On the international stage, France is one of the strongest, foremost proponents of things Morocco considers vital for its integrity and identity as a sovereign nation.
Rabat – Saad Eddine El Othmani, Morocco’s Head of Government has added fuel to the idea that despite the episodic disagreements and an emotionally charged history, the French and Moroccan people have kept “special bonds” of friendship.
Speaking on Sunday in Rabat at en event to commemorate the 14th of July, El Othmani said that France and Morocco have weathered trying times to remain exemplary, “exceptional” friends. The 14th of July is France’s closest equivalent of Independence Day. It marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison, a decisive moment in the 1789 French Revolution
To add weight to his idea of France and Morocco sharing a “special, singular” type of friendship, El Othmani pointed to the two countries’ always being supportive of each other’s agenda on issues of “particular importance” for their “national causes.” (On the international stage, France is one of the strongest, foremost advocates of Morocco’s Autonomy Plan for Western Sahara, a proposal Paris has repeatedly described as credible and politically feasible.)
El Othmani’s point, however, went beyond the political dimensions of the Franco-Moroccan friendship.
In his July 14th speech, the Moroccan minister pointed particularly to the human, cultural, and economic side of the “exceptional relationship” the two nations have maintained over the years.
20 years since Moroccan Royal Guards marched in Paris
El Othmani’s enthusiasm about the “exceptional” friendship also comes 20 years after France allowed a large contingent of 360 elements of the Moroccan Royal Guards to march on the iconic Champs Elysée Avenue.
Clothed in colors echoing the French flag and intoning songs drenched in the “Franco-Moroccan spirit,” the 360 royal guards added a Moroccan flavor to the march of their French counterparts on the occasion. That day, Morocco’s late King Hassan II, who was a connoisseur of French history, and called by the French government “a good friend of France,” attended the festivities as the “distinguished guest of honor.”
Parenthetically referencing that singular episode in the history of the Franco-Moroccan relationship, El Othmani stressed that on the human and cultural level, France and Morocco share profound, deeply-rooted values that the two countries’ political direction can only sustain and nourish.
El Othmani’s statements come at a fragile time for France’s reputation in its former colonies, however.
France’s relations with its former colonies have been shrouded in suspicion of exploitation and neo-colonialism. Many critics are saying that France’s continued relevance as “a great nation” or a world power has only been possible because of the European country’s continued colonization of territories formerly under its rule.
But still, the Moroccan head of government seemed to propose, a new type of friendship is possible between the two old, “special” friends. This would be a friendship that recommits to the same values underpinning it now, but also one in which minor changes would be made to tune with each government’s priorities.
El Othmani’s enthusiasm about Franco-Moroccan relations has precedence in French policy circles.
Recently speaking after reports that Morocco is the second country in the world to receive the highest number of visas from France, Jean Yves- Le Drian, France’s Foreign Affairs Minister, said that the high number of Moroccans residing in France and the equally big number of French visas delivered to Moroccans yearly are illustrative of the historical and cultural ties that bind the two nations.
“We have a will to continue together in a real partnership,” said the French diplomat, citing France’s contribution to the realization of Morocco’s high-speed train project as a further vindication of the strong friendship.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI shares both El Othmani’s and Le Drian’s enthusiasm about the “exceptional” Franco-Moroccan relationship.
In April of this year, as France and the world mourned Paris’ emblematic Notre Dame cathedral, the Moroccan King was among the first world leaders to join France in mourning a tragedy he said “affected the lives of millions of worshippers.” In the ensuing days, King Mohammed VI instructed the Moroccan government to send in an important financial contribution to the Notre Dame reconstruction efforts.
Most importantly, perhaps, the King also shared his thoughts on the July 14th commemorations over the weekend, congratulating President Emanuel Macron on the historic occasion.
After evoking the historical significance of the event, the Moroccan King went on to point to the deep-seated, historical bonds. He enthused about the “undoubtedly exceptional Franco-Moroccan partnership.”
As both the French and Moroccan government strive to meet their peoples’ expectations and rise to global challenges like sustainable development, the king stressed, the two country’s “bilateral relations ought to reaffirm the singularity of our friendship.”