Morocco

Morocco by Alistair Galloway

The new Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres, will appoint a new Personal Envoy to the Western Sahara. Morocco’s King Mohammed Vl finished his widely followed African tour on 14 March. Morocco’s new Head of Government, Saad Eddine Othmani announced the formation of a new coalition government. A Conference of African Ministers of Finance scheduled for 27 March was cancelled due to disagreements between countries over the Western Sahara issue. Morocco and Spain agreed a new partnership to increase security surrounding the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on 5 March. The Polisario Front announced on 5 March that it would ignore UN calls for a withdrawal from the Guerguerat region. An IMF report suggested that economic growth in Morocco is being slowed by gender inequality. A 115bn Dirham project to develop the Casablanca-Settat region was approved on 6 March. The African Development Bank (ADB) approved its 2017-21 Morocco strategy on 8 March, which seeks to boost economic growth in the country. The Moroccan Central Bank voted to keep interest rates unchanged on 21 March at its first quarterly meeting. King Mohammed Vl presided over the opening of a new $1.1bn technology park in the city of Tangiers on 22 March. 

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Morocco by Alistair Galloway

Around 1100 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa attempted to illegally enter the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. Morocco rejoined the African Union (AU) on 31 January, after over 30 years of absence. The appointed Head of Morocco’s Government, Abdelilah Benikrane, announced that the new Moroccan government would be formed only of parties who had been part of the previous majority government. King Mohammed Vl ordered the Council of Ministers to extend the duration of residence permits. The Moroccan government banned the import, sale and manufacture of burqas on 12 January. Two Moroccan peacekeepers were killed during an attack on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). The Royal Moroccan Air Force purchased advanced electronic warfare threat protection systems from US company Harris Corporation Electronic Systems. Moroccan security forces arrested 7 people for alleged ties to the Islamic State (IS). The Moroccan Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation dismantled an IS cell on 27 January. The World Bank predicted that the Moroccan economy will grow by 4 per cent in 2017. Remittances from Moroccan expatriates increased by 3.6 per cent in 2016. Morocco’s inflation rate for 2016 was 1.6 per cent. Car sales in Morocco rose in 2016.

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Morocco by Alistair Galloway

The Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN) was awarded the United Nations Environment Program’s Champions of the Earth award for 2016 on 3 December. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) rejected an appeal by the Polisario Front to invalidate European Union (EU)-Morocco agricultural deals. King Mohammed Vl was awarded the Mandela Peace Prize 2016. Five members of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) were arrested on 30 December for expressing sympathy for acts of terrorism. Abdelilah Benkirane, Morocco’s appointed Head of Government and Secretary-General of the PJD party, announced he would form a coalition without the leader of the Independence Party, Hamid Chabat. Moroccan security forces dismantled an Islamic State (IS) cell on 2 December. Morocco will receive 1,200 TOW 2a anti-tank missiles from the United States (US) as part of a US programme to supply arms to Arab allies. Moroccan intelligence services dismantled 19 terror cells in 2016 according to the Head of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ). GDP growth in Morocco is predicted to be 4.3 per cent in 2017. Foreign Direct Investment in Morocco fell in 2016 by 28 per cent. The Moroccan Central Bank revised down its growth predictions for 2016 to 1.2 per cent. The Moroccan Central Bank announced that it was delaying the process of transitioning the Dirham to a floating exchange rate.

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Morocco by Alistair Galloway

Morocco’s current party of government, the Justice and Development Party (PJD), won the most seats in the country’s parliamentary elections on 8 October. The European Union (EU) signed several Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with Moroccan non-government organisations on 20 October. Morocco was criticised by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee in its 118th session for its poor record on women’s rights. The Moroccan Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Mohamed Aujjar, stressed on 26 October that only a mutually acceptable political solution would end the Western Sahara issue. Morocco was elected as a member of the UN’s Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. Rwandan president Paul Kagame announced on 29 October that Morocco would return to the African Union (AU). The Moroccan Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation dismantled an all-female Islamic State (IS) cell. The Moroccan Royal Armed Forces arrested six Algerian soldiers along with several Polisario Front fighters on 17 October. There were widespread protests across Morocco against police brutality on 30 October following the death of a fishermea, Mouhcine Fikri, during a dispute with police. The British bank Barclays completed the sale of its Egyptian business to Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank. France was the largest foreign investor in Morocco from 2000-15. Research from Stanford University shows that Morocco could run on 100 per cent green energy by 2050. The World Bank ranked Morocco 68th in the world in its Doing Business 2017 report. Fitch, the ratings agency, confirmed Morocco’s latest credit rating as BBB- on 25 October.

