Morocco and Italy have entered a new phase of diplomatic relations, one that will priortize cooperation on issues of terrorism, international crime, and irregular migration.
Rabat – Morocco’s foreign minister Nasser Bourita and his Italian counterpart, Luigi di Maio, announced the signing of a strategic cooperation agreement between Rabat and Rome on Friday, November 1.
The newly signed multidimensional agreement is in line with the goals of King Mohammed VI to diversify Morocco’s foreign partnerships with the EU and strengthen ties with Italy.
Morocco and Italy are committed to developing bilateral relations, contributing to the progress and prosperity of the two countries.
The text of the strategic partnership sets up mechanisms, defines areas of cooperation, and strengthen bilateral coordination on various issues.
A key priority of the partnership is to peacefully settle regional disputes and conflicts while ensuring cooperation between Africa and the Mediterranean. A large part of this concerns the Libyan conflict and other threats emerging from the Middle East.
The partnership between Morocco and Italy aims to promote dialogue and cooperation in combatting terrorism, international crime, and irregular migration.
Italy is already one of Morocco’s leading trade partners, but the new agreement will bolster economic, commercial, and financial relations between the two countries. Morocco and Italy predict opportunities for growth in all areas of mutual interest, such as the energy, maritime, and industrial sectors.
With the involvement of other African partners, Morocco and Italy can achieve triangular cooperation in strengthening culture, education, research, and sustainable development.
Di Maio praises Morocco, King Mohammed VI
During a press briefing following his talks with Bourita, di Maio praised Morocco as a loyal and credible partner. Di Maio’s signing of the partnership signals Morocco’s credibility on the regional and international scene, the Italian foreign minister said.
Morocco is a “partner sought by several Mediterranean countries and elsewhere,” Di Maio said during the press briefing.
The presence of a large Moroccan community in Italy and an increasing number of Italian tourists in Morocco reflects the strong human relations between Morocco and Italy, di Maio added.
Last year, more than 500,000 Italians visited Morocco, making Italy the 4th largest source of international tourists in the Kingdom.
Di Maio noted the many shared cultural and economic interests between Morocco and Italy and called for further development in cooperation on these matters.
At the political level, Morocco and Italy share an interest in crisis resolution and migration management. The Italian foreign minister praised Morocco for its effective migration policies, calling the Kingdom a source of inspiration for the European Union and Mediterranean countries.
Additionally, di Maio congratulated Morocco on its energy policies.
A long-awaited development in Mediterranean cooperation
While Morocco and Italy only just became strategic partners, the two countries have been collaborating in the fight against irregular migration, counterterrorism, international drug trafficking, and general security.
In August 2018, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced that the Italian government will invest at least 1 billion Euros in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia in order to restrict the immigration flow to Europe.
Morocco aborted 57,000 irregular migration attempts in 2019, according to Moroccan government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi. Italy is a popular destination for migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea in hopes of reaching Europe.
Italy, along with Spain and France, is a top destination for international drug trafficking networks based in Morocco. In 2019, Moroccan security forces arrested 420,348 people on charges of drug trafficking from January 1 to September 15.
In early September, Abdellatif Hammouchi, head of the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) and the General Directorate of Territorial Security (DGST) traveled to Italy with Yassine Mansour, head of Morocco’s external intelligence agency (DGED).
The two senior officials held high-level security talks with their Italian counterparts.
In late September 2019, Italian news agencies commended Morocco’s counterterrorism policies and the key role of the Kingdom in combatting global terrorism after Morocco was elected for a third term as co-chair of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum.
These praises were perhaps the writing on the wall of the strategic partnership that emerged just over a month later.
Italy is set to benefit greatly from this development in terms of security and migration. For Morocco, the partnership will stimulate economic growth in the Kingdom and promote cooperation with other European countries.