(Ticket 696) – For France, the Sahara is a matter of domestic and European policy

Since the re-election of Emmanuel Macron on April 24, and even before, Moroccans (at least those interested in the matter) have wondered about the French president’s ability and / or willingness to take a stand on the territorial area. Morocco’s integrity in response to Spanish and German developments in this area and to catch up with the United States, which took a decisive step in December 2020. But what is it really?

Since 1975 and the Green March, France has supported Morocco, while maintaining a very fragile balance in relations between the two major Maghreb countries, Morocco and Algeria. Older relationships with the former, favored by proximity and history, but also by the economy and a strange attraction, on both sides. With Algeria, the memory issue persists and becomes confined due to 130 years of conquest, occupation and war of independence, which resulted in a common trauma both in France and in its former possession. With still (very) long-term consequences …

But with Morocco, there is also a question of memory (the word “memorial is zealously reserved for Algeria”), although history, given the relationship dating back at least three centuries and this “stormy friendship” between Louis XIV and Moulay Ismael. to go back to Charles Martel and the “non-battle” of Poitiers, but no doubt a need to revisit Lyautey’s words about North Africa and Morocco, Lyautey, whom his country honored before he forgot – or better forget – his recommendations and advice.

Thus, since 1990, France has supported Morocco in the Sahara issue with ups and downs, depending on the proximity of successive presidents to Rabat. The left-right change marked these peaks, but even the Socialists, once in place, saw an advantage in “protecting” Morocco without alienating Algeria … until Emmanuel Macron, a convinced European, arrived. confirmed Afro-skeptic or confirmed “Afro-skeptic”. does not matter ”.

From 2017 to 2022, President Macron, who was ravaged his country for aggravated arrogance, gave this arrogance fully in Africa. Result: France is losing little by little, then faster and faster, its African backyard. In the Maghreb, the French head of state is clearly working to resolve the issue of remembrance with Algeria, which he has made his resolute duty, somewhat neglecting the neighboring kingdom, which is his absolute right.

After weakening the two classical political poles significantly, Emmanuel Macron does not have a “sustainable” political force or education. It is therefore forced to unite and mobilize, thereby sparing its Algerian voters, or believing that they are sparing it by not excessively offending the rulers of Algiers. So e.g. visa, where this monumental mistake consisted in applying to Morocco for a dark question on the readmission of North African citizens, which primarily concerns Algerians … But it is also at European level that the French president does not dare to go ahead. Since the Nordic and German-speaking countries have not really won over Moroccan theses, he refuses to take the risk of finding himself isolated within the 27 by recognizing the Moroccan nature of the Sahara. Proposed official version: It is not in Morocco’s interest for France to recognize the Moroccan character of the Sahara because it would isolate itself in Europe and be weakened to defend Rabat’s views … although this argument has been weakened by recent developments in Berlin.

But despite all that, now that he has been re-elected and is starting his second and final term, it seems certain that Mr Macron will write his name in gold letters in the history of his country … And as for the Maghreb, which has the choice between Morocco and Algeria, he will most likely choose Algeria. He would thus work to win Algeria without losing Morocco, he will not get anything from Algeria, but he will move away from Morocco.

Algeria is increasingly considered in Europe as a simple supplier of gas, with no geostrategic interest other than energy (of which it is an average supplier for several reasons), and perhaps a risk of hosting a base Russian on its soil. Morocco is much more sensitive geopolitically, and despite the lack of power, it has several instruments of power (favorable geography, promising economy, daring alliances, etc.).

The new generation of French leaders is focused exclusively on Europe, North America and Asia. This seems to be a mistake in geostrategic terms. In five or ten years, the geopolitical configuration of Africa and the Maghreb will have evolved, and France, in this part of the world, will, if it does not make a bold and even dangerous but necessary and inevitable choice, remain relegated to its memories and stand firm. in the common history.

Aziz Boucetta

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