The High Level Meeting (RAN) to be held on 1 and 2 February in Rabat is a decisive step for diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Spanish President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, will attend the meeting along with a dozen ministers to discuss joint policies with their counterparts. Nourdine Mouati, expert in Spanish-Moroccan cooperation and international analyst, analyses the importance of what he considers to be a summit.
Why is this High Level Meeting (HLM) so important?
As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, rightly said, it has been a decade since this High Level Meeting between the two governments and with such an important representation of ministers and authorities from both countries. It is a meeting that has almost the status of a summit, in which the Spanish President of the Government will be received by the Moroccan Head of State and by His Majesty King Mohammed VI. Very important issues that have been "hibernating" throughout this period will be decided there.
In addition, the crisis that arose over the incident of the reception in Spain of the representative of the Polisario terrorist group has created a situation on edge, especially for those of us who work in this Spanish-Moroccan area. The date set by the minister for this transcendental meeting will hopefully mark a before and after in secular relations, because we have historic relations between the two countries. And we hope that it will have concrete results.
We know that the delegation is going to be important because ten Spanish ministers will attend, some of them know Morocco very well, and they are going to deal with issues that are very important for both countries and economies. I cite the example of Vice-President Teresa Ribera, who knows Morocco very well on climate change and knows that there is a very important opportunity in the production of green hydrogen and the development of renewable energies. There, Spanish companies have many opportunities in Morocco.
I would also mention Luis Planas, who was Spain's ambassador to Morocco and is currently the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and the Environment, and who is very familiar with relations between the two countries. We have always insisted that the agricultural and fisheries sector between the two countries is complementary; we are part of the same value chain and we can be very competitive if we know how to collaborate in these two sectors.
The Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande Marlaska, is also in close communication with his counterpart and friend Abdelouafi Laftit, with whom he is working on very important issues such as the control of migratory flows and the fight against terrorism. The news of the joint operation broke recently. These are very important issues.
I don't like to say it, but we are obliged to understand each other because the future of both countries is being built in the Spanish-Moroccan sphere. We are in a very important geographical area, we are a reference point and we have influence over our future regions. Spain, in Europe, with this shift in European policy towards the south, and Morocco in the Maghreb and also in the rest of Africa.
We have to work together. At the business level, they have always understood this. Economic relations have grown. Trade between the two countries already amounts to more than 17 billion euros.
However, we must also work in other areas such as the cultural and social spheres. We need to encourage civil society in both countries to work together. One of the things we have insisted on in recent years is that an effort must be made to recover all the cultural programmes for scientific research and collaboration between universities. Encouraging the learning of Spanish in Morocco and safeguarding Spanish heritage in the country are issues that have been neglected and that we must give importance to because our social and cultural ties are also very important.
We must also work to ensure that there is a Spanish-language press in Morocco and that Spanish public opinion has access to information in Spanish in order to see what is happening in the neighbouring country. Atalayar plays a very important role here. We thank you for the effort you make every day to bring the Strait even closer together. This is an opportunity for both governments to also think about how to improve the perception on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Undoubtedly, the signing of agreements that are pending will consolidate what is a new boost to relations because, as you say, the strategic interests of the two countries are the same and we have to row in the same direction.
We are very excited about this summit, but projects must be put into practice and funds must be earmarked so that we can work and strengthen this global strategic alliance. We know that there has been a very intense agenda in recent months. For example, the Spanish ambassador to Morocco, Ricardo Díez-Hochleitner, has held meetings with almost all the members of the Moroccan government.
A relationship between the two countries also with the intention that Algeria, for example, can change its policy and we can see a recovery of its relations with Morocco, but also under the umbrella of the European Union. A few days ago the EU's High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, was in Morocco. I believe that Spain is a good channel in this cross-border relationship for the EU to increase its relations with Morocco.
Yes, the European Union's southern neighbourhood policy has always been carried out by both France and Spain. I believe that Spain can play a very important role in this rapprochement within the European Union. As Josep Borrell said recently when he was in Morocco: "we must strengthen ties".
Morocco is a strategic partner of the European Union and it is in this partnership that we can work in other areas such as Euro-African cooperation. Morocco is a hub for collaboration and exchange of experiences between European Union countries and African countries, and I believe that work should be done in this area.
With regard to relations between Algeria and Morocco, unfortunately the Algerian Government refuses any intermediation. Attempts have also been made through Arab countries. But the relevance of relations between Spain and Morocco far exceeds, for example, Spain's trade relations with Algeria. We cannot measure them with the same indicators.
Let us now focus on strengthening these relations, the strategic alliance between Spain and Morocco, and together we can encourage the European Union to carry more weight in this neighbourhood and in this geographical area that is the southern Mediterranean.