Between a strong emotional bond and strong economic and cultural relations, the French and Moroccan societies, since the late colonial era, managed to establish a unique and generally calm relationship, but it was weakened by emerging political differences.
On the eve of a historic match between the two countries in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup, Moroccan thinker Hassan Aourid told AFP, “The relationship between Morocco and France is not an exact copy of France’s relationship with Algeria. The relationship (between Paris and Rabat) is much calmer.” Although there are ambiguous aspects and situational tensions.
Orid believes that “there are undoubtedly segments of Moroccan society that have a very emotional relationship with France. This is the case of the bourgeois class and the technocrats in the circle of decision-makers.”
Morocco’s independence, which was declared in 1956, put an end to 44 years of French-Spanish protection.
Since then, despite the Spanish competition, France has been Morocco’s first economic partner and first foreign investor.
French culture remains very popular with Moroccan elites, many of whom were educated in French institutions.
In all, there are approximately 54,000 French residents in the kingdom. On the other hand, the available statistics indicate that there are more than one million Moroccans residing in France, which increases marriages between the two peoples and establishes intimate family relations.
However, in Morocco, as in other countries of the African continent, competition for French influence is recorded on the part of new parties, as evidenced by the emergence of American, Canadian and Belgian educational institutions in recent years.
The French-Moroccan writer, Hajar Azil, who lives between Paris and Rabat, explains that the younger generations in particular “resort to English first because it is the language of technology and social media, but also because French is considered the language of the elite.”
The Confucius Institutes, the Chinese counterpart of the Alliance Française that seeks to promote French culture and language around the world, are also making strong progress, while the content of Gulf television channels is more and more entrenched in Moroccan society, especially among the popular classes.
Orid explains, “There are groups (of Moroccan society) that have become influenced by Arabism and Islam, and for them, France is not just a Western country, but rather an enemy that controlled and colonized Morocco. There is a shift.”
“The growth of relations other than the relationship with France is inevitable and constitutes a rebalancing, due also to the decline of French influence, especially that of the economy and diplomacy,” said Beatrice Ebo, director of research at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). .
Observers believe that this loss of influence is primarily due to the decline of French cultural and educational policy in recent decades in Morocco, although it has the largest cultural network of French institutes in the world.
Ibo stresses that French schools and high schools, where the French received education for free and Moroccans for a small amount, have become exorbitant “in a way that is unimaginable for non-French people. Will it give him more opportunities in the world as he is now?”
The researcher believes that “the issue of visas, which is considered very important, should not be underestimated,” explaining that this French policy is considered by Rabat “really as a slap, with real anti-French feeling and great waste” growing.
France decided in late 2021 to halve entry visas granted to Moroccans, justifying this by Rabat’s refusal to take back irregular immigrants that Paris wants to deport.
At the time, Rabat described this decision as “unjustified” and the non-governmental humanitarian organizations as “insulting”, while the French-speaking Moroccan community considered it “clumsy”.
And the Moroccan researcher, Ali Bouabid, confirmed to AFP that the visa restrictions “annoyingly and involuntarily drowned civil society in an issue that goes beyond it, feeding on its way a sense of hostility towards France.”
The researcher fears that this issue will leave a lasting impression on public opinion.
The former director of the National Library of the Kingdom of Morocco, Driss Kharouz, expressed in a recent interview his concern that this was an indication of possible French indifference to Morocco.
He considered that “the center of the interests of the French elites has moved to other regions and other issues, such as Asia, Russia, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. There is a kind of intellectual laxity, while the economic interests between Morocco and France have become more strategic.”