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Morocco by Alistair Galloway

The President of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) hailed the ratification by China and the United States of the Paris Agreement, on 4 September. The Moroccan Minister Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Nasser Bourita, signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) on behalf of Morocco on 6 September. Morocco will create a regional think tank based on the role of women in peacekeeping operations, as well as their contribution to sustainable development. National elections, which will be held on 7 October in Morocco, will be supervised by 4,000 observers; it was announced on 9 September. A new tripartite partnership to protect the Mediterranean Sea was agreed between Morocco, France and Monaco on 16 September at the Our Ocean conference in Washington DC. The African Union (AU) expressed its concern over tensions in the Guerguerat region of Morocco in a statement on 7 September. Morocco’s General Directorate for National Territory Surveillance dismantled an Islamic State (IS) cell on 7 September. The Head of MINURSO met with the separatist group the Polisario Front on 8 September to discuss tensions over the Guerguerat region of southern Morocco. Six million tourists visited Morocco in the first half of 2016, data released on 8 September shows. Morocco’s trade deficit widened by 13 per cent in the first eight months of 2016 according to new data. Morocco’s Central Bank increased its growth expectations for the country, from 1.2 per cent up to 1.4 per cent on 27 September. Morocco postponed the decision to implement a fully flexible exchange rate system until the second half of 2017.

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Morocco by Lewis McKinnon

Morocco was accused by the Polisario Front of violating a 1991 ceasefire agreement by sending troops into the Western Sahara. The King of Morocco, King Mohammed Vl, made a speech on 21 August urging Moroccans abroad to defend and uphold a tolerant version of Islam. The President of the Moroccan National Olympic Committee, Hosni Benslimane, called a meeting of the country’s sporting commission leaders on 29 August to discuss Morocco’s poor performance at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Morocco agreed to support Niger in its military campaign against Boko Haram on 1 August. The Moroccan Interior Ministry announced on 16 August that it had dismantled another Islamic State (IS) cell. Morocco’s Directorate of National Security (DGSN) has ordered all Moroccan security officers to be retrained in firearms techniques. The Polisario Front moved 200 armed troops into the buffer zone between Morocco and Mauritania on 28 August. United States (US) defence company Raytheon won a contract to supply optically tracked wire-guided (TOW) missiles to Morocco. Morocco will play host to a new arms manufacturing plant run jointly by British firm Chemring Military Products (CMP) and Belgian company Mecar. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Morocco fell by 34.9 per cent to MAD 12.3 billion in the first half of 2016. The number of Russian tourists visiting Morocco saw a 280 per cent increase in the first half of 2016, according to the Moroccan Regional Council of Tourism (CRT). 

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Morocco by Lewis McKinnon

The Moroccan government will raise the state retirement age from 60 to 63 by 2021 on 1 July. Protests were held on the streets of Rabat on 24 July to protest against the raising of the state retirement age from 60 to 63. The Moroccan government formally made a request to reintegrate into the African Union (AU) on 18 July. The Moroccan House of Representatives voted on 20 July in favour of a draft bill targeting violence against women. A new law prohibiting those under the age of sixteen to be in employment in Morocco was passed by the House of Representatives on 26 July. A new organisation to combat the threat of extremism has been created by Morocco’s community of academics and researchers. The Moroccan government, in cooperation with the United Nations (UN), agreed to fully restore the mandate of The United Nations Mission to the Western Sahara (MINURSO) on 14 July. A network of Islamic State (IS) cells, operating in Agadir, Amezmez and Laqliaâ, was dismantled by Moroccan police on 14 July. The United Kingdom’s (UK) Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a travel alert for Morocco on 20 July due to the high threat of terrorism in the country. Morocco took its first delivery of the United States (US) manufactured Abrams M1A1 tanks on 26 July. Morocco’s central bank approved the creation of Islamic banks in the country for the first time. Morocco’s King Mohammed Vl presided over the signing of agreements worth around USD 770 million on 4 July. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a new two year agreement on 22 July, which will give the Kingdom access to USD 3.47 billion of emergency funding. The number of internet users in Morocco increased has increased so far this year by 34.4 per cent compared to 2015. The African Development Bank (BAD) announced in Morocco the allocation of USD 3 billion towards a fund for female entrepreneurs in Africa. 

