Morocco and Andalusia are an example of good neighbourliness within the Euro-Mediterranean area. The North African country and the Spanish region maintain solid economic and trade relations, as well as close cooperation in the field of tourism. With the aim of further deepening these ties and extending them to more sectors, the Andalusian Regional Government and the magazine Atalayar entre dos orillas have organised a forum to address the role of the autonomous community in Spanish-Moroccan relations. This event, 'Andalusia, Euro-Mediterranean nexus Spain-Morocco', is part of the 'Euro-Mediterranean Encounters' programme, which consists of holding some 20 events in different cities in Spain and Morocco over the next few years.
The Fundación Tres Culturas del Mediterráneo, the institution where the meeting was held, collaborated in the organisation of the event together with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, the International Press Club and Silken Hotels
The director of Atalayar, the journalist Javier Fernández Arribas, gave the words of welcome, taking the opportunity to recall that the Moroccan airlines - Royal Air Maroc - will soon launch the Seville-Tangier-Casablanca line, something which, in the words of Fernández Arribas, represents "another step forward in mobility and rapprochement".
The inauguration was also attended by María de la Concepción de Santa Ana Fernández, Managing Director of the Three Cultures Foundation of the Mediterranean; Taoufik ElBoruch, Vice-President of the Council of the Region of Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima; and Antonio Sanz Cabello, Minister of the Presidency, Interior, Social Dialogue and Administrative Simplification. Enric Millo i Rocher, Secretary General for External Action of the Andalusian Regional Government, was also present at the welcome ceremony.
De Santa Ana Fernández highlighted the symbolic and architectural value of the Hassan II pavilion, the headquarters of the Three Cultures Foundation. This space, according to the director of the institution, "shows what Andalusia and Morocco are capable of doing together". De Santa Ana Fernández also stressed that this event is the first of many to be held over the next two years in Spain and Morocco under the coordination of the Andalusian Regional Government and Atalayar. The aim of this series of meetings is to "add value" to the ties between Andalusia and Morocco, with emphasis on investment, trade, business and universities.
"Strengthening ties between two neighbouring countries that want to get to know each other better and deepen cooperation," explained de Santa Ana Fernández, thus highlighting the role of the Three Cultures Foundation in these relations. The institution - which has the support of the Andalusian Regional Government and the Kingdom of Morocco - works to promote understanding and cordiality between the peoples and cultures of the Mediterranean. The Foundation sees diversity as "an opportunity for the development of peoples", said its director.
Then it was the turn of Elbourch, who began his speech by quoting a phrase from former US President John F. Kennedy on good relations with Canada. "Geography made us neighbours, we cannot divide ourselves in any way," said the vice-president of the Council of the Tangiers-Tetouan-Al Hoceima Region. Elbourch believes that this can be applied to relations between Spain and Morocco, ties that extend to the economic and commercial sectors, as well as culture. "We share a border, history and geography," Elbourch said, highlighting the Strait of Gibraltar and its large trade flow. On a geographical level, he also pointed out that we live together "in one of the most sensitive areas from a geostrategic perspective".
The Vice-President of the Council of the Tangiers-Tetouan-Al Hoceima Region indicated that bilateral ties have deepened over the last 40 years, to such an extent that Spain has become Morocco's leading trading partner, while the Alaouite Kingdom is Madrid's main trading ally on the African continent. For this reason, thousands of Spanish companies have decided to start operating in the North African nation.
In addition to the commercial and political sphere, Elbourch referred to the current political situation between Rabat and Madrid following the change of position of Pedro Sánchez's government on the Western Sahara issue. "This new stage consolidates Spanish-Moroccan ties. The reason has won and the dream of the two peoples has also won," Elbourch said. "This year has been exceptional: links have been resumed and a new phase of relations between the two countries has begun, which must be based on knowledge, on the exchange of experiences and information," he added.
Elbourch also spoke about his region. Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima is a key point for the Kingdom because of its economic and commercial potential. The area represents an important investment destination, and Rabat has increased and improved the region's transport and infrastructure network. In this regard, even the US digital newspaper Business Insiders has praised the role of the port of Tangier Med.
Business and investment have contributed favourably to employment growth, as well as to the agricultural sector and sustainability. Equally, the cultural and natural heritage makes the region a tourist attraction. For this reason, Elbourch ended his speech by calling "to take advantage of this common legacy".
The inauguration was brought to a close by Sanz Cabello, who once again highlighted the "intense relations of cooperation" between Andalusia and Morocco. The Minister of the Presidency, Interior, Social Dialogue and Administrative Simplification pointed out that both Madrid and Rabat share common strategies that represent "a key role for Europe and the Maghreb".
In 2021, Andalusia was the third Spanish autonomous community in exports to Morocco, responsible for 17% of Spanish exports to the country. Meanwhile, the North African nation is one of Andalusia's top ten non-European clients along with the United States and China.
In that year, Andalusian exports to Morocco have increased by 33%, reaching 1,641 million euros. Likewise, between January and September 2022, Andalusia exported €1,530.4 million to Morocco (a record figure in the first nine months of the year and almost the same amount as in the whole of 2021, €1,641.2 million), which represents an increase of 31.5% compared to the same period in 2021. Similarly, in the same period this year, Andalusian imports from Morocco reached a value of 857.7 million euros, increasing by 3.3% compared to the same period in 2021.
These figures, as Sanz Cabello remarked, "highlight the integration in the value chain that characterises our relations, thus reinforcing our international competitiveness, taking advantage of comparative advantages and strengthening mutual wealth creation".
The Minister underlined the importance of cooperation in the Mediterranean area for Andalusia. This partnership goes beyond the economic sphere and expands to other sectors such as health, education and energy. However, Sanz Cabello believes that, despite the proximity and the historical past, "there is still much to be done to work together and get to know each other better". "With this conference we are going to contribute to the creation of new bridges of understanding," he concluded.