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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: Total: 446,550 sq km (Land: 446,300 sq km, Water: 250 sq km)
Population: 31.9 million (2010 est.)
Capital City: Rabat
People: Arab-Berber (99.1%), other (0.7%), Jewish (0.2%)
Languages: Arabic (official), French (official) often the language of business, government and diplomacy, Berber (official)
Religion(s): Muslim (98.7%), Christian (1.1%), Jewish (0.2%)
Currency: 1 Moroccan dirham (DM) = 100 centimes
Major political parties: Parti de la Justice et du developpement (PJD) (moderate Islamist), Istiqlal (nationalist), Rassemblement National des Independents (RNI) (business), Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires (USFP) (socialist), Mouvement Populaire (MP) (traditional/Berber),
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Head of State: King Mohammed VI
Head of Government: Mr Abdelilah Benkirane
Foreign Minister: Mr Saad-Eddine El Othmani
Membership of international groups/organisations:
Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (ABEDA), Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation (ACCT - associate), African Development Bank (AfDB), Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), Arab League (AL), Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), Customs Cooperation Council (CCC), European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Group of 77 at the United Nations (G-77), Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), International Criminal Court (ICC), International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRM), International Development Association (IDA), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS), International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO - pending member), International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Maritime Organisation (IMO), International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation (Intelsat), International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Non Aligned Movement (NAM), Organisation of American States and the Community of Andean Nations (OAS - observer), United Nations Security Council (UNSC – non-permanent member) Universal Postal Union (UPU), World Health Organisation (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), World Tourism Organisation (WtoO), World Trade Organisation (WTO).

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

Morocco's economy is mixed. Approximately 45% of the population are employed in agricultural production, which represents 17% of GDP. Recent economic reforms have encouraged the growth of a small, modern manufacturing sector, strongly oriented to the EU market, and have helped the development of tourism. There is a large public sector – public sector wages account for 13% of GDP. Long-term challenges include preparing the economy for freer trade with the US and European Union, improving education and job prospects for Morocco’s youth, and raising living standards.

GDP: US$151.4 billion (2011 est.)*
GDP per capita: $4,800 (2011 est.)*
GDP Growth: 3.2% (2011 est.)*
Inflation: 1% (2011 est.)*
Major Industries: Phosphate rock mining and processing, food processing, leather goods, textiles, construction and tourism.
Major trading partners: Spain, France, US and UK
Exchange rate: £1=13.32 dirham (January 2012), $1=8.49 dirham (January 2012)

Source: IMF/World Bank except * CIA World Fact Book

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HISTORY

Morocco has a history as an independent nation state stretching back to the 9th century interrupted only by the brief interlude of the Protectorate (1912-1956) when the country was divided into French and Spanish zones. Morocco, unlike her North African neighbours, was never part of the Turkish Empire. To the south, Morocco claims and has occupied the territory of the Western (formally Spanish) Sahara. This claim forms a major rallying point in domestic politics.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

The EU is Morocco's main Western partner. The US granted Morocco major non-Nato ally status in June 2004.

Morocco signed an Association Agreement with the EU in March 2000 and was one of the first waves of countries to agree a European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan with the EU in December 2004. Under the auspices of these arrangements, Morocco and the EU participate in regular dialogue about a range of issues including economic reform, democracy and human rights. The former Monarch, King Hassan II consistently used his influence in support of Arab moderates in the Arab/Israel dispute. King Mohammed VI chairs meetings of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Al Quds Committee. Morocco and Israel had liaison offices in each other's countries until October 2000 when they were closed after an increase in tension in the Middle East. Until the 1960s, as many as 60,000 Jews lived in Morocco, and Jews of Moroccan origin constitute a significant part of Israel's population: approximately 700,000 Israelis are of Moroccan origin.

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WESTERN SAHARA

Since Spain's withdrawal in 1976, Western Sahara has been a disputed territory. Initially Morocco and Mauritania moved in, and since 1979, when Mauritania renounced its territorial claims, Morocco has occupied most of the territory. An eastern strip is controlled by the Polisario Front which calls for the independence of Western Sahara, and is based in Tindouf in Southern Algeria. The UK - in common with most other countries - regards the sovereignty of Western Sahara as undetermined pending United Nations (UN) efforts to find a solution.

