Morocco World News
Morocco World News
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, January 19, 2012
The President of the Spanish government Mariano Rajoy arrived this Wednesday to Morocco in his first diplomatic visit to Morocco after the formation of the new Spanish government. He was received by King Mohammed VI. Thus, Rajoy preserves a tradition that has been perpetuated by Spanish officials for the last three decades.
The head of the Moroccan government Mr. Benkirane asserted in a press conference that Spanish-Moroccan bilateral relations are on a very positive course and that both governments are committed to change them from good to excellent.
Saaddine al Athmani, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs made it clear that this visit is an initial move to set an agenda for cooperation between the Moroccan and the Spanish government. He asserted, “We have not conducted any in depth talks about pending files or specific cooperation agreements.” He added that crucial issues would be raised during the meetings of the High Spanish-Moroccan Joint Commission in the presence of the ministers in charge of those files.
It is of note that over the years Spanish-Moroccan bilateral relations have experienced ups and downs. The Sahara issue, besides immigration, remains a stumbling block for developing stable relations between the two neighbors. On the other hand, resuming talks about a new fisheries agreement is a difficult issue for both countries but may be more urgent for Spain at the moment.
Earlier this month, European lawmakers vetoed the conclusion of a new fishing agreement allowing European vessels, mainly Spanish ones to fish in Moroccan waters. The argument advanced by the EU parliament refers to Western Sahara as a disputed area. Morocco contested the EU Parliament decision and reacted immediately by issuing a ban of European vessels that were asked to leave Moroccan territorial waters.
The decision to halt the fishing agreement also raised controversy on the Spanish side. It is of note that Spain is facing dramatic challenges especially with a high unemployment rate, and the financial sector reeling under the debt crisis.
According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), growth in the European Union is expected to be only 0.7 per cent in 2012. In addition, unemployment throughout the continent will remain near 10 per cent in the euro area, which would signify very little improvement since September 2009.
The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment Mr. Miguel Arias Cañete has mobilized to push for a new fishing agreement. He might even submit a compensation request to the European Union for the losses that have resulted from the ban, which is considered by Cañete as groundless. The compensation is estimated at 30 Million euros.
Though unaffected by the global economic crisis, Morocco is as keen as Spain to resume talks over the fishing agreement but in new terms that would not exhaust the national reserves or disrupt its marine ecosystems. The resumption of a fishing agreement would provide funding for drastic social projects especially in tackling unemployment affecting Moroccan youth in desperate numbers.
Last but not least, it is noteworthy that both Mr. Benkirane and Rajoy share many common threads, which help to converge their efforts in the same direction. Both men take the reins of their respective countries in a highly sensitive juncture. For Morocco, the Benkirane government is entrusted with a democratic transition and any failure would have dramatic effects. On the other side of the Mediterranean, Spain is facing financial challenges as well as huge unemployment and social unrest. Finally, Benkirane and Rajoy are stubbornly determined to enforce their political agenda and obtain visible effects in the short run since both are facing a restless electorate.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
Loubna Flah is a Moroccan national. She earned a master degree in Biochemistry from the Mohammedia faculty of science and technologies. She obtained also a bachelor degree in English studies from Ain Chok University after writing a dissertation about the aspects of sexism in Moroccan Arabic. She graduated from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Rabat as a high school teacher of English.
© Morocco World News