Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Written Interview for Moroccan Press Agency

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive
Journalist: Ali Bahaijoub, Moroccan Press Agency (London)
Editorial comments:

Item listed by date of publication.

Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1852
Themes: Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (Africa), Trade, Privatized & state industries, European Union (general), European Union Single Market, Terrorism, Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU)


Prime Minister, would you please define the purpose of your visit to Morocco?


I had very extensive discussions with His Majesty King Hassan during his highly successful State Visit to Britain in 1987. His Majesty brings a breadth of historical knowledge and understanding to discussions of Middle East problems which is unique. He was kind enough to invite me to visit Morocco at that time so that we could continue our discussions. I am anxious to do so because I believe we are at a crucial point in the Middle East. My visit will also be an opportunity to continue the steady progress in Britain's relations with Morocco which has taken place since His Majesty's State Visit. I want there to be more substance to these relations, given in particular Morocco's importance as a bridge between Europe, Africa and the Middle East.


Why did you include Morocco in your African tour of Sudan, Botswana and Zimbabwe?


I have already exlained why I shall be visiting Morocco. I have not been to Zimbabwe since its independence following the Lancaster House Conference in 1979, nor have I ever visited Malawi. There are particularly important developments afoot in Southern Africa - the Namibia settlement, Cuban withdrawal from Angola, the possibility of reconciliation in Mozambique, internal changes in South Africa - and I want to obtain a first-hand impression of these developments and of how Britain can contribute. I shall not be visiting Sudan or Botswana on this occasion.


In what way did The Queen's visit to Morocco in 1980 and that of King Hassan to Britain in July 1987 contribute to the [end p1] consolidation of relations between the two Kingdoms?


I think we have seen an important drawing together of our two countries, with increased Ministerial visits and more cooperation. Historically Morocco has looked more to France and Spain in Europe. Since the visits you mention, I believe that Britain has figured more substantially in your world view and and Morocco in ours.


Britain was Morocco's main trading partner before French protectorate. Yet, since the independence the position has not changed considerably. Do you think, Prime Minister, that there is a political will on both sides now to enhance political and economic links? If so, what steps will Britain take to reinforce these ties?


Yes, the political will is there. It has been clearly demonstrated by a series of high level exchanges. Only this month Mr. Alan Clark, the Minister for Trade, visited Morocco and the President of the Confederation Generale Economoc Marocaine (CGEM) visited Britain. The UK market is open and receptive to Moroccan exports. We have increased our Technical Cooperation programme for Morocco four fold. The British Government is also supporting British firms bidding for a number of major projects here.


Morocco has opted for a liberal economic system and embarked on a privatisation course similar to that adopted by your government, is it still a viable option to invigorate a liberal economy?


Yes. Privatisation is still a viable option to invigorate any economy. It has been a major element in our strategy to promote efficiency, increase incentives and widen ownership. Privatised companies in the UK are generally offering a better, more competitive service to the public, making higher profits and offering a good return to their shareholders. [end p2]


Do you think that Morocco's application to join the EEC could become a reality?


The Council of Ministers considered the application for membership submitted by Morocco in July 1987, and decided not to pursue it. I see no prospect of the Community reviewing this position. But we want to see Morocco's links with the European Community strengthened.


If not, what would you suggest instead?


We welcome Morocco's desire for closer relations with the Community, and believe that these should be developed within the framework of the existing Cooperation Agreement. This already provides duty free access to the Community for industrial goods, and preferential access for a range of agricultural produce. And the Community provides generous grants and loans to Morocco.


The EEC single market in 1992 is sometimes viewed as a threat to the interest of long-standing partners namely North Africa states with Morocco at the forefront. Do you feel that such apprehension is justified?


No, I don't. For all the Community's trading partners the removal of intra-Community barriers in 1992 represents an opportunity, not a threat. A more dynamic EC economy means increased demand for imports: a single market for 320 million customers will bring economies of scale for Moroccan exports; and Community exports should be cheaper because of increased internal competition. Morocco's preferential access to the Community market will not be affected; the Community has made clear that there will be no Fortress Europe.


How do you see future relations between the EEC and associate members and on what basis?