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Morocco by Lewis McKinnon

The Moroccan House of Representatives voted overwhelming on 21 June to pass a new, more liberal, Press Code. The First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, visited Morocco on 27 June to promote the White House’s Let Girls Learn Initiative. Several people were arrested in Morocco over the last several weeks for violating the country’s laws regarding Ramadan. Moroccan authorities dismantled an Islamic State (IS) cell on 2 June. A delegation from the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operation (UNDPKO) arrived in Morocco on 15 June to discuss the Western Sahara. Around thirty migrants breached the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla on 25 June. A report by the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism reported a rise in tourism to Morocco by nine per cent since 2010. The Moroccan Central Bank raised its inflation forecast to 1.6 per cent on 21 June. Morocco’s economy grew by 1.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2016 according to the High Commission for Planning. 

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Morocco by Lewis McKinnon

Morocco responded with outrage to a human rights report published by the United States (US) State Department which criticised Morocco’s human rights record. Morocco has vowed to increase the involvement of non-state actors in the fight against climate change. The Moroccan government was criticised by the leader of one of Morocco’s labour unions for discriminating against women. German Members of Parliament (MPs) voted on 14 May to add Morocco to a list of safe countries of origin in relation to its asylum application process. Morocco’s Minister of Higher Education, Dr Lahcen Daoudi, pushed for reforms for wider use of English in Moroccan universities. The Moroccan Ministry of Communication took the radical measure on 24 May of banning the reading of newspapers in public places. The Moroccan Organisation of Human Rights (OMDH) released a statement on 30 May calling for Morocco to implement a minimum employment age. Several of Morocco’s largest labour unions held a general strike on 31 May against pension reforms made by the government. The Leader of the Polisario Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz, died on 31 May. Tensions between Morocco and Algeria have risen after Algerian security services launched an investigation into Moroccan labourers working in Algeria. Morocco participated in a meeting of the 5+5 Defence Initiative countries on 11 May. Moroccan security forces arrested a Chadian national on 13 May in a counter-terrorism operation. Morocco ranked 14th globally in renewable energy attractiveness in a survey conducted by British audit firm Ernst and Young. A special report by analysts at The Economist commended Morocco for its relative recent economic success compared to the wider Arab region. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Morocco declined by 27.7 per cent in April. 

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Morocco by Lewis McKinnon

The Sahrawi Prime Minister Abdelkader Taleb Omar called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to pressure Morocco into allowing staff from the United Nation’s (UN) mission to the Western Sahara (MINURSO) to resume their work. A Morocco-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held on 20 April lent its support to Morocco’s position on the Western Sahara. Morocco was elected as Chair of the Sahara-Sahel Observatory (SSO) on 28 April. The largest joint United States (US) armed forces exercise in Africa, African Lion, began on 19 April in Agadir. The Deputy Secretary-General of the Polisario Front separatist group, Bashar Mustafa Assiyad, warned that the failure of the UN to organise a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi people could lead to a renewed civil war. Moroccan security services dismantled an Islamic State (IS) cell in the city of Nador on 29 April. The UNSC backed a resolution on 29 April to extend the mandate of MINURSO for another year. Car manufacturer Renault announced that it would invest $1.04 billion to expand production of its plants in Tangier and Casablanca. Ratings agency Standard and Poors (S&P) announced on 8 April that it has maintained Morocco’s economic outlook as stable. A World Bank report estimated that $6.4 billion of remittances were sent to Morocco in 2015 by its citizens overseas. 

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