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

11.05.2011 - Interview conducted by Claire Bourdon

Q1. Morocco's Interior Minister recently commented that a detained member of the militant cell which was allegedly responsible for the bombing of a cafe in April in Morocco swore allegiance to al-Qaeda. What effects do you think Osama Bin Laden's death may have in helping to combat the terrorist activities of al-Qaeda both within Morocco and worldwide?

First of all, I would like to take a minute to remember the victims of the attack and their families. It is always terrible to be affected by a terrorist attack. I would also like to acknowledge the solidarity and the sympathy that the whole world showed to Morocco and the city of Marrakesh after this attack, as well as the participation of several countries in the investigation process. The guilty party was arrested six days after the attack. It is too early to say now if Al Qaeda is responsible. The Minister of Internal Affairs said that all leads have to be taken in consideration and that it is necessary to wait until the end of the investigation before drawing any conclusions. So at the moment, I cannot link this event with anyone.

Q2. Do you think it can be argued that hard power is a necessary component of contemporary foreign policy, or is soft power alone sufficient when dealing with cases of dictatorship, terrorism or human rights violations?

We can call it “hard power” or “soft power,” but I believe each sector of society has to gather their energies in order to bring democracy.  It is a long and difficult process which we all have to participate in. For example, can a Member of Parliament or an NGO be associated with "soft power"? Or should only the governments act?  I personally think that civil society, governments, the elected representatives, in other words everybody, should be concerned and involved in defending human rights. It is good to consider both hard and soft power to figure out how everything can be combined to bring democracy.

Q3. To what extent do you think that the former French presence in Morocco has affected the attempts of the country to keep their own culture and identity?  Also to what extent did the former colonization shape Morocco's foreign policy towards France in recent years?

Morocco was a protectorate, not a colony. My country is very comfortable with France, our friend and partner. We have our own culture and traditions.  There is a very strong influence from the two cultures. Many Moroccans did their studies in France and many French people live in Morocco. It is a real partnership and we cannot say that one is negating the other. We walk on the same way to a harmonious development and this relationship with French is quite remarkable.

Q4. Does the emigration of skilled laborers from Morocco to Western countries such as France potentially hinder the economic development of Morocco itself? If so, how we combat this?

Emigration is a phenomenon that has always existed, and it that has to be organized in a good way, respecting both countries and leading to a harmonious development..  The need for a greater workforce is met by immigrants in several countries. What we observe in Morocco is very interesting, because the people who study abroad, especially in France, come back to their native country once they finish their studies.  This is a very positive and encouraging sign. They come back because they find common values between France and Morocco. In Morocco, economic development allows for societal integration.  I can take the example of my own children, who have finished their studies and are currently preoccupied with how to settle Morocco and find a career.

Q5. Given the series of rallies organized by the February 20th Youth Movement which called for radical political reforms, what are the present challenges to the government of King Mohammed?

Since the beginning of his post, the King has implemented very important reforms that have been welcomed by the whole world. And thanks to this development, we were given this “advanced position” by the European Union. Now there is an acceleration of the reforms that started in 1999. The constitutional reform that was announced is a huge step. The challenge that we all face now is how to achieve democracy, which Morocco has been attempting to build for years. It is a long process that needs a great number of actors from civil society, political parties, trade unions and the press. We are constructing it all together, and I am glad to see how the things are progressively positively in Morocco. The demonstrations are peaceful similar to those in France.

Q6. So you think that, among all the countries in which there are protests at the moment, Morocco is a model, an example?

I will not say that Morocco is exemplary- just that it is different. Our country is in the process of development, with its constraints and objectives, and also its own traditions. We are really on the way to democracy. So while we cannot say it is a model, we can analyze our development compared with other trajectories. We wish that all the other countries can go as far and as fast as we do, and we will stay close to our neighbors to support them through these challenging times.