Few weeks after King Mohammed VI called for a frank and direct dialogue between Morocco and Algeria, with the ultimate aim being the reinvigoration of the Maghreb Union, and after the many messages of support, praising the royal call, Algeria has finally emerged from its silence.
But as one might expect, Algeria did not respond directly and openly to the Moroccan Sovereign’s proposal. It turned towards the Rabat-based Secretariat General of the Maghreb Union to call for an urgent meeting of the foreign Ministers’ council of the five-member North African grouping.
The Algerian foreign ministry confirmed that it has requested a meeting of the ministerial council of the Maghreb Union as soon as possible. It said such a meeting is likely to revitalize the activities of the other structures of the Union.
So, instead of responding directly to the royal offer and making a proposal or even a counter-proposal, the Algerian leaders are attacking the “lethargy” of the union, a lethargy where Algeria has a hand, if only because it keeps its land borders with Morocco closed.
With this sudden interest in the Maghreb Union, Algeria is just seeking to make a diversion, a pundit in Maghreb politics said.
After the call, no immediate reaction was made on the part of Algeria. Some Algerian media, quoting senior officials who preferred not to be named, showed at first that the King’s call fell on deaf ears.
In an article on Middle East Eye, Algerian columnist Abed Charef noted that Morocco’s overture reflects an open and dynamic country, eager to move forward and build a united Maghreb in contrast to an Algeria that is “trapped in frozen nationalism, without a vision, unable to consider relations with Morocco outside the framework of confrontation and the balance of power.”
The columnist went on to highlight the latent causes explaining Algeria’s lack of enthusiasm towards the Maghreb Union mentioning the weak competitiveness of the Algerian private sector and Algeria’s embryonic industry.
Algeria’s economy is a “net importer, while the Moroccan economy needs markets. Algerian companies could be harmed by competition from Moroccan products,” he said.
However on the long term Algeria will benefit from a stronger Maghreb through the opening of markets and borders with Morocco which will help it take some Moroccan tourists and benefit from the know-how of Moroccan financial establishments.
In a powerful speech marking the 43rd anniversary of the Green March, on November 6, King Mohammed VI reached out to Algeria saying that Morocco stands ready for a direct and candid dialogue in order to dispel the transient and objective differences that are impeding the development of relations between the two neighboring countries. The Sovereign also suggested the setting up of a joint political mechanism for dialogue and consultation to break the stalemate in bilateral relations
“This mechanism can also serve as a practical platform for cooperation regarding all bilateral matters, particularly with respect to making the most of the numerous development opportunities existing in the Maghreb region,” King Mohammed VI said in his speech.
World powers, neighboring countries, international organizations…have all hailed the royal call meant to dispel misunderstandings, and move towards cooperation and the building of the Maghreb Union.