The Moroccan House of Representatives hosted a large group of French politicians and businessmen this past weekend for a round of contacts to discuss some of the most topical issues between France and Morocco.
The group, led by the Vice-President of the French Senate, Vincent Delahaye, discussed the main problem confronting the two parties and which "regrettably chills" relations between Paris and Rabat. This is the reduction by almost half of the visas issued from the Quai d'Orsay.
The reason behind Paris's claim of a 50% reduction in visas for Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians is the Maghreb triad's unwillingness and lack of cooperation in the readmission of "OQTFs", the expulsion orders against foreigners in France.
"This issue of visas is important because it is directly related to the issue of the orders to leave French territory (OQTF). And therefore we must be able to disconnect them from the visa issue. I think we can obtain a result on the OQTFs by other means than sanctioning the issuing of visas," Vicent Delahaye briefly told the microphones of French correspondents in Rabat.
?? ?? Entretiens entre le Groupe d’amitié parlementaire Maroc-France à la Chambre des Représentants et une délégation de parlementaire et d’élus français@Parlement_ma @CED2018 @V_Delahaye— parlement.ma (@Parlement_ma) November 7, 2022
Salah Bourdi, president of the Eugène Delacroix Circle, the association responsible for the visit of the group of French elected officials, goes one step further. For Bourdi, the differences between France and its former protectorate could be settled by greater involvement of the French government in the Western Sahara dossier. "The Moroccans, what they want is for France to fully recognise this territory as Moroccan territory, this is not yet the case, this is the step that the Moroccans are asking Emmanuel Macron (to take), and we are campaigning for France to fully recognise the southern territories as Moroccan territories," said the Macronist councillor of the Parisian municipality of Épinay-sur-Seine to journalists who travelled for the occasion.
It is not yet known what reception the efforts of this delegation of decentralised diplomacy will receive at the Elysée Palace. At no time are the actions of this group binding on the French government. The Eugène Delacroix Circle is not a new face in Rabat. Since 2014, this group, which brings together around 200 French personalities of all political persuasions, has been working to promote relations with Rabat.
ts president, Salah Bourdi, of Moroccan descent, is elected in a commune where more than half of the children under 20 have at least one parent of foreign, Maghrebi, sub-Saharan or Turkish nationality. Bourdi often writes columns in Moroccan newspapers. This November was not the first time he publicly called for the recognition of the Sahara as Moroccan by the French government.
His profile is common within the Eugène Delacroix Circle. Khadija Gamraoui, secretary general of the association of French politicians, participated as an international observer in the 2021 Moroccan elections, invited by Rabat. Together with Bourdi, they led a delegation of French politicians who visited the towns of Dakhla and Laayoune in 2017 to learn first-hand about the situation in the Moroccan-administered territories.
The promotion of what are known as Morocco's southern territories is one of the strong points on the agenda of the Eugène Delacroix Circle and a reminder that French society is among the most advanced in Europe when it comes to recognising Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara. Officially, Paris is taking the same position as Spain, although not with the same symbolism, a step that Rabat is demanding from Macron. But from civil society, France already has one foot in Dakhla or Laayoune.
At the end of the summer, Macron hinted that he would visit Rabat in November, but the Elysée has not confirmed anything at this stage. According to the French media, the President of the Republic had a telephone conversation with King Mohammed VI to arrange this meeting in early 2023.
Relations between France and Morocco are not at a delicate point just because of the visa dossier. The French government has not yet appointed its new ambassador to Rabat, and Morocco relocated its ambassador to Paris a few months after his appointment, coinciding with Emmanuel Macron's state visit to Algeria.
Moroccan public opinion is lashing out at France with irritation at the unsightly gesture of the French diplomacy and for 'forgetting' its relations with Morocco and only benefiting meetings with Algiers.