Foreign policy and defense
The question of Western Sahara dominates
Morocco's relations with the outside world. No other
country has recognized annexation of the area, leading
to some isolation for Morocco. In addition, the country
strives to maintain good relations with the United
States and Europe as well as with the conservative
monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula.
Western Sahara is called Africa's last colony.
Morocco has occupied three-quarters of the former
Spanish colony since the 1970s and, for historical
reasons, considers itself entitled to the entire area.
The Nationalist Polisario, in turn, is fighting for an
independent state. The UN has demanded that the
indigenous peoples themselves choose whether Western
Sahara should become an independent country or part of
Morocco. A referendum on this was the condition for a
UN-mediated ceasefire concluded between Morocco and the
Polisario in 1991. Contradictions about whether the
Moroccans who moved into Western Sahara since 1975 would
have had the right to vote permanently postponed.
Meanwhile, Morocco continued to expand its presence in
the area and encourage immigration.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Morocco for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Occupation of Western Sahara causes some problems in
Morocco's relations with the rest of Africa. Morocco, in
protest of the African Union's (AU) predecessor, left
the OAU when Polisario's exile government in 1984 was
accepted as a member, and then stood as the only country
on the continent outside the AU. In 2016, Morocco
applied for re-membership, despite the fact that nothing
has changed in the case of Western Sahara, and at New
Year 2017/2018 AU welcomed Morocco as a member country
again. Morocco has good relations with many African
countries even outside the AU's framework, especially in
The conflict over Western Sahara has blocked
cooperation within the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), formed
in 1989 by Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Libya and
Tunisia. The hope was initially to create a regional
free trade area and close political cooperation, but
within just a few years Algerian-Moroccan conflicts had
paralyzed the Union. Some UMA meetings are still held
regularly, but at a low level.
Relations with Algeria have remained poor. Algeria
supports Polisario, which has its headquarters in
Tindouf in western Algeria. Although the relationships
were periodically extremely tense, wars have been
avoided and nowadays the relationship can be described
as chilly but correct. The border between Morocco and
Algeria has been closed since 1994. This creates
financial problems for Morocco, as the border cuts off
important trade and transport routes.
In the Arab world, Morocco is closely associated with
Saudi Arabia and the other oil monarchies on the Persian
Gulf. These have seen financial and political support
for Morocco as a way to support another conservative and
Western-friendly monarchy. Morocco, in turn, needs help
to cover its constant budget deficit, and over the years
has been the largest beneficiary country for Arab aid.
During the spring of 2011, Morocco was offered
unexpected membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
No membership has been lost, but Morocco receives
political and financial support. In 2014, investments
for $ 120 billion over ten years have been promised, a
substantial increase from the $ 5 billion in investments
made during the previous ten-year period.
Since then, the strong western-oriented Morocco has
friendly relations with the United States. Morocco is
seen as an important ally in the fight against
terrorism. The US has described Morocco as the role
model for the Arab world in terms of reforms and in 2006
a free trade agreement came into force. That same year,
Morocco gained status as an important US ally outside
NATO, leading to increased economic and military
Morocco signed a trade agreement with the EU's
predecessor EEC as early as 1976. An association
agreement with the EU came into force in 2000. Morocco
was the first Mediterranean country to have "advanced
status" in its relations with the EU in 2008. Morocco is
the country that receives the most aid from the EU in
the called the neighborhood policy. In 2011, however,
the European Parliament stopped a fisheries agreement
between the EU and Morocco, citing the occupation of
Western Sahara, and a new agreement was signed only two
years later. When, for the same reason, the European
Court of Justice annulled a trade agreement concluded by
the parties, it resulted in Morocco in early 2016
temporarily suspending all relations with the EU, in
protest. At the beginning of 2019, both a new agreement
with Morocco on agricultural products and a new
fisheries agreement were approved in the EU, despite the
fact that Morocco has in no way backed down from its
claims on Western Sahara.
Morocco's main arms carrier in Europe is Spain and
France, which are concerned about stability and
development in northwestern Africa. France supports
Morocco's line in the Western Sahara issue and both
trade exchange and French aid are extensive.
Spain and Morocco have a more complicated
relationship. A constant dispute concerns the Spanish
cities of Ceuta and Melilla and a number of small
islands in the Mediterranean, which Morocco claims. The
Western Sahara issue is also very much alive in Spain
and many Spaniards are opposed to Morocco's occupation.
Nevertheless, during the 2000s Spain has approached
Morocco's position and, among other things, expressed
cautious support for King Mohammed's attempt to make
Western Sahara an autonomous Moroccan province.
Since the flow of migrants to Europe has decreased
through EU agreements with Turkey, the route via Morocco
and Spain has become increasingly important. The
pressure on Morocco to block traffic has also increased
The Moroccan defense force has been strictly loyal to
the royal house since a couple of coup attempts in the
early 1970s. The military duty was abolished in 2006,
but in 2018 a decision was made to reintroduce it,
beginning in the fall of 2019. Men aged 19-25 must serve
one year. For women and people with dual citizenship,
military service becomes voluntary (see Calendar).
Morocco participates in several UN peacekeeping
efforts, mainly in African countries. However, angry
that UN chief Ban Ki-Moon 2016 talked about the
"occupation" of Western Sahara, however, the government
threatened to completely withdraw its support for UN
efforts, and to order UN representatives from Western
In Yemen, Morocco's air force has participated in the
Saudi-led attacks against a Shiite Muslim rebel movement
that began in 2015.
The Armed Forces have been expanding in recent years.
Since 2017, several major contracts have been signed
with the United States and France among other countries.
The agreements include the purchase of fighter aircraft,
attack helicopters, combat vehicles and robotic systems.
FACTS - DEFENSE
175,000 men (2017)
The air Force
13,000 men (2017)
7,800 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
3.2 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
10.7 percent (2017)