James Baker, the former US Secretary of State, was the UN Secretary-General's Personal Envoy until his resignation in June 2004. Mr Baker's final proposal, a ‘Peace Plan' that involved a period of autonomy followed by a referendum, was acceptable to the Polisario, but not to Morocco. On 26 July 2005 the UN Secretary-General appointed Peter van Walsum as his Personal Envoy to Western Sahara who served in this role until September 2008. The current UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy to Western Sahara is Christopher Ross. His role is to assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. The frequency of negotiations between the parties under the auspices of the UN has increased markedly during his tenure. Ambassador Ross has the UK's full support.
Morocco presented a proposal for autonomy for Western Sahara within Morocco to the UN Secretary-General on 11 April 2007. The Polisario presented their own proposal to the UN Secretary-General on 10 April 2007.

UN Security Council Resolution 1979 was adopted on 27 April 2011. It called on the parties to show political will to enter into a more intensive and substantive phase of investigations. It also contained language stressing the importance of improving the human rights situation in Western Sahara and the Tindouf camps, and encouraging the parties to work with the international community to develop and implement independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited the region in June 2006.

On 17 August 2005, the Polisario released 404 Moroccan Prisoners of War, some of whom had been held for up to 20 years.

MOROCCO'S RELATIONS With the UK

Morocco has played a role in support of the Middle East Peace Process and a number of UN peace keeping operations. The UK and Morocco share many common interests and a desire to combat shared threats such as illegal migration and counter-terrorism.

In March 2011, the Foreign Secretary and the Moroccan Foreign Minister agreed a bilateral Partnership Agenda to provide a framework for the strengthening of the bilateral relationship.

The Foreign Secretary visited Morocco in October 2011 where he launched the UK’s Arab Partnership programme for Morocco.

TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited Morocco in April 2011. The programme focused on bilateral relations, support for British companies and their work on corporate social and environmental responsibility, interfaith dialogue, and climate change and their work on corporate social and environmental responsibility, interfaith dialogue, and climate change.

Diplomatic Representation

We have full diplomatic relations with Morocco. Morocco is represented in London by Her Highness Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui. The UK’s Ambassador to Morocco is Mr Tim Morris.

Aid

There is no UK bilateral aid programme for Morocco, although we contribute a significant proportion of the European Union's development assistance.

Recent Visits

Inward

André Azoulay, King’s Adviser, March 2011

-- Taieb Fassi Fihri, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, March 2011, June and November 2009, February and July 2007 and March, June and September 2006.

-- Ahmed Chami, Minister for Industry, Trade and New Technology, in January 2010 and May 2008
Khalid Naciri, Minister of Communications, June 2009

-- Amina Benkhadra, Minister of Energy, Mines, Water and the Environment, May and November 2009
Salaheddine Mezouar, Minister of Finance, November 2009

-- Chakib Benmoussa, Interior Minister, and Fouad El Himma, Minister delegate for the Interior, February 2007 Ahmed Toufiq, Minister for Habous and Islamic Affairs, February 2007

Outward

-- Lord Marland, Minister of State for the Environment and Climate Change and Chair of the Business Ambassadors’ Network, February 2012

William Hague, Foreign Secretary, October 2011

-- TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, April 2011

-- Alistair Burt, FCO Minister of State responsible for UK relations with North Africa, December 2010 and April 2011.

-- Baroness Neville Jones, Home Office Minister for Security, October 2010

-- Lord West, Home Office Minister of State, December 2009

-- Ivan Lewis, then FCO Minister of State responsible for UK relations with North Africa, November 2009

-- Dr Kim Howells, then FCO Minister of State responsible for UK relations with North Africa, April 2008, June 2006 and July 2005.

-- Tony McNulty, then Home Office Minister of State, February 2008

-- Lord Jones, then Minister for Trade, January 2008

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GEOGRAPHY

(32 00 N, 5 00 W)

The Kingdom of Morocco is on the north-west corner of Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT WITH THE UK

UK exports (goods) to Morocco for the period January to November 2011 were £510m - up 11% on the same period in 2010 (£460m).

