Spain and France vie for influence in Morocco

Emmanuel Macron y Pedro Sánchez - @La Moncloa
Emmanuel Macron and Pedro Sánchez - @La Moncloa

We are witnessing a real race against the clock: Spain and France are moving with all their political and business machinery to preserve and expand their influence in Morocco. 

In this challenge of the two countries historically linked to the Kingdom of Morocco, the announcement of the trip of the Spanish President Pedro Sanchez to Rabat, gives Madrid an advantage over Paris.

Emmanuel Macron is still waiting to meet King Mohammed VI in Morocco for an official visit. Pedro Sanchez has taken advantage of the revalidation of his presidency of the Spanish Government, and has gone ahead. 

However, it is not necessary to throw the bells to the flight yet. The Alaouite sovereign trusts Pedro Sanchez, but not his government. 

The Socialist leader and head of the Executive, took a decisive step to strengthen relations by accepting the Moroccan proposal of autonomy for the Sahara as "the most serious and realistic" to resolve the territorial issue that the Moroccan monarchy considers vital to its existence. 

However, one fifth of the Spanish government (5 ministers out of 25, including the vice-president Yolanda Diaz), who are also the most vociferous, maintain a contrary and hostile position, and publicly intend to change the Spanish commitment on the Sahara question. 

As for the parliamentary supports negotiated by Pedro Sanchez to keep the Legislature alive, all except the 122 of the PSOE (the absolute majority is 176) do not support the position expressed by the president in his letter sent to King Mohamed VI a year ago. 

Hence Rabat's prudence and distrust of the Spanish Government. They see it as fragile. Not so President Sanchez. According to some sources, a meeting with the Moroccan King is foreseeable.

Morocco's relationship with France is quite the opposite. Rabat is pressing Paris for a greater commitment from the French side on the Sahara question. 

However, despite all the rumors and hypotheses about an imminent French pronouncement on the Sahara question, France cannot put into an official document its recognition that Western Sahara is a Moroccan province. 

The maximum of the French position would be something similar to the Spanish one, that the autonomy proposal formulated by King Mohammed VI at the UN in 2007, "is the most credible and realistic", but not the only one. 

For many years, France has recognized de facto Moroccan authority over the territory of the former Spanish colony. 

The trip to Laayoune of the then French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua, the trips of deputies and senators and members of the French administration, including diplomats accredited in Rabat, are proof of this acceptance of authority. 

But this is not going to be translated into official documents recognizing sovereignty, because it would force France to go through the colonial archives, not only in Morocco but also in Algeria and Mauritania. 

France is in possession of many secrets from the colonial era concerning Morocco and Algeria, concerning their elites, the Alaouite monarchy and the Algerian military establishment. 

These secrets are often its bargaining chip and its negotiating safeguard.

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