A 20 Year Reign : 20 Years Strengthening an Independent and Diversified Foreign Policy
20 years! On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of His Majesty King Mohammed VI’s coronation, the tributes, analyses and “feedback” on the 20-year reign of the Sovereign multiply, as much on the national level as on the international. The symbolism of two decades is strong, for a people profoundly attached to their king, for a country which has forcefully entered into modernity and for a Monarch who will have marked people’s spirits by his style, by the initiatives he has taken, and by his vision. A reign which is inscribed, by definition, in the long run. If the beginning of a third decade has obvious symbolic value, it remains, none the less, one waypoint among many. It is clearly neither the time for assessment, nor the occasion, somewhat too facile, to succumb to stock taking; so numerous are the identifiable difficulties. The evils are known and were felt with lucidity by the Head of State himself on the occasion of the recent Royal Speeches. These 20 years permit equally to start a productive introspection and to initiate a lucid, pragmatic and objective analysis. As such, the reflection on a revisited Model of Development; more just, egalitarian, inclusive, and innovative, takes an essential importance. It is in this context that the Amadeus Institute, which has been working on this question for several months, will soon be publishing a Memorandum of concrete and operational proposals.
Among the numerous evolutions and concrete transformations that our country has known in the course of the last 20 years, one may note, not without pride, the enrichment and diversification of Morocco’s relationships with its neighbors, with its continent and with the world. Comparisons between two Sovereigns that succeed each other are often hazardous, due to the evolving context and realities of the moment. Yet, it is evident that if His Majesty the late King Hassan II masterfully succeeded at placing the Kingdom on the map of countries that count, in making Morocco, notably, a central point in the relationship between the West and the Arab-Muslim World, His Majesty King Mohammed VI, for his part, offered the Kingdom a real, strong, consistent and above all, independent, foreign policy. In 20 years, Morocco has gone, on the international stage, from an intermediate-status country, a bridging country or « honest broker », to having the status of a real actor in the international game, master of its own foreign relations. The Kingdom, through the international Vision of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, possesses a doctrine with regard to foreign policy that is uniquely its own, based on the preservation of its own domestic interests, on the diversification of strategic partnerships and on the tireless reinforcement of a multidimensional South-South International cooperation.
« More than Partnership, less than membership » vs « Morocco is not the exclusive preserve of anyone else »
This Royal theory was set in motion in Paris, on March 20th 2000, on the occasion of a State Visit. The Sovereign had pronounced a sentence which has since then become an expression, which would redefine the relationship between the Kingdom and the European Union (EU): « More than partnership, less than membership. » By this expression, Morocco was hitting two birds with one stone; namely: breaking with the memory of a botched and somewhat unrealistic application for membership, which had been filed in the 1980s, and ending the dynamic of dependence and European paternalism with regard to the Kingdom. This Moroccan willingness to co-construct its relationship with the EU, lead to the putting into place of its advanced status, the first partnership of its kind, in October of 2008 and to the First Morocco-EU Summit, also the first of its kind, in March of 2010.
This « exceptional » partnership, which links the two parties, did not prevent the distension of their relations between 2016 and 2018, following the cancellation by the European Parliament of the Morocco-EU Agriculture and Fishing Agreement. This almost three-year crisis, permitted, following notably the freezing by Morocco of several political components of the partnership (notably regarding migratory and security issues), to bring to light the need for clarity from the EU and its institutions with regard to Morocco and its territorial integrity. The vote, at the beginning of the year, by the European Parliament, with a very large majority of members, for new versions of the EU-Morocco Agriculture Agreement and the EU-Morocco Fishing Agreement, permitted the expression of clarity which was necessary for a long and balanced partnership. Moreover, the joint political declaration, made public at the conclusion of the Morocco-EU Association Council of last June, called for the re-working and re-balancing of the Morocco-EU partnership. The employment, for the first time in this text, of the term « shared prosperity » is an expression of the new and unique relationship which links the Kingdom and Europe. This new under-construction status, even more « advanced », corresponds with an innovation in the European body, of which Morocco is once again at the origin. It initiates, in fact, the creation of a common Euro-Moroccan «space », called to be dynamic and to evolve with time. The strategic Morocco-EU partnership is in good health. It is living and dynamic, in accordance with the Vision of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and with the higher interests of Morocco, with the preservation of its territorial integrity in mind.
