spain, however, wants to be with the great of this world and slowly it is getting there. Despite the economic crisis, Spanish firms are showing a surprising dynamism worldwide and also in Morocco. And the Spanish language and culture are increasingly present in Morocco. Spain has a lot to do in Morocco and France has been a little behind, “said one observer of Moroccan political life. This idea that France has peaked in Morocco and Spain has a lot to do in this country has made its way among many Moroccan politicians, diplomats and businessmen.  Opening to Spain from the Moroccan ruling class is “total,” said a diplomat. For this reason, “France has signed major contracts with Morocco and economically is well established in this country, but not willing to cede to Spain’s hegemony,” the same diplomatic source.

High Level Meeting

Therefore, special emphasis is on the two-day official visit that began yesterday in Morocco the French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, to co-chair with his Moroccan counterpart Abdelilah Benkirane, the 11th High Level Meeting (RAN). Under the slogan “Morocco-France: A Partnership for Exception to Service of Youth”, the leaders of the two countries want to strengthen economic and political ties and “give new impetus” to bilateral relations, according to Paris. The tenant of Matignon led a large delegation of eight ministers, including Foreign Affairs and Interior, Laurent Fabius and Manuel Valls, senior officials and experts and a hundred businessmen. The quantum leap that France wants to develop relations with Morocco will materialize in signing economic agreements of around 300 million euros. A contract in the field of renewable energy company EDF gala, three for the construction of the High Speed ​​Train between Tangier and Casablanca  and four agreements relating to the banking sector are some of the agreements that the leaders of both countries will seal. The French delegation attended the opening ceremony of the Casablanca tram, which took place in the presence of King Mohammed VI. The works for the largest tram Africa have lasted three years and the investment of the project carried out by the French group Alstom has been 5.3 million. French Prime Minister was received by King Mohamed VI and several meetings between representatives of the two governments are part of the program of the visit. Decisions on bilateral relations “for the next two years,” sources said Matignon, will be taken Thursday.

Trip to Algeria

The Franco-Moroccan summit is held a week before the visit that President François Hollande will make to Algeria on 19 and 20 December. Matignon sources said that “the dates between the two movements are mere coincidence.” “This is not a beauty contest or a competition,” said a French diplomat. After some tension between France and Algeria, relations between the two countries have calmed, especially since the French President officially recognized the responsibility of for their country in the carnage that took place during a demonstration of the Front Algerian National Liberation (FLN) in Paris on November 17, 1961.

Paris diplomatic movements in the Maghreb cause much interest in Algiers and Rabat, which are the two main political actors in the region. France lies outside this North African rivalry, but the former colonial power in the region has always prioritized relations with Morocco. Some analysts suggest the possibility that with Hollande in the Elysee Palace, this dynamic may change in favor of Algeria, but this hypothesis is rejected by most experts in Franco-Maghrebi. These analysts believe that Morocco enjoys political and economic stability is the key country for France in the Maghreb, as also for Spain and Algeria show that, despite its enormous oil wealth, is a more unpredictable and subject to the struggles between the various military and oligarchic clans.

 

Said Temsamani

Political analyst

 

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