On Twitter, the messages follow and resemble each other about France’s refusal to issue a visa to artists like El Grande Toto or to ex-ministers, leading some French politicians to react. The former Minister of Territorial Equality and Housing, Cécile Duflot, signed a tweet addressed to the French Embassy in Morocco calling for more humanity in the processing of requests, citing the example of a mother who was refused a visa when she wanted to travel to France to attend her son’s wedding.
In reality, and as Abdelilah El Khadri, president of the Moroccan Coalition for Human Rights (CMDH) reminds us, it all started in September 2021 with the decision of the French government to halve the number of visas issued to Moroccans and Algerians, and 30% for Tunisians. The measure was justified by the refusal of the Maghreb countries to welcome their nationals subject to an Obligation to leave French territory (OQTF) enshrined in the asylum and immigration law of 2018. By refusing to issue consular passes to its nationals, Morocco – like Algeria or Tunisia – have restricted the number of people deported to their countries and slowed down Macron’s migration policy.
Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia: why France is tightening its visa policy
The day after the application of this “drastic” measure by the French government, the Moroccan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, described it as “unjustified” and pointed to a “Franco-French” problem with regard to prove the Moroccanity of a person covered by the OQTF.
From humiliation to the rage
Since the entry into force of this reduction in the granting of visas in November 2021, the war of stories has taken a patriotic turn in Morocco, where politicians and citizens alike denounce an attack on their “integrity” or, as stated by more recently the Moroccan Prime Minister, Aziz Akhannouch, an insult to “Moroccan dignity”.
One feeling keeps coming back: humiliation. So much so that hashtags are multiplying against France such as #nonaufrançais, which rejects the cultural and linguistic norms of the Republic, or even #rendezlargent, calling for a few days TLS Contact, subcontractor of the French consulate in Morocco , to reimburse the costs of refused files. Academic Mokhtar Chaoui goes further by urging Moroccans to stop “bowing down for a visa. The country that snubs you, whether it’s France or another, zap it. On the WhatsApp application, the text of Abdelmajid Benjelloun, Moroccan writer and historian, has gone viral; he judges France “solely responsible for its setbacks” and “the French position towards Morocco hostile and unfriendly”.
Morocco-France: visas still impossible to obtain?
In the cafés on Place Talborjt, in Agadir, near TLS Contact, crestfallen faces express the rage provoked by the multiple refusals. “We are not dogs, we are treated like animals, as if we had no money”, protests Hassan, company manager, who had planned a business trip to Paris: “I’m going for work not for fun. Otherwise, I would have gone to Turkey or Italy. France has nothing to sell me except contempt and their racist Zemmour. »
Mohammed VI inflexible
August 20 marks the traditional celebration of the Revolution of the king and the people, which is accompanied by a speech by the sovereign. This year, Mohammed VI insisted on the fact that “the Sahara issue is the prism through which Morocco considers its international environment. It is also clearly and simply the yardstick that measures the sincerity of the friendships and the effectiveness of the partnerships that he establishes”. An address directly targeting the French authorities and reaffirming the construction of the international behavior of the kingdom as dependent on its Moroccan identity in which the incorporation of the Sahara is an indisputable fact. Witness the recall of the Moroccan ambassador to Tunis on August 26 after Kaïs Saïd welcomed Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario, an act described as “hostile” by the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Morocco-France: a visa for anger
If Emmanuel Macron, then traveling to Rabat, declared in 2017 that “Morocco is a friendly country and a strategic partner for France”, he is one of the 19 leaders whose countries do not support the Moroccanness of the Sahara, a choice to which the Morocco wishes to confront them once again by maintaining the pressure around consular passes. In addition, the rapprochement between Rabat and Israel under the aegis of the United States displeases Paris, which sees in it a questioning of its influence on the file while it traditionally mediates between Algeria and Morocco. Also, the cooling of relations between France and Morocco is a settling of scores which, if only episodic, is nevertheless part of a long history of tension between the two countries.
Macron “obsessed with Algeria”
On the side of Algeria, nothing has changed. Since the letter from the head of the Spanish government Pedro Sánchez addressed to the king considering “the Moroccan autonomy initiative as the most serious, realistic and credible basis”, tensions have continued to grow. Algeria had replied by threatening to increase the prices linked to the gas pipeline linking the two countries without ceasing to denounce Moroccan diplomatic practices deemed fraudulent.
However, Algeria seems to be at the heart of the international and African policy of Emmanuel Macron, who traveled there from August 25 to 27 with the aim of reviving relations between Paris and Algiers. The agenda of the meeting mentioned a point on the regional situation and the French president once again tried to erase the paternalism felt in French-speaking Africa and in Algeria, which makes France lose ground every day to the benefit of other regional players, such as China, Russia or Morocco. He declared that he wanted to appease relations by eyeing the deliveries of Algerian gas which would compensate for the consequences of the war in Ukraine.
The art of losing your best friends, by Fouad Laroui
This second trip to Algeria against a backdrop of crisis with Morocco is seen with a dim view. The Moroccan essayist and author Tahar Ben Jelloun has also split a column relayed by Point, emphasizing that “Macron has no North African sensibility. However, he is obsessed with Algeria and thinks he will succeed in cleaning up Franco-Algerian relations. We wish him luck” as conspiracy theories continue to flourish on social media.
As Emmanuel Macron began his visit to Algeria on August 25, Morocco welcomed German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the same time in Rabat. During this visit, the Federal Republic declared “to consider the autonomy plan as a good basis for a solution accepted by the parties” while praising “the potential of the efforts of His Majesty the King to strengthen the integration of the Maghreb on sound and solid foundations. However, relations were not in good shape after the American recognition of the Moroccan Sahara: Germany then requested a meeting of the UN Security Council, leading Morocco to cease all exchanges with Berlin.
Visas: the tone is rising between Rabat and Paris
However, the diplomatic thaw continues just five days after the king’s speech designating the German position as “constructive”. The desire is therefore to continue to bring together major allies in Europe by offering them, in the words of Nasser Bourita, “a new place” in the country. A clear and simple message intended for all countries not adopting a favorable position around Moroccan territorial integrity, the red line of the kingdom in terms of diplomacy.
In the light of the new tensions between Morocco and several countries on both shores of the Mediterranean, we can expect new games of alliance and pressure that could lead to a compromise, as with each time provisional.