UK imports (goods) from Morocco for the period January to November 2011 was £381m - up 17% on the same period last year (£327m).

Please refer to the UKTI web site for further information: UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Morocco (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/morocco)

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POLITICS

Morocco's political system is evolving from a strongly centralised monarchy to a parliamentary system. The King retains much of the executive power, but the Parliament and most of the government are democratically elected.

On 9 March, King Mohammed VI announced an ambitious programme of constitutional reform, placing a new emphasis on individual freedoms. Promised reforms include recognition of the plurality of Moroccan identity, strengthening the independence of the justice system and reinforcing the separation of powers and giving Constitutional protection to national bodies to promote good governance and human rights. This speech marked a new era for Morocco’s internal politics.

Elections

Parliamentary elections for the lower house of Parliament (the House of Representatives) were held on 25 November 2011. The elections were deemed free and fair by international observers, but turnout was 45%. No party achieved an overall majority, but the Islamist Party of Justice and Development won 107 seats and its leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, was appointed Head of Government in accordance with Morocco’s new constitution. The new government, a coalition of four parties, was formed on 3 January 2012.

Elections for the upper house of Parliament (the House of Advisers) were held on 8 September 2006. One third of the seats, 90 out of 272, were contested through an electoral college system. The successful candidates were elected for nine-year terms. The governing coalition of the four main parties lost five seats but maintained a majority of 169. Local elections were held on 19 June 2009. Turnout was 52%, and elections were generally considered to be free and fair.

Human Rights

Morocco has improved its human rights record in recent years. In 1993, Morocco ratified UN Conventions on torture, on discrimination against women and on child rights. In November 1993, Morocco’s first ever Minister for Human Rights was appointed.

On 25 January 2004, the government adopted a new Family Law which supports women's equality and grants them new rights e.g. equal divorce rights; right to be joint head of household.

In 2004 the Moroccan Human Rights Advisory Council (CCDH), set up the “Instance Equity and Reconciliation” (IER) to examine human rights violations in Morocco between 1956-1999. It reported to the King in December 2005. The IER report catalogued a number of human rights abuses, and identified over 9,000 people as eligible for compensation. It also made a number of recommendations to ensure that past abuses did not recur, including constitutional reforms and steps to end a culture of impunity in the Security Forces. In March 2006 the government introduced specific anti-torture penal law.

In March 2011, the CCDH was replaced by a National Council for Human Rights (CNDH). Unlike its predecessor, the CNDH has investigatory powers and reports directly to Parliament.

There is a relatively free press. However, criticism of Islam, the monarchy or Morocco's claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara is not tolerated and is punishable by law.

Morocco's record in Western Sahara has improved in recent years, but more needs to be done to provide equality of opportunity for the people of the territory. Within Morocco itself, as well as in Western Sahara, marches and sit-ins have been broken up by police. Pro-independence demonstrations are a flash point for potentially violent confrontation.

REFORM

Small scale demonstrations have been a regular occurrence in Morocco for years, with unemployed youth gathering outside parliament on an almost weekly basis to demand jobs and better opportunities. In January 2011, inspired by the success of protestors elsewhere in the region and fuelled by widespread corruption and unemployment, pro-democracy activists in Morocco geared up for mass demonstrations. A group of Moroccan activists started a Facebook group announcing 20 February as the day to call for political change, most notably an end to corruption and a move to parliamentary monarchy. Demonstrations took place in cities across Morocco calling for reform and the naming and shaming of key politicians and royal advisers accused of corruption and misuse of power.

In response, King Mohammed VI announced a “general reform” of the Moroccan constitution in a speech to the nation on 9 March 2011. A Commission was appointed to work on a draft reform which was presented to the Monarch in June 2011 and endorsed by public referendum of 1 July with an approval rating of 98%.

For further information about human rights in Morocco, please refer to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Annual Report on Human Rights (#) .

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Last Updated: February 2012

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