• World

“We Have To Remain Alert”

6 minute read

WHAT HAS MOROCCO DONE TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM OF TERRORISM AFTER THE ATTACKS IN CASABLANCA AND MADRID? The terrorists targeted Morocco and Spain. but it could have happened in any other country in the world. Such an event causes us to reflect on the phenomenon and ask appropriate questions and take appropriate measures. This is what we have done. We adjusted our own security apparatus according to this new situation where our country is the target of international terrorism. As with all the initiatives we have taken since September 11, we have coordinated with friendly countries, like the United States, and others.

ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE WORK OF MOROCCAN SECURITY FORCES AND COOPERATION WITH FOREIGN SECURITY AGENCIES? We are mobilized, making a lot of progress. We are satisfied with the existing cooperation with friendly countries, but we have to remain alert and attentive all the time. After the events of May 16, we allocated an increase in the budget to strengthen our security measures and apparatus to protect the country from any further terrorist attacks. We have reinforced some specific security measures to protect the country.

APART FROM SECURITY MEASURES, WHAT SPECIFIC STEPS HAS MOROCCO TAKEN SINCE THE OUTBREAK OF TERRORISM? For me, the causes are external and they are linked to international terrorism in general and have nothing to do with the problems of poverty that exist in Morocco. Morocco has made more efforts since the ascension of His Majesty King Mohammed VI [in 1999], who has been leading a social outreach policy to eradicate social problems and improve the lives of all Moroccans. There is no cause-and-effect relationship between poverty and terrorism in Morocco. Terrorism is felt throughout the world. Morocco like all other nations is not immune from these international threats, it is not immune from the recruiting and mobilizing of agents who would perpetrate terrorist attacks. It is not Morocco’s specific problem, All nations are concerned.

SINCE MOROCCANS ARE WILLINGLY BEING RECRUITED AS TERRORISTS THEMSELVES, WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU? We need to be more alert and attentive to the actions of international terrorism inside our territory.

HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE INVOLVEMENT OF MANY MOROCCANS IN THE MADRID ATTACKS? For us, May 16, March 11, September 11 and the attacks perpetrated in Turkey, are all sad events that deeply affected us. There is a large Moroccan community in Spain. If there is involvement of a few Moroccans in the March 11 incident, the justice system is doing its work. The people are people born in Spain or people who lived in Spain for a long time. We have young Moroccans who have been recruited through intermediaries and cells to perpetrate those attacks. The Spanish reaction was exemplary. We are pleased with the relationship we have with the Spanish government.

IS UNEMPLOYMENT AMONG THE LARGE NUMBER YOUNG PEOPLE IN MOROCCO UNRELATED TO TERRORISM? One should not exaggerate. Morocco’s rate of unemployment is less than the rate of neighboring countries in the region and only slightly higher than the rates of unemployment in Europe. We have to work hard to decrease this rate of unemployment. We are not satisfied with this rate and we are working hard to make it decrease even more.

HOW? We have mobilized all the means we have to promote the economic and social development of our country, to promote our youth and give them hope in the future of their country. We are undertaking this in order to reduce social disparities, unemployment, poverty and exclusion. That is within the general policy of the Kingdom of Morocco. We have many challenges to face in an [economic] environment where competition is tough. We are mobilizing all the resources we have, all the assistance we can get from friendly countries, particularly in the European Union. We do it to the maximum every minute, we invest every cent in that.. We are working hard to make the country attractive to investment, both national and foreign. This program is being implemented not specifically in response to May 16. We have tried to speed up our programs and go beyond the expectations of our citizens and in order to give Morocco the rank it should occupy in the Euro-Mediterranean free trade zone that will be created after 2010.

SOME EXPERTS BELIEVE MOROCCO’S BIGGEST PROBLEM IS POOR EDUCATION AND ILLITERACY. A particular effort is being made for youth in the field of education. We are trying to elevate the level of education and training. Morocco is allocating 28 percent of its budget for education and training, particularly for professional and vocational training. We have a program that targets rural girls. We are also trying to improve the level of professional training and increase the number of graduates between now and 2007. We are targeting higher education in order to give the country the senior officials, engineers and managers it urgently needs.

DO YOU NEED EUROPE’S PARTNERSHIP OR CAN MOROCCO SOLVE ITS PROBLEMS BY ITSELF? Morocco has signed agreements with the European Union, the U.S., Turkey and other countries form the south of the Mediterranean. The future of Morocco is with these countries. Morocco would like to integrate its economy with in the Euro-Mediterranean region. We are making a lot of efforts and relying on the assistance of the European Union countries to help Morocco reach European standards in all fields.

DO YOU AGREE THAT THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA IS AN ECONOMIC BERLIN WALL SEPARATING EUROPE FROM AFRICA? I wouldn’t use that extreme metaphor. There are differences in the level of development, but we are working hard to improve Morocco with quality infrastructure that will make the country attractive to foreign investment. I would not say there are insurmountable frontiers between us.

WHAT DOES MOROCCO WANT FROM EUROPE? To ask if we are satisfied with level of cooperation and assistance, I should say no. Europe should do more for Morocco, because Morocco is the country that is exerting the efforts in the field of promoting democracy, human rights, and equality. That is why we have asked for a privileged status [with the European Union]. We hope that through a new neighborhood policy, Morocco will receive the status, help and attention it deserves from Europe.

ARE EUROPEANS JUSTIFIED TO WORRY THAT MOROCCO WILL BE ANOTHER ALGERIA, A COUNTRY THAT FACED A BIG TERRORISM PROBLEM? You are aware of our culture. We have been living in peace and stability for centuries. Morocco is a safe country. The events we have been through are external events that were directed from outside. Our problems are largely economic and social problems. All the political parties, left and right, the opposition, are all mobilized behind His Majesty the King to bring harmonious development to the country. We do not consider ourselves a country that produces terrorists but a country that has always been known for the peace that prevails within it. Morocco is the country of peace and moderation that preaches tolerance and coexistence between religions.


More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com