Return of Tension Between Madrid and Rabat After the Illusionary Reconciliation
Tensions return between Madrid and Rabat, just a year after the so-called “reconciliation agreement”, which was described as historic between the two countries, in which Madrid, changed its position on the Western Sahara issue on March 14, 2022.
Sanchez’s surprising announcement of his support for the decision to request the European Union’s trusteeship over the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, to get the two cities out of their centuries-old conflict with the Makhzen government, is the cause of this tension.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez did not hide, in a letter dated March 6 and signed in his name, his government’s explicit support for the two cities’ request to join the European Union’s regions, which was submitted by the representative of the People’s Party, Eduardo de Castro Gonzalez, to deepen the European character of Ceuta and Melilla and for the conflict over the two cities to shift from Madrid to the management of the European Union.
The step disturbed the Makhzen government, which subsequently refused to implement the agreement to transform the region into a Spanish transit centre, due to Madrid’s disavowal of its recognition of the Moroccanness of Western Sahara in international forums and bodies on the one hand, and because of Morocco’s fear of the departure of Pedro Sanchez from the government, during the upcoming Spanish elections, and thus the abandonment of Madrid’s support for the Moroccan autonomy proposal.
In his letter, Sanchez confirmed that work is underway to open future offices in the Permanent Representation of Spain to the European Union, as the official request of the European Union was submitted during his official visit to Brussels last year, accompanied by the President of Ceuta, announcing that the Government of Spain provided its support and work to ensure that this possibility becomes a reality as soon as possible.
Pedro Sánchez has responded to a previous letter from Melilla president Eduardo de Castro in which he asked for his support; “I assure you that the government shares and encourages Melilla’s interest in achieving greater participation and involvement in the institutions of the European Union,” he said. “This reinforced presence of the autonomous city in Brussels must result, not only in better use by Melilla of the advantages of the European Union but also in greater involvement of the city in the political and economic life of Europe,” the head of the Spanish government added.
The Spanish Prime Minister explicitly concluded his letter by confirming his support for the demand for the two independent cities to join the largest institutions of the European Union and to benefit from the advantages of this affiliation. Sanchez warned in his message that “the current mandate of the European Regions Committee ends in 2025”, an advisory body of the European Union composed of elected representatives at the local and regional level from all 27 EU Member States, which allows representatives to make their views known on EU legislation, “that has a direct impact on regions and cities which is the horizon for us to find a solution”, Sanchez added.
He was also delighted that the opening of the future offices of the permanent representation of Spain to the EU is in progress, considering that with the official visit to Brussels of the presidents of Ceuta, Juan Vivas and Melilla, Eduardo de Castro, last year, “this dossier is taking shape”.
Observers said that Sanchez’s decision is an official step that may anger the Makhzen government, because Madrid’s request is an affirmation that the two cities are an integral part of the European Union, thus removing them from the circle of Moroccan historical claims and protecting them with European Union laws to represent part of European sovereignty.