In conversation with... Nasser Bourita

The EU-Morocco relationship needs to transcend notions of ‘us and them’ and provide a clear political perspective to each partner’s ambitions, explains Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita.
Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita

By Nasser Bourita

Nasser Bourita has been the Kingdom of Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco since his appointment in April 2017. He was reappointed in October 2019 as Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates. He was previously Minister Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after having been successively head of department, head of division, director of the United Nations and International Organisations and Director General of Multilateral Relations and Global Cooperation.

07 Dec 2020

Migration and security policy collaboration have been key features of the EU-Morocco relationship over recent years. How has this evolved within the European Neighbourhood Policy framework?

Migration and security policy collaboration are only two of the many dimensions of the EU-Morocco relationship. Under the Vision of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the Kingdom has been a reliable and responsible partner, and is committed to the further strengthening of our coordination and political action around these challenges, which, as we know, are common to both sides of the Mediterranean.

We see security cooperation in its broadest terms as we face today hybrid threats on top of traditional ones. We need to continue our positive engagement on the issue of mobility and migration.

As a country of origin, transit and destination, crossed by one of the main Mediterranean migratory routes, we have sought to develop a constructive dialogue aimed at demystifying migration - out of every 100 international migrants in the world, less than one is an irregular African migrant.

Our firm belief is that migration is not an obstacle to development: it is a powerful lever for development when it is ‘safe, orderly and regular’, as agreed in the 2018 Marrakech Migration Pact.

In what areas do you think European neighbourhood policy should be further developed?

The strategic relevance of European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is undeniable. It is precisely because we believe in ENP that we support its comprehensive review. I believe there is a need to rethink the way we approach complementarity and solidarity. We have an opportunity to push for some essential adjustments, starting with building on shared values and trust and going beyond the simplistic logic that is based on geography alone.

The concept of ‘neighbour’ may be misleading since it creates a distorting ‘Us and Them” mentality. The renewed ENP must transcend these notions and provide a clear political perspective that tackles the challenges but also brings answers to each partner’s ambitions.

The current ‘à-la-carte’ approach is a process that we see as restrictive to the promise of the ambitious partnership between Morocco and the EU.

"I believe there is a need to rethink the way we approach complementarity and solidarity. We have an opportunity to push for some essential adjustments, starting with building on shared values and trust and going beyond the simplistic logic that is based on geography alone"

What role can morocco play, alongside the EU, in Post-COVID 19 recovery plans?

We consider that the current global context of the pandemic, which triggered economic and social crises, urges the closest and most strategic partners to act together. In this context, it is essential to have a geopolitical approach and realise that being neighbours is about sharing challenges and boosting opportunities in terms of supply chains.

We are lucky to be geographically so close: we are lucky to have similar economic models and standards. The pandemic has demonstrated the vulnerabilities of complex supply chains and the need for Europe to diversify its suppliers. Morocco has competitive advantages in this regard, on top of its stability, location and logistics.

Therefore, we need to change our perceptions, and evolve our thinking from one that’s focused only on loans and development, to working together for a new model of cooperation that will enhance our mutual resilience and create an economic space of shared prosperity.

Morocco’s role in regional stability and security is seen as a key pillar of Rabat’s relationship with the EU. In what ways is the kingdom active in security and stability across the Sahel?

Under the leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, Morocco has spared no effort in contributing to stability and development in the Sahel. The Kingdom has always advocated a multidimensional approach to addressing the multiple security, humanitarian, and environmental challenges facing the Sahel region.

Morocco - which has strong and historic ties with the Sahel countries - believes that regional cooperation is particularly important for border management in the fight against terrorism and in maintaining territorial integrity.

On the other hand, we have chosen to also focus our actions on the religious aspect, including through a comprehensive imam training programme benefiting several partner countries in the Sahel and the promotion of moderate Sunni Islam. This approach to cooperation in religious matters has been widely welcomed by the international community and will serve as a model for religious cooperation with other countries in the region.

"The pandemic has demonstrated the vulnerabilities of complex supply chains and the need for Europe to diversify its suppliers. Morocco has competitive advantages in this regard, on top of its stability, location and logistics"

There are concerns that the 29-year-old ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front may soon collapse, negatively impacting regional stability. What is Morocco’s position on the ceasefire and the ongoing Saharan conflict?

First of all, we have to understand the real threat to the ceasefire. Since 2016, the ‘Polisario’ militias have repeatedly perpetrated illegal acts including racketeering and banditry in the Guerguerat buffer zone and east of the security berm, in violation of agreements and in blatant defiance of the calls to order of the UN Secretary General and resolutions of the Security Council.

Last month, these militias made the decision to escalate further their disregard for international law by blocking the movement of goods and people between Europe and West Africa, through Morocco at Guerguerat. Morocco has shown extreme restraint and in fact continues to show restraint, not out of weakness but rather because it is a responsible actor that favours multilateral and institutional treatment of issues of strategic importance to the region.

As you know, the greater Sahara and Sahel region is ripe with a number of challenges, not least of which are terrorism, organised crime and trafficking. We have engaged directly with the UN Secretary General, members of the Security Council and beyond, seeking to put an end to the ’Polisario’ militias’ belligerent behaviour.

After these attempts failed, Morocco decided to act within the framework of its rights and duties. This non-offensive operation, without any bellicose intent, was carried out in accordance with clear rules of engagement, to restore free circulation. Morocco has reaffirmed its attachment to the ceasefire and to the political process, while reserving the right to react with the greatest severity, and in self-defence, against any threat to its security.

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