Morocco, Friends for Life

Aldo Olcese Santonja

7 mins - 23 de Febrero de 2024, 07:00

On Wednesday, we witnessed the fifth visit of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to Morocco since he took office as head of the Spanish government. 

This time, he was received by HM King Mohammed VI and his counterpart Aziz Akhannouch. And it is at this point that I would like to introduce an initial reflection. In Spain, if the Prime Minister is not received by the King of Morocco on his trip to the neighbouring country, there is a tendency to consider it a failure, and it must be said that it is increasingly important for there to be good harmony and responsible and collaborative work between the two governments and their prime ministers, and not only with HM King Mohammed VI. 

In Morocco, efforts are increasingly being made to provide the government with autonomy and independence beyond the King’s tutelage and supervisory role, and a more democratic institutional functioning with a more effective than nominal balance of power is being developed.

This requires a normalisation of relations between governments and a cooperative and constructive continuation of our political and institutional relations. Good neighbourly relations are always good news, a source of hope and an opportunity. 

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One issue still pending in Spain is overcoming the bad habit of using relations with Morocco in the internal political confrontation between the established governments and the opposition. Moving away from utilitarian confrontation to a state policy of consensus between government and opposition in relations with Morocco is imperative and urgent in order to consolidate this nascent period of good relations, and not only of understanding but also of strengthened cooperation and lasting friendship. As befits any situation of permanent neighbourhood, it is common sense. 

No one can deny that the progress in economic relations between the two countries has been spectacular in the last decade, with a very notable recent strengthening resulting from growing political complicity, based on an intelligent and generous overcoming of differences and on a solid foundation of shared interests and common objectives, both strategic and operational and tactical, which are now managed with loyalty and transparency.

Let us take an objective view, because it is worthwhile and intelligent to forge a permanent and positive strategic alliance with Morocco, and not to live in the opportunistic juncture of Spain’s political moment. 

It is important to educate people about the qualities that adorn this new Morocco, which has become an essential ally of the international community, and not only of Spain.

First, its position as a major player in the effective fight against Islamic terrorism and illegal immigration. No international intelligence service is oblivious to the essential nature of Moroccan of Moroccan information and actions in the context of the fight against these issues, which are becoming crucial for world coexistence and survival, especially for our beloved Europe. 

Secondly, it is only fair to recognise Morocco’s role as a catalyst for peace initiatives between the Arab communities and Israel, which after this sad war in Gaza will once again be essential for peace in the region.

Morocco’s privileged position in the global context is little known and even less appreciated in Spain. Indeed, it is the only country in the world that has a score of international regional cooperation agreements, participating in all the major geographical areas of economic and political cooperation. Suffice it to recall that Morocco enjoys special cooperation treaties with the European Union, the United States, and China, as well as maintaining strategic alliances in the Middle East with the Emirates and Saudi Arabia and has become the country of reference and strategic partner in some twenty countries in North Africa and Sub-Saharan and Central Africa. 

Morocco naturally combines the presence on its territory of US military bases and major Chinese projects in the fields of technology and new energies. It also regularly receives huge investments from the rich Gulf countries and, most notably, from European countries such as Spain and France as leading commercial and corporate partners on Moroccan territory.

The relative weight of trade and investment between Spain and Morocco is spectacular and maintains a sustained progression that presages a position of full leadership for Spain as the leading international actor in Morocco, with a weight both in terms of volumes transited and companies established that exponentially multiplies Spain’s position in any African country, including Algeria

A strategic alliance in terms of energy security in the Mediterranean is gaining momentum now that Morocco is emerging as Europe’s great reserve of sustainable energies and that there are huge investments planned in energy sustainability, desalination, irrigation, and energy transport with a plan of €30 billion over three years, which will be a preferential target for the major Spanish operators of sustainable infrastructures, with the added incentive of being able to replicate the model in a dozen African countries in the near future, based on the Moroccan experience

The economy of the sea in the Mediterranean area will have a formidable strategic ally in Morocco, with the imposing reality of Tangier Med, the largest commercial port in the Mediterranean, a reality unknown to most Spaniards and worth seeing.

Finally, the question of the Sahara, the source of all controversy in Spain, both political and social. One can only make an objective judgement if one visits the Sahara. Almost everyone talks about the Sahara “by hearsay” and without having set foot on the ground. Anyone who goes there can easily see two very different worlds. On the Moroccan side, after two decades of intensive investment by the government of HM Mohammed VI, there is an extraordinary level of development and a wealth far superior to that of the Tindouf camps, which on the Algerian side remain unusually underdeveloped. 

The investment and job creation plan promoted by the King and his governments is producing excellent results that are appreciated and shared by the 600,000 Saharawis on the so-called Moroccan side. This is a factual reality that should be known on the ground and which would surprise more than one person in a very positive way.

It is no coincidence that the US, Germany, the UK, now Spain, and soon France, have all opted for the Moroccan solution for the Sahara as a powerful element for a new assessment by the United Nations, and that it will eventually fall like ripe fruit due to the force of facts and realities. It is also the desire of the people living there, who overwhelmingly want de jure political integration with Morocco, even if this is already de facto the case. That is why it is right to offer Morocco aid to consolidate the Sahara as a strategic transit area for the Sahel countries’ access to the Atlantic, as well as for the transit of the Nigerian gas pipeline through Morocco, two emblematic projects that the Spanish Government decided to support during the Spanish Prime Minister’s recent visit. 

I cannot end without appealing to our eight centuries of permeable coexistence and shared values, far beyond what separated and confronted us, and which today remains as a stubborn reality in our architecture, in our culture, in the names of Spanish cities and in our vocabulary, as well as the tremendously positive remains of the Spanish protectorate in Morocco, which are curiously recognised more in Morocco than in Spain because of their military character and origin. All this indicates that a lifelong friendship should be the norm between our two countries, and not just the extraordinary, and that as good friends we should help each other to improve.

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