However, despite the importance of this “exceptional” strategic Partnership for the two parties, the Kingdom, as was justly called to mind by the Sovereign on the occasion of the 2016 Throne Speech “is not the exclusive preserve of anyone else.” Morocco, under the leadership of his Majesty King Mohammed VI, is one of the rare countries in the world which has been able to benefit from a free trade agreement both with the EU and also with the United States, of which it is, since 2004, one of the major allies outside of NATO. The foreign policy of Morocco, supported by the Sovereign, is by nature independent. It extols the diversification of strategic institutional partnerships with the great powers. The Kingdom put this diversification into place notably after Royal Visits to India, China, and Russia, at the same time proposing a concrete perspective on triangular cooperation in the form of Partner-Morocco-Africa. This diversification chosen by the Kingdom is the expression of a multipolar and globalized world, where multilateralism is losing ground to the advantage of “multi-partnership” as well as to the proliferation of regional and bilateral agreements. It is thusly that Morocco takes today, fully, its place in the concert of the most dynamic nations in terms of economic and trade cooperation.
“Autonomy and Nothing but Autonomy”
While His Majesty Mohammed VI today celebrates his 20-year reign, it is easy to affirm that never, since the cease fire of 1991, has Morocco been in such a favorable position on the National Question. Firstly, it is important to underline the impact of the colossal investments in the Southern Provinces, which have become true centers of competitiveness and growth. Furthermore, in terms of human development, the three regions of the Sahara can be considered as the most advanced in the Kingdom. Indeed, the GDP per capita is close to 41% more than the national average, and the HDI in the Sahara, which in 1975 was 0.408 points lower than that of the country overall, is today markedly higher than the average of the other regions of the Kingdom. It is, in this context, useful to refer to the Royal Speech, on November 6th 2014, in which His Majesty King Mohammed VI, affirmed that “for each dirham of revenue taken in from the region, Morocco invests 7 dirhams in the Sahara.” The Sovereign admits then a reality shared by all that, “Moroccans have supported the cost of the development of the Southern Provinces. They have given from their own pockets, and taken from the means of subsistence of their children, in order for their Southern brothers to live with dignity.” Finally, with regard to the UN framework, in 2007 the Kingdom took in hand, through the autonomy initiative of the Southern Provinces, which is a compromise solution in the framework of Morocco’s national sovereignty, thought of and promoted by the Sovereign but also co-constructed with the live forces of the Sahara. The totality of the UN resolutions on the Sahara, since Resolution 1754, of April 2007, up until Resolution 2468, of April 2019, reaffirm the preeminence of the Moroccan autonomy initiative and greets the “serious and credible” efforts of the Kingdom with a view to come to a political solution in the spirit of “realism” with a sense of “compromise.”
This dynamic, thanks to the efforts deployed by Morocco and the monitoring of the Sovereign, has not suffered from many attempts at perturbation or the changing of parameters initiated by opponents to our territorial integrity, at the level of the UN. Due to the fact that Algeria and the Polisario, who in responding to the attainment of the Proposition for Moroccan autonomy, have invested in recent years, all of their efforts in an instrumentalization of Human Rights and a supposed “exploitation” by Morocco of the natural resources of the Sahara, with the support, conscious or unconscious, of some international NGOs. These efforts were in vain, because each time, Morocco has come out reinforced. In 2013, even though the American draft had proposed the extension of the Minurso to the monitoring of Human Rights in the Sahara, Resolution 2099 did not alter the mandate of Minurso which was even “congratulated” for the efforts deployed by Morocco with regard to the promotion of Human Rights in the Sahara, while at the same time underlining the role of the NCHR. All of the resolutions which followed continue to hold to the same language on the subject of Human Rights in the Sahara.
