Ahmed Rahhou: Friends and Allies

Written by The Parliament Magazine on 5 May 2020 in Interviews
Interviews

Morocco is looking to develop a fuller partnership with the EU, one that will bring Rabat and Brussels closer together on key strategic issues such as climate change, education, security and mobility, explains Head of Mission to the EU, Ambassador Ahmed Rahhou.

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The world is going through a difficult time at the moment, as countries work to contain the Coronavirus outbreak. What measures has Morocco taken during the crisis?

Morocco reacted very quickly to the Coronavirus crisis. As early as February, flights to and from China were stopped, while flights to other high risk countries ended in mid-March. The decision was also taken to confine people to their homes, reinforce our medical facilities and restrict movement between towns. Thanks to these measures, by the end of the third week of April, we were in control of the situation, with the total number of cases (3000), the number of deaths (150) and the number of people in hospital care remaining moderate and manageable. The obligation to wear face masks when outside was introduced at the beginning of April, and an evening curfew was also introduced. It should be noted that we are producing masks for public use, reaching a production capacity of five million masks a day. These di cult but strong measures, initiated under the supervision of His Majesty Mohammed VI, have been widely accepted and adhered to. The Government is currently working to prepare for the easing of restrictions - which have been extended until 20 May - in order to limit the risk of a second wave of infections.


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In what ways will Morocco's special €1bn Coronavirus fund help mitigate the social and economic repercussions of the crisis?

The COVID-19 Fund, created on the initiative of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, has been endowed with nearly €1bn from public funds. There has been major participation in this fund by individuals and organisations, mainly Moroccan but also some foreign donations, including from the EU. By the end of April, this fund represented more than three percent of Moroccan GDP, and will help people manage day-to-day emergencies. In particular, this fund provides monthly income for several million families who have lost, or seen drastic reductions in, their income. The fund will also help support efforts in healthcare, and may also be used to support certain economic sectors and businesses in difficulties. For the latter, other measures, relating to the payment of bank loans, tax or social security instalments, have also been taken. In circumstances such as these, relying on one’s friends and partners is a necessity. I mentioned the EU’s participation in Morocco’s COVID-19 Fund, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the European Commission and the European External Service for their mobilisation. There has been cooperation on the repatriation of people and other collaborative actions. We are working together in the way that partners and friends know how to.

"Morocco has been Europe’s partner since the 1960s. Europe needs stable and cooperative partners with common interests, such as Morocco, at its borders"

In June last year, Morocco and the EU unveiled plans to develop a 'Euro-Moroccan Partnership for Shared Prosperity'. What does this partnership consist of?

Morocco has been Europe’s partner since the 1960s. Europe needs stable and cooperative partners with common interests, such as Morocco, at its borders. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of countries that are currently on the road to political stability and inclusive development on the EU’s borders. However, Morocco is an exception and we believe the EU needs to rethink and redefine its partnership and cooperation policy with Morocco if things are to develop effectively. We have proposed, in a joint declaration in June 2019, to lay new foundations for a partnership based on a more multidimensional approach, one that better integrates both our values. Morocco is seeking a fuller partnership with the EU, one with a strong convergence on strategic issues and a concerted approach to addressing major issues such as education, innovation, economy, social justice, politics, security, mobility, the environment and climate change.

What are the overall ambitions of this partnership?

The EU has geostrategic ambitions linked to climate change, peace, security and the strengthening of the rule of law. A more dynamic and proactive policy is also expected in the EU’s relations with Africa. Morocco shares these ambitions, and its objectives in this area are broadly aligned with those of the EU. We believe that a more in-depth cooperation and consultation, and a development policy designed by and for those close to these issues, is essential. Our ambition is to build an exemplary partnership and development model that can be transposed to other regions. The June 2019 joint declaration identified four areas for consultation: Convergence of Values, Economic Convergence and Social Cohesion, Shared Knowledge, and Political and Security Cooperation. Beyond the declarations, we are currently working to bring consistency and content to each of these themes. In addition to these areas, there are two cross-cutting areas of EU-Moroccan cooperation, one dealing with the Environment and Climate Change, and the other with Mobility and Migration.

"Our ambition is to build an exemplary partnership and development model that can be transposed to other regions"

What role can culture play in dismantling historical and religious barriers?

Among the many problems we face is the rejection of people on the basis of colour, religion or other differences. We must avoid, at all costs, a confrontation of civilisations, cultures or religions, or withdrawals inwards. The tendencies and discourses of hatred and rejection, which have unfortunately proliferated in recent years, can only be countered by strong acts, both political and cultural. It is essential to continue to cultivate and share different cultures. When we understand people and their culture better, the feeling of rejection, fear and withdrawal generally diminishes. In my opinion, it is essential that people, particularly young people, should get to know each other better. I believe that a broad extension of youth exchange programmes, such as Erasmus - operating in both directions, both towards and outside Europe - towards countries in the southern and eastern Mediterranean, can contribute to this objective.

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