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Tuesday 13 December 2011
Senior Course 119 Field Study III - Morocco
To better understand a country and its foreign and security policies, it is extremely useful to gain an overview of its history and culture. The more the country’s religion, society, values, traditions and cultural heritage differ from ours, the more this concept holds true. The visit to Morocco by Senior Course 119 of the NATO Defense College (NDC), from 9th to 11th December 2011, epitomized this overarching principle, the first two days being dedicated to a number of historical and cultural highlights.
NDC Staff and Course Members first visited Rabat, Morocco's capital, finding in its streets and monuments the blend of cultures that represents the typical atmosphere of modern Morocco. The legacy of the Spanish and French protectorates, the presence of different religions and the influence of Western cultures blend with major features of African, Arabic and Muslim countries.
Nowadays, Morocco is one of NATO’s major partners in the Mediterranean region, from both a military and a diplomatic point of view. It is the gateway to Africa, the point where this continent is closest to Europe, and one of the most important countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Due to its strategic position, Morocco has often influenced the culture of the European Mediterranean countries, and has at various times been strongly impacted by them as well.
This mutual influence became clearer in Tangier during the second day of the visit. Not only was the physical proximity of the Spanish coast and Gibraltar striking, but the diversity of European languages spoken fluently by the majority of the population was proof of the continuous contacts and cultural exchanges between the two shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It also showed the permeability of borders, and how difficult this is to control. Migration flows are one of the toughest challenges that the European countries are currently facing, and the effectiveness of their policies can be ensured only through close cooperation with Morocco. In addition, given the potential - and sometimes real - impact of the region’s demographic trends on the security and economy of NATO countries, NATO recognizes how important it is to be attuned to these trends.
Having the chance to understand various features of the country’s history and culture during the short visit to Morocco allowed the NDC delegation to derive maximum benefit from the briefings delivered on the third day, at the Army Officers’ Club. The first briefing was given by H.E. Karim MEDREK, Director of Public Diplomacy and Non-Governmental Actors in the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He gave a historical overview, and then focused on Morocco’s Foreign Policy pillars. The events of the Arab Spring, the role of NATO in the region, the relationship between Morocco and the Arab League, and NATO’s commitment in Libya were some of the subjects which were further developed in the subsequent discussion period.
The Moroccan perspective on the Mediterranean Dialogue was presented by Mr Nabil ADGHOGHI, Director General for Bilateral Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He underlined the growing importance of partnerships in the international arena, as a result of increasing multidimensional challenges, and the primary role of the Mediterranean Dialogue within current international affairs.
After these insightful accounts of diplomatic priorities, the military perspective was explored in a further two briefings. The first, illustrating operations carried out by the Moroccan Armed Forces since the 1960s, was delivered by Colonel LAYADI, Chief of the Planning and Contingent Cell of the Southern Zone. The second, presented by Colonel CHOKAIRI, Deputy Commander of the Royal College of Higher Military Studies, drew the audience’s attention to the educational organization of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces and highlighted the importance of education for achievement of mutual understanding among partner countries.
After a business lunch offered by Brigadier General Mohamed BENDRA, Director of the Royal College, the NDC delegation flew to Lisbon on the fourth leg of Senior Course 119’s Regional Approaches and Mediterranean Dialogue Field Study.