In 2016, even though Morocco was in open conflict with the UN Secretary General following the visit of Ban Ki-moon to Tindouf and Bir Lahlou and following, in response, the expulsion by Morocco of the members making up the civil component of Minurso, the Kingdom was generally supported in the fact that the Security Council for the first time was not in solidarity with the various declarations and postures of the Secretary General at the time. In April of 2018, Resolution 2414 re-implemented all Moroccan demands, notably on the issue of the presence of Polisario elements in Guerguerat and in the buffer zone, calling firmly for the “immediate retreat” of the separatist group from the region. The intentions of the Polisario to install its “administrative” structures in Bir Lahlou and east of the defense apparatus were characterized by the UN document as “destabilizing acts” which served to confirm the effectiveness of an offensive approach, thought of and desired by His Majesty King Mohammed VI.
In April of 2019, Resolution 2468 mentions Algeria five times, which demonstrates in the eyes of the International Community the decisive involvement of that country – which protects, finances, trains, and supports the Polisario Front – in the non-resolution of this artificial conflict inherited by the Cold War. The last Resolution to date calls, once again, the parties to prove “reality” and therefore move past the obsolete formulas dating to the cease fire in 1991. Furthermore, paragraph 11 of the UN text recalls unequivocally that the first and exclusive mission of the MINURSO is to maintain the peace. In explanation of their vote, South Africa, which abstained, claimed that the text was biased and said they expressed their regret that it was “in favor of Morocco.” Resolution 2468 must, therefore, for all of these reasons, be considered as one of the most favorable to Morocco since April of 2007. Its content comes to confirm a strong current trend, with regard to the alignment of the position of the Security Council on the two fundamental principles of the Kingdom. The same was announced by the Sovereign in his Speech on November 6th 2017: that no settlement is possible outside of the Autonomy initiative in the framework of National sovereignty and that Morocco will refuse any obsolete proposition looking to divert the settlement plan from the referenced parameters which have thus far been retained.
“Africa Must Have Confidence in Africa”
The Royal Vision for Africa is considered as an expression of a true breaking with the former foreign policy of the Kingdom. Historically oriented toward the North, the gaze of Morocco and its economic actors now looks toward the continent to which it belongs. Africa is the natural geographic extension of the Kingdom, as much as it is the continent in which Morocco at the same time, incontestably has its economic, political, cultural, and religious roots. At a time when the division of the Maghreb, mired in inertia, is a sad reality, unfortunately observed by all, Morocco, thanks to its proactive action in Africa, supported by the Vision of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, makes its belonging to a “North-West African” arc, ranging from Tangier to Lagos, a political reality and a strategic priority. Because the economic presence of the Kingdom is proven daily – the fact that one can eat Moroccan in Dakar, have an account in a Moroccan bank in Conakry, live in a building constructed by Moroccan companies in Abidjan and use a Moroccan phone company in Bamako – shows that the African politics of Morocco are a success, jealously watched.
The Kingdom, the premier African investor in West Africa and second largest African investor on the continent, has initiated numerous infrastructure projects in West Africa, which it supports and finances, such as the conservation and development of Cocody Bay as well as the project for the development of Dakar as the business center of West Africa. The Kingdom has initiated and is leading along with Nigeria, a mega-project for a pipeline from Nigeria to Morocco; 4000 km in length. This project aims to link Nigeria to Morocco, and eventually to Europe, crossing a dozen countries along the Atlantic coast. Its mission is to fight the large and persistent disparities in these countries with regard to the production and consumption of energy. Even though Nigeria is 22nd in the world in terms of gas production, certain countries in the region are constrained to importing large quantities of gas from diverse origins and various sources, and their economies are impacted by this. The pipeline will also allow a response to issues encountered by these countries related to the energy sector, one of which is the production and consumption of electricity. On top of a promise to create jobs, this project will tackle electrification issues, in addition to industrialization which, even now, constitutes an impediment to development in the region.
