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Morocco - Introduction

A kingdom located at a crossroads between Europe and Africa, Morocco has maintained stability despite economic hardship in the past and large numbers of migrants passing through on their way to Europe.


The government has been working hard over the past few years to develop a sustainable and healthy economy for all of its citizens, including major infrastructure improvements and housing schemes, while working closely with Europe and the US to both ensure regional stability and create open markets for trade and commerce.

Improvements in human rights have occurred and there is a largely free press. Despite the continuing reforms, ultimate authority remains in the hands of the monarch.

The Kingdom of Morocco is the most westerly of the North African countries known as the Maghreb.

Strategically situated with both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines, but with a rugged mountainous interior, it stayed independent for centuries while developing a rich culture blended from Arab, Berber, European and African influences.

Morocco (murok'ō), officially Kingdom of Morocco (2005 est. pop. 32,726,000), 171,834 sq mi (445,050 sq km), NW Africa. Morocco is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea (N), the Atlantic Ocean (W), Western Sahara (S), and Algeria (S and E).

Ifni, formerly a Spanish-held enclave on the Atlantic coast, was ceded to Morocco in 1969. Two cities, Ceuta and Melilla, and several small islands off the Mediterranean coast remain part of metropolitan Spain; at various times in history Moroccans have sought, through force or diplomacy, to gain control of these enclaves. Morocco claims and administers Western Sahara although sovereignty remains unresolved. Rabat is the capital and Casablanca the most populous city.

Morocco is considered a moderate Arab regime where democracy seemed to be making small strides. But parliamentary elections have yielded little substantive change, and voters have responded by taking decreasing interest in elections (the turnout in the September 2007 vote was 37 percent, lowest in the nation's history).

Morocco is the only African country that is not currently a member of the African Union. However, it is a member of the Arab League at present, Arab Maghreb Union, the Francophonie, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Mediterranean Dialogue group, and Group of 77, and is a major non-NATO ally of the United States.

It is still battling with the Polisario, the nationalist movement battling for independence in the Western Sahara, over control of the vast former Spa.

The country was a French protectorate from 1912 to 1956, when Sultan Mohammed became king. He was succeeded in 1961 by his son, Hassan II, who ruled for 38 years. He played a prominent role in the search for peace in the Middle East, given the large number of Israelis of Moroccan origin, but was criticised for suppressing domestic opposition.

A truth commission set up to investigate human rights violations during Hassan's reign has confirmed nearly 10,000 cases, ranging from death in detention to forced exile.

After his death in 1999 Hassan was succeeded by his son, who became King Mohammed VI and was seen as a moderniser. There has been some economic and social liberalisation, but the monarch has retained sweeping powers.

Morocco is bidding for membership of the European Union, its main trade partner, but there appears to be little enthusiasm for this within the bloc.

To the south, the status of Western Sahara remains unresolved. Morocco annexed the territory in 1975 and a guerrilla war with Algerian-backed pro-independence forces ended in 1991. UN efforts have failed to break the political deadlock.

To the north, a dispute with Spain in 2002 over the tiny island of Perejil revived the issue of the sovereignty of Melilla and Ceuta. The small enclaves on the Mediterranean coast are surrounded by Morocco and have been administered by Madrid for centuries.

Morocco has been given the status of non-Nato ally by Washington, which has praised its support for the US-led war on terror. After deadly suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003, Morocco launched a crackdown on suspected Islamic militants.

Last Updated on Friday 13th November 2009