Jack Lang, Former French Minister of Culture; and President, the Arab World Institute (AWI): Interview

Jack Lang, Former French Minister of Culture; and President, the Arab World Institute (AWI)

Interview: Jack Lang

How should Morocco’s role in the region evolve, and what strengths can it leverage in this regard?

JACK LANG: Morocco is very active in the Mediterranean, as its strategic foothold in the region, historical links with Europe, and political and economic stability make the kingdom a powerful and privileged regional partner. The country has the potential to be the link for a new Europe-Mediterranean-Africa axis, as well as an African hub for French and European companies. While bilateral relations between Morocco and the EU continue to grow, the country’s role in the Maghreb is now enriched by dynamic African politics. Given the importance of the issues in this axis (economic, but also related to security in the Sahel) it seems evident that Morocco has a vital role to play.

Tolerance towards other religions and cultures is part of Morocco’s DNA. I was impressed and deeply touched by the preamble to the Moroccan Constitution of July 2011, which refers to the Arab-Islamic, Amazigh and Sahrawi-Hassani components of Morocco’s national identity, but also to the country’s African, Andalusian, Jewish and Mediterranean background. This is an exceptionally tolerant message that we do not hear enough of nowadays, be it in the Arab world or in Europe. It shows that Morocco is an open country; confident and sure of its pluralist identity.

What kind of economic ties should be pursued?

LANG: Morocco is experiencing economic growth, and I am delighted that France is its largest trading partner. Under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, Morocco’s openness to international development and investment in sub-Saharan Africa has made the country a privileged economic hub. With its tourism; industrial expansion, particularly in the aeronautic and automotive fields; sustainable development; and financial platform, Morocco has important advantages and offers new opportunities. This is the reason why France and Europe must encourage greater investment in and trade with Morocco. Several large companies have already set an example. At the Arab World Economic Breakfast in November 2014, for example, held at the AWI, business leaders and experts came together to highlight the amazing development opportunities in Morocco.

How important is the Moroccan diaspora in France, and how can the two countries further strengthen their social and cultural links going forward?

LANG: The Moroccan diaspora is very present in France, and this is a great advantage. It contributes to the diversity of our country and enriches us. It also explains the strong ties that unite the two countries. I deeply defend the diaspora’s presence because I am strongly convinced that it can only be beneficial for France and Morocco. I am particularly touched by young Moroccans that choose France for their higher education. Furthermore, there are many French people in Morocco, and I want to highlight this reciprocity, as it is important and illustrates the degree of intimacy that binds our two countries.

The heinous attacks that took place in Paris in January 2015 were a terrible moment for all of us, and I welcome the unanimous rally that followed and the unwavering support of Morocco. Now more than ever, we need to encourage dialogue and exchange, and this naturally includes culture.

There are a number of ways in which this is happening, including the large multidisciplinary event on contemporary Morocco organised by the AWI in partnership with the kingdom. This event helped to further strengthen the ties between our two countries. Through this major exhibition devoted to contemporary art and concerts, which included a series of meetings and symposia, the effervescence and artistic and intellectual expansion that characterise the kingdom was highlighted, helping to shed new light on this dynamic and forward-looking society. This event was also an opportunity to enhance awareness and provide a higher degree of visibility about Morocco.

Anchor text: 
Jack Lang

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