The multidimensional character of the “Moroccan Model” initiated by His Majesty King Mohammed VI in Africa, has allowed the Kingdom to leave its “comfort” and “confidence” zone, which thus far had been only in West and Central, Francophone, Africa. To this end, the year 2016 can be regarded as a veritable turning point in our relations with Africa. The Royal Visits made to Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Zambia, and Ethiopia allowed the Kingdom to turn a new page in our cooperation with these countries, which had formerly been considered as hostile. That is where the true paradigm shift; the real turning point occurred, initiated by the Sovereign: namely to overcome political constraints through economic cooperation.
The Royal Vision for the continent can be summed up in the following idea: Africa is a dignified and independent continent, which accepts its own cultural identity and which knows how to welcome the other, its neighbor, respecting his human rights and dignity. These are the African values defended by the Sovereign, which have always driven Morocco to refuse to be the security reserve of Europe when it has asked us to sign readmittance agreements, which the EU wanted signed in order to facilitate their ability to send back African migrants. At a time when certain countries expel the nationals of ECOWAS, Morocco, under the initiative of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, has made the choice of regularization, to extend rights to foreigners and to implement a national strategy working towards their social and professional integration. It is in this way that His Majesty King Mohammed VI’s humanist migration policy earned him the nomination by the African Union as African Champion for Migration.
“It’s a beautiful day when one returns home after a long absence!”
January 31st 2017, is undoubtedly, to date, the most important date in the international relations of the reign of His Majesty King Mohammed VI. It marks the return of Morocco to its “institutional family;” the African Union (AU), and breaks with more than 34 years of empty chair politics, which did not bear fruit. On the occasion of this historic return, the Sovereign addressed his African peers from the heart, with a unifying speech, positive and constructive, which demonstrates the afro optimism of the Kingdom and which will remain without a doubt one of the most moving speeches ever given by the Monarch. In the words of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, we know that there will perpetually be an interdependence between Morocco and the continent to which it belongs. It has as its aim solidarity, co-development, co-emergence, and shared prosperity, far from any forms of division.
The credibility of the Kingdom and its leadership on the continent quickly permitted the Kingdom to take back its place at the heart of the African agora. With regard to policy, the AU Summit of Nouakchott, in July of 2018, clearly validated the pertinence of the strategic choice of Morocco’s return to the heart of the pan-African institution, thought of and desired by His Majesty King Mohammed VI. Historically hostile to the Kingdom and the National Question, the AU’s position today has radically evolved. Heretofore a judge and party in the exclusive service of defending our adversaries’ interests with regard to our territorial integrity, today now a “facilitator,” recognizing the preeminence and exclusivity of the UN Security Council resolution on the artificial regional conflict, the AU is going forward as a pragmatic organization, fully grounded in its time, in the service of African unity and of the development of the continent. It is indeed an important and historic break – thanks, notably to the efforts deployed by the Kingdom – which have, despite the more and more isolated presence of “sadr” permitted the organization to rid itself of the weight of an inheritance that it dragged like a cannon ball and which directly called into question its credibility, as well as its function.
By integrating into the AU, Morocco has brought its experience and expertise to numerous thematic and intersecting topics. In addition to the issue of migration and the African Observatory on Migration, the Kingdom has notably contributed to the negotiation and Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
These last 20 years were thus rich and intense in the arena of the external relations of Morocco. His Majesty King Mohammed VI brought a particular Vision and a doctrine characteristic of Moroccan values to the DNA of the Kingdom’s Foreign Policy. Our relationships have been diversified and the turning toward Africa has been erected as an irreversible strategic choice. The foreign policy of the Kingdom is at the front lines. We cannot forget to recall that the Kingdom is to date one of only two countries to have organized two COPs and that Morocco is considered as an important actor in interreligious dialogue on the world stage, as shown by the recent visit of Pope Francis to Rabat.
Brahim Fassi Fihri
President and Founder of the Amadeus Institute