Amb. Mohamed Rachad Bouhlal (Ambassador of Morocco to Germany)

25.11.2010 - Interview conducted by James Hood

Q1. Morocco can be said to be situated at a crossroad between North and South and East and West, with influences coming from Spain, France, Africa, Asia, and even across the Atlantic. Considering this mid-view, how does this fact impact on the level of cultural tolerance in Morocco?

The Kingdom of Morocco is located in the westernmost region of North Africa which means privileged relations and intermingled influences for over 3000 years, thereby strengthening its cultural richness. The Moroccan society is marked by both tradition and modernity. Arabic is the official language but Morocco is a polyglot nation, with at least four languages in regular use around the country. Morocco, by being located in North Africa, facing Europe to the North, Africa to the South, and Arab-Muslim region to the East, remained opened to its neighboring regions and as a nest and a bridge between civilizations since prehistoric times, Phoneticians times, the Romans and so forth. Morocco also came also in contact with Spain and Portugal, further developing the Andalusian cultural heritage.

Q2. What are some of the major challenges facing increasing understanding between Morocco and Europe?

The job of a diplomat is to promote his country and strengthen bilateral relations with the country of residence. In Germany, a federal state, more engagement is needed to promote your country all over the different Länder and not just be confined to the capital Berlin. The work focused on increasing the understanding between our people and cultural encounters has proved to be one of the best means.

Q3. Concerning those issues that exist between Morocco and the EU, such as illegal immigration and territorial disputes with Spain and also in the Western Sahara, is progress being made in these areas towards greater cooperation?

We have, throughout time, settled with our European partners through open dialogue over many important issues. We try to find suitable solutions to common problems, and illegal migration is one of the central Issues we have tackled. We have launched very constructive cooperation on the subject, since illegal migration is not only a problem for Europe, it is a problem for Morocco as well. Moreover, Morocco and the EU are close partners through the Advanced Status which was recently granted to Morocco. Furthermore the Association Agreement that Morocco has with EU means that our relations are at its peak. We can compare our relations with the EU to that which the EU has with Iceland or Switzerland.

Q4. What role can cultural diplomacy such as this exhibition play in helping countries gain better understanding of each-other?

Cultural diplomacy nowadays plays a central part in public and international affairs and I think it is essential to the job of diplomats. I do not think you can do a great diplomatic job if you do not include culture in your activities. That's why, immediately after my arrival to Germany, in 2005, I opened a cultural center in the Embassy to be devoted to cultural events and encounters. Both German and Moroccan artists are exhibited here; sometimes, even international figures were invited. We have also organized several cultural seminars and meetings. Through 5 years of existence, our cultural center has made its mark and constructed an honorable audience among Germans and the international community. I feel that we have been highly successful, since we receive great requests from artists and partners who wish to organize events and exhibit in our cultural center.

Thank you for your time.