I do not forsee any dramatic changes in the Community's relations with Mediterranean countries. The completion of the [end p3] Single Market has produced a tremendous surge of interest in closer relations with the Community. We welcome this, and the opportunity to develop further our already close relations within the framework of existing Association and Cooperation Agreements.


A Maghreb Summit in Marrakech in February 1989 led to the proclamation of “The Union of the Arab Maghreb”. How does Britain view such a grouping in political and economic terms?


We welcome it and see it as a natural economic grouping. But as you can imagine, we have strong reservations about the inclusion of Libya, with its record of support for terrorism, not least in Northern Ireland. I hope that the other members of the Arab Maghreb Union will take account of this in their dealings with Libya.


Although the Maghreb states are nearer to Britain than any other region in Africa or the Middle East, Britain's role in the area does not reflect the size nor the political and economic importance the Maghreb represents today. Will Britain embark on a new drive to change this imbalance in relation?


My visit to Morocco is a clear indication that we do take the Maghreb seriously, in political and economic terms. Many British exporters are now coming to realise the tremendous potential of North Africa as an export market.


The question of sovereignty over Gibraltar is still a thorny problem in Anglo-Spanish relations, do you see any progress in the matter as for instance a new formula perhaps based on the model concluded with China over Hong Kong or do you have something else in mind?


There is no comparison between Gibraltar and Hong Kong. The Treaty of Utrecht laid down that Gibraltar remains British unless it reverts to Spain. In the case of Hong Kong the Treaty required it to revert to China in 1997. The British [end p4] Government has repeatedly made clear that we remain committed to our pledge that Gibraltar's sovereignty will not change against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar.


If a lasting settlement was in sight what would become of the Moroccan workers still contributing to the economic development of Gibraltar?


The contribution of Moroccan workers to Gibraltar's well-being has been considerable. Their future status in Gibraltar is a matter for the Gibraltarians, not for me. I am sure that they will take account of the contributions made by Moroccan workers in considering any proposals regarding their future.


Britain played a leading role in the adoption by the EEC of the Venice Declaration. Now that the Palestinian leadership embarked on a different course in quest for peace in the Middle East, what role could Britain play to promote peace in this region of the world to provide the Palestinians with the right to achieve their aspiration for a homeland?


Britain has a very long history of involvement in the Middle East and I believe considerable influence because of our friendship with many of the Arab governments of the region as well as with Israel. We are using this influence to support negotiations which will lead to a peaceful solution on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which provide for the exchange of territory for peace. The Palestinians must of course be involved in such negotiations and their recent statements accepting Israel's right to exist and renouncing terrorism are an important step. I take encouragement from the recognition by all governments in the region that the status quo cannot continue and that negotiations must begin.


Do you feel the Bush administration will attempt to initiate a peace process in the Middle East and if so, what would Britain do to help the conflicting parties come to the [end p5] negotiating table?


I know that President Bush is determined to work for peace in the Middle East and accords a very high priority to this. But if negotiations are to succeed they must be properly prepared. We cannot afford failure. The best framework for negotiations would be an international conference under the auspices of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.


Critics argue that Britain has neglected Africa since it became a member of the EEC. Is your government attempting to phase out this image? If so, how?


We have most certainly not neglected Africa, nor did we lose sight of African interests on our entry to the Community. We were instrumental in setting up the Lom&eacu; Convention, which established close relations between the Community and African countries south of the Sahara, and is a major source of aid for Africa as well as its major trading partner. Our bilateral and multilateral aid to Africa totals £550 million a year and we have stimulated international action to help the most heavily indebted countries. Far from neglecting Africa, I should be hard pressed to think of a country which has done more for the Continent!


Do you have a message for the 25 million Moroccan's who look forward to your visit to the Kingdom?


I am looking forward immensely to this visit, only the second by a British Prime Minister in office. I am sorry it is so brief this time, but I shall hope to return. More and more of our people come to Morocco and speak highly of the warmth of the welcome which they receive. And Morocco's role as a leading country in the region, combined with the enormous respect and regard in which His Majesty The King is held, make it a most important destination for a British Prime Minister. My message therefore is one of great friendship and desire for closer and even better relations.