Moroccan public opinion is echoing the exclusive published by the French-language daily Africa Intelligence, which claims that French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Rabat in January.
The attention aroused in Morocco by the visit of the French head of state is a latent sign of the country's interest in 'restarting' relations with France on a good footing, in a context of geopolitical coldness and reproaches for the recent rapprochement between Paris and Algeria.
Morocco wants to be no less. Opinion columns in newspapers close to the Rabat government were quick to give their views on Paris's 'mistaken' foreign policy and the 'mistreatment' that the Quai d'Orsay reserved for Rabat to the favor of good relations with Algeria, which has grown in geopolitical and economic terms thanks to the increase in energy market prices, the main source of income for the Tebboune government.
The news has already been around for a long time. During his visit to Algiers, when Macron was greeting a group of young people, he promised in front of a mobile phone camera that he would go to Morocco in October. The President of the Republic's promise was not kept, but a similar scenario was repeated in a meeting with residents of Le Touquet, where Macron has his private residence, an inheritance passed on to his wife, and where he votes in every election.
Morocco and France have a number of differences to iron out. In addition to Moroccan reproaches for collusion with Algeria, its eternal regional rival, there is the issue of the reduction of visas issued by France and a lack of sufficient recognition of Morocco's claims to Western Sahara.
The issue was revived when sources close to the Elysée spoke of a long telephone conversation between Moroccan King Mohammed VI and President Macron. During the conversation, which lasted around 30 minutes, the tone of the two leaders was reportedly cordial. It was then that the Moroccan monarch was said to be in favour of Macron's visit to Rabat.
The French government has not confirmed the information about this visit, which would coincide closely with the High Level Meeting that Morocco and Spain are preparing to honour the articles of the joint roadmap they signed in April 2022. It is known that the French Foreign Minister, the discreet Chiraqist Catherine Colonna, will travel to Morocco in December to meet with her counterpart, Nasser Bourita. It is to be hoped that, if the rumours of Macron's visit are true, the meeting between the two foreign ministers will serve to pave the way for the meeting between Macron and Mohamed VI.
It is to be expected that Macron's visit to Rabat could be similar in style to that of Pedro Sánchez in April 2022. And therefore also that Rabat's demands will be similar. The Sahara issue is always the priority in Morocco's external action, and, to quote Mohammed VI himself, is the 'prism' through which Morocco relates to its neighbours and international partners. Paris has so far maintained a position that Morocco considers too ambiguous on this dossier. Despite this, the Quai d'Orsay asserts in a similar way to Spain or Germany that Morocco's autonomy proposal for the Sahara is a serious and credible basis for ending the conflict in the region. These were the declarations of the Foreign Ministry spokesperson on 21 March 2022, after the change in Spain's position. Morocco could ask the Elysée for similar or more profound declarations from the presidency of the Republic. Statements that should be one of the Elysée's red lines to maintain its balance with Algeria. A very negative reaction from Algiers could be expected if this were to happen. What Rabat will be asked to do to normalise relations is one of the unknowns that will become clearer in January, should the visit take place.
The scenario of greater French involvement in the Moroccan economy, always thirsty for foreign investment, could be considered. France already plays a leading role in foreign direct investment in the Kingdom, traditionally the largest contributor, ahead of the United Arab Emirates and the United States. In this sense, it will be interesting to see if Christophe Lecourtier becomes the French ambassador to Rabat. The embassy has been without an ambassador since September, when Helène reached the end of her mission in Morocco.
Christophe Lecourtier is a profile that stands out for his good relations with the French private investment sectors. He is an expert in the internationalisation of the French economy and public-private partnerships in the interests of the state. On the Moroccan side, the post of head of the diplomatic mission has also been vacant since Mohamed VI relocated Mohamed Beenchaboun to head the royal investment fund.