French billboards and TV shows are all about solidarity with earthquake-stricken Morocco, and the large Franco-Moroccan community is getting organized to ship aid, yet one person isn’t able to help and he’s not happy about it: Emmanuel Macron.
(Bloomberg) — French billboards and TV shows are all about solidarity with earthquake-stricken Morocco, and the large Franco-Moroccan community is getting organized to ship aid, yet one person isn’t able to help and he’s not happy about it: Emmanuel Macron.
While Rabat has accepted official offers of assistance from Spain, the UK, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, it’s ghosting its former colonial ruler.
A visibly frustrated French president released a video in which he criticized “controversies that shouldn’t exist” between Rabat and Paris, and repeated that his government is ready to send help. Macron didn’t elaborate, but he appeared to refer to Morocco’s lack of response to proposed aid following last week’s earthquake.
“He only made the situation worse, because his speech will not go well with Rabat,” Samir Bennis, editor of the MWN English news portal, wrote on X, the website formerly known as Twitter. “The only person authorized to address the Moroccan people is King Mohammed VI. If Macron had wanted to fix things or express the wish to provide humanitarian assistance to Morocco, he should have done so through official diplomatic channels without making noise.”
France has been struggling to maintain its influence in parts of Africa where it used to be the colonial power amid resentment of its historical role. Macron has pledged to recalibrate his country’s military presence, centered around the Sahel region where a series of coups has forced a policy rethink. But the relationship with North Africa is perhaps even more important for French people, many of whom have family or personal connections there.
Ties between Paris and Rabat run deep. Moroccans represent France’s biggest diaspora after Algerians, with some 12% of immigrants living in France born in Morocco, according to statistics office Insee. Out of at least 1.5 million people, half hold dual citizenship. King Mohammed travels to Paris often for private reasons.
Tensions flared up well before the earthquake response, however, especially as Macron has sought a closer relationship with Algeria. While the US and Israel have said the Western Sahara — a disputed territory between Morocco and an Algeria-backed separatist group — is Rabat’s turf, Macron has sought not to take sides.
While diplomats say France has the same policy as the UK on the Western Sahara, Paris had a special place for decades as Morocco’s No. 1 ally in the dispute under previous presidents until Nicolas Sarkozy. The US, Spain and Israel’s recent tilts in Morocco’s favor have raised the bar for France, which by comparison looks like it’s reneging on its historic stance.
Two years ago, France also restricted visas for citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia due to their refusal to readmit nationals undocumented in France. It resolved the issue with Rabat in December. Meanwhile, Morocco has kept the post of ambassador to Paris vacant for months.
–With assistance from Samy Adghirni and Michael Gunn.
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