Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier was on a four-day visit to North Africa from Thursday (22 January) to Sunday (25 January). The first stop was Morocco, followed by Tunisia and Algeria. The focus of the trip was on promoting relations with the three Maghreb countries. Also on the agenda were the countries’ respective experiences of and approaches to the changes in the region triggered by the Arab Spring.
The first stop of his four‑day trip took Foreign Minister Steinmeier to Marrakech on Thursday. Upon arrival, he met the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Salaheddine Mezouar for consultations. The meeting between the two foreign ministers focused on further intensifying bilateral relations, regional topics and cooperation in counter-terrorism.
Great potential for German‑Moroccan relations
At the press conference following the talks, Steinmeier stressed that considerable progress had been made in recent years with regard to promoting relations between Germany and Morocco. However, this potential was far from being exhausted, he said. Steinmeier praised the “impressive journey” undertaken by Morocco in its development and said that he had “great respect” for how the country has managed to integrate “different political, social and religious movements in an exceptionally difficult political environment”.
With regard to the threat posed by terrorism, Steinmeier emphasised that it was a danger both north and south of the Mediterranean. He said that the fight against the terrorist threat requires a great deal of commitment and needs time and much patience. It is important not to allow oneself to be blown off course and be divided, he continued.
Following talks with the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Steinmeier also met King Mohammed VI for political talks. A meeting with the Moroccan Minister of Industry was also on the itinerary.
The German Foreign Minister was being accompanied by a cultural and business delegation from Germany with a view to strengthening economic relations with Morocco as well as Tunisia and Algeria – and cultivating social exchange between the countries.
The countries of North Africa are important partners
On the eve of his trip, Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier issued the following statement in Berlin on 21 January:
The countries of North Africa are important partners for Germany and Europe – with regard to economic and energy policy as well as all matters of stability and security on both sides of the Mediterranean.
The aim of his trip, he added, was therefore to gain a first-hand impression of “where the societies of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria currently stand – politically, economically and culturally”. All three countries have a high proportion of young people – the average age in Morocco is around 27, for example. Steinmeier stressed that this young generation in particular associated Europe with great hopes and expectations, above all with regard to their chances in life. On the other side of the equation, German companies are displaying a great and growing interest in the region, he said.
However, the trip was also taking place in the light of the attacks on the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” on 7 January. The Minister said:
After the attacks in Paris, we will also be discussing how we can take joint action against terrorism and extremism more effectively. This includes cooperation between our security authorities. I am especially interested in hearing about the experiences of our partner countries in the Maghreb in the fight against the radicalisation of young people.