Wide Angle

Diaspo # 10 : Ahmed Laaouej, the new president of the Belgian Socialist Party's parliamentary group

On September the 21st, Elio Di Rupo, the president of the Socialist Party announced the appointment of Ahmed Laaouej as the group's leader at the Chamber of Representatives in the Belgian Federal Parliament. An achievement for the Belgian politician of Moroccan descent and the Rifian who is attached to his origins. Portrait.

Ahmed Laaouej, a Belgian politician originally from Morocco./Ph. DR
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Born in Liege to Moroccan parents from a popular background, the Belgian of Moroccan descent Ahmed Laaouej became on September the 21st, the new president of parliamentary group of the Socialist Party at the Chamber of Representatives in the Belgian Federal Parliament. An achievement that was obtained after years of political commitment, his studies in taxation law, the cultural diversity of the environment where he grew up and his Moroccan origins.

Ahmed Laaouej was born on the 8th of December 1969 in Liège. He is the fifth child of a Moroccan family that immigrated to Belgium in the 1960s. «My father arrived in Belgium in 1962 because there was a great need in Europe for workers and workforce for Coal mining, but also for the steel industry and construction. My mother joined him in 1969 with my four elder brothers and sisters», he told Yabiladi. He is also the family's first child born in Belgium.

«I had a fairly plane childhood in an area that was filled with immigrants. There were Moroccans but also Italians, and Turks. So I grew up in plurality and in a working class environment where there was a lot of solidarity. I also had a fairly normal education».

After studying law, because he was interested in legal and administrative matters, as he explained, the new president of the PS parliamentary group and former communal councilor in Koekelberg discovered that his penchant for numbers and studied law taxation and public finance. Once graduated, he sat for an exam by the Ministry of Finance and was named a tax inspector. Meanwhile he joined the political scene in the country.

While looking for someone who is specialized in taxation and public finance, the president of the Belgian Socialist Party, Elio Di Rupo hired Ahmed as a political adviser.

In 2006, Koekelbergers elected his as the town councilor. Four years later, he became the senator the vice-president of the Finance and Economy Committee of the Belgian Senate. In 2014, the Rifian became a member of the federal parliament before being elected head of the main opposition group.

A Belgian attached to his Moroccan roots

«I have very nice memories of our holidays in Morocco», he answered when asked about his country of origin. He also told Yabiladi that his parents are from Kebdana, «a few kilometers away from Ras El Ma and not very far from Berkane». However, he discovered the kingdom only when he has grown up. «I started to discover Morocco by traveling alone to other cities like Tangier, Fez, Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakesh ... And we continued to discover Morocco», he explained.

«We are obviously attached to our origins and at the same time engaged in a fight for our citizenship in Belgium and as we are in an economic crisis, we are seeing the rise of nationalism with xenophobic and racist statements. So, yes I am Belgian but I do not deny my roots of which I am very proud».

Although he claimed that he have never been subject of racism, be it at school, university or workplace, Ahmed Laaouej recalls that he «had to realize that in a very general way, throughout the country, people were discriminated against especially when looking for a job and these are facts that are founded». «So, if I personally did not experience it, it doesn't mean that the phenomenon does not exist», he said, adding that he «can see those who encounter difficulties and I am not turning my back to this social reality».

He affirmed once again that for him, «it is very interesting and enriching to finally have multiple cultures, and to be both from the Moroccan community, tradition, Arabic or Amaghir-speaking culture, and a universe where there are people from nearly everywhere». «It also allowed me to have a great opened to the world and to their cultures. You learn how to live together, discover others and all the richness of the world and that creates a personality that it open to others», he added.

Europe and the Hirak

When asked about the social unrest in the Rif region, Ahmed Laaouej first of all said that he «always considered that one should not mix things». «As a Belgian MP, I do not have to comment on the Moroccan domestic politics and in Belgium, it would be very difficult to understand why a Moroccan MP is giving lessons on the way things should be handled back in Morocco», he explained. But that did not prevent him from answering the question. «What I think is important, Morocco can meet the challenges of the 21st century. The world is evolving at an extremely rapid rate and so I am in favor of reviving the Euromediterranean project and strengthening collaboration and cooperation between the countries of the Maghreb and the countries of the European Union», he stated.

He took the opportunity to recall that he was a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly and that he had recently had an opportunity to have an speak with the President of the Moroccan Chamber of Representatives, Habib El Malki in the Belgian Parliament.

As for the recent events in Morocco, our MP reminds us that in Belgium, a large community comes from the Rif, especially in Brussels.

«I have no lesson to give, but it is really essential, and this is true in Morocco as in Belgium, that social demands are heard. I sincerely hope that we will be able to find solutions that will enable us to pacify things with respect for each other and that, on the side of the authorities and civil society, the two sides can find the path of dialogue.»

He then insists on the need of having a «peaceful and strong» Morocco. «Fortunately Morocco has not experienced the dramatic events that have been observed in other countries and I believe that this is due to the maturity of Moroccans. But at the same time this maturity must be able to extend and be rewarded with social advances and the resumption of inequalities». And Ahmed Laaouej concluded saying : «Morocco is a country that has enormous potential, first of all human, economic, agricultural, cultural ... It has everything it needs to succeed in the stakes of the 21st century».