Paris is trying to maintain good ties in the Maghreb, but its lack of engagement jeopardises its position in North Africa

Francia busca el equilibrio en sus relaciones con Marruecos y Argelia

photo_camera PHOTO/AP - Moroccan King Mohammed VI and French President Emmanuel Macron, left, after inaugurating a high-speed train line at Rabat train station.

France's relations with Rabat and Algiers are not at their best. Emmanuel Macron is looking for a middle ground that will allow his country to maintain ties with the former French colonies, but Paris's constant polemics, especially with its Moroccan ally, make diplomatic efforts difficult. Currently, the French capital has neither a Moroccan nor an Algerian ambassador, the former having been recalled by Mohammed VI - there is still no replacement for him and it does not look like there will be any in the short term - and the latter since Algeria recalled its ambassador for consultations over the Amira Bouraoui case.


Morocco, one of France's strongest partners, was not satisfied with the visit of French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, which was intended to put an end to the visa crisis between the two countries. Although Colonna claimed that relations are "exceptional" and the French embassy in Rabat issued a statement saying that "normality has returned", the reality is very different. The reduction in the granting of visas by France carried out in 2021 "has not changed" and "the results were disappointing", according to Alawite organisations and associations.

And this is not the only issue that is causing a rift between Moroccans and the French. The decision to withdraw Morocco's ambassador to France was prompted by the European Parliament's vote accusing the Kingdom of undermining press freedom. Rabat sees Paris as responsible for orchestrating this "anti-Moroccan" campaign. However, France continues to turn a deaf ear and insists that an "extraordinary partnership" exists between Morocco and its administration.


Within Morocco's borders, the view is not the same. In addition to the ongoing disagreements between France and Morocco, there is one that has historically marked the Kingdom's relations with its partners, namely the recognition of Moroccan authority over the Sahara. Pierre Vermeren, historian and professor of contemporary history at the University of Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne, believes that "the main issue with respect to Rabat is that France recognises Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara, as the United States and Spain have recognised".


At a time when countries with great weight in the European Union such as Spain and Germany are stepping forward on the Sahara issue, France is not making any moves and is trying to wear Rabat's patience out. Paris has shown no signs of following in the footsteps of the Spanish and Germans, which has disappointed its historic Moroccan ally. Macron's tightrope walk to maintain the balance between Morocco and Algeria is not easy, although it is likely that, when the time comes, France will give priority to its Moroccan partner.
Macron's intention - and from the Gallic point of view it has not changed - was to travel to Morocco to bring Morocco closer to a country that, for the moment, does not see this meeting as clear. It is clear to the Elysée that weakening relations with the Alawi kingdom would be a serious blow to France's strategic position in the Maghreb. Especially given that its ties with Morocco's regional rival are far from good.


Algeria accused France, in a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of committing a "violation of national sovereignty" by intervening to prevent Amira Bouraoui, an opponent of Abdelmajdid Tebboune's government, from being extradited to Algeria and arriving on French territory thanks to the French embassy in Tunis. Algiers describes the intervention of the country presided over by Emmanuel Macron as a "clandestine and illegal operation of exfiltration of an Algerian national whose presence in the country is necessary by decision of the judiciary". In the same communiqué, Algiers stressed that this act was "inadmissible" and that it caused "great damage to Algerian-French relations".

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