The reason for the recent offensive of the Alawite kingdom to Spain, at the border crossings of Ceuta, may have multiple interpretations, beyond the anger that Moroccan diplomacy has expressed at the transfer, through the back door, of the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, to a hospital in La Rioja.
According to the immediate reaction of the European Commission, in support of Spain, without a doubt, one of those interpretations is the blackmail that Morocco has exercised on the diplomatic weakness and the Sánchez Government so that Brussels reactivates a package of millionaire aid that does not it has just been closed due to a lack of understanding between the parties.
This explains why the Moroccan authorities have opened the doors of their border with Ceuta, encouraging their fellow citizens to move to Spanish territory. And that also explains that months ago Morocco made possible the massive departure of immigrants that landed on the Spanish coast of the Canary Islands.
Since 2007, Morocco has received from Europe about 13,000 million euros in cooperation aid to improve migratory flows. It must be borne in mind that Morocco is a priority partner of the European Union, and both are needed.
At the table in Brussels there are about 1,500 million that are at stake for Moroccans
But the clear support of the US Administration for both Trump and Biden, recognizing the sovereignty of Western Sahara, has further emboldened the Mohamed VI regime, to the point of spurring the biggest migration crisis between Morocco and the EU, with more than 8,000 migrants on Spanish soil, 1,500 of them minors.
In Brussels, the development of the Regulation of the Neighborhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (ICVDI) is on the table, in the context of the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework. Economically, it is an endowment of 79,500 million euros, of which 1,500 million could be for Morocco.
But Alawites want more. More institutional recognition such as Turkey – which is the first recipient of EU aid; 3,000 million for reinforcing the borders with Europe and keeping refugees on Turkish soil – more money, more resources, less control, and ultimately, fewer specific demands such as those requested by the Council and the European Parliament, with more returns to Morocco of their nationals, readmission of migrants from other countries or, exchange of information and judicial cooperation on trafficking in human beings.
The tensions between Morocco and Spain are historic. They go beyond the sovereignty of Ceuta and Melilla, which by the way, have never belonged to the Alawite kingdom, a kingdom that became independent from Spanish and French colonialism, and became a state in 1956.
We must go back, at least to the Rif War, known by the nickname of the Second Moroccan War, in 1922, to understand to a large extent the diplomacy between pins that has almost always presided over the relations between these two countries, and where the The understanding between King Juan Carlos I and Hassam II opened one of the calmest stages since the famous Battle of Anual.
From Annual to Ceuta
In this journey through history and geopolitics, the Moroccan kingdom has succeeded in taking advantage of Spain’s recurring weaknesses, weaknesses that have coincided with stages of fragile governance in our country, such as what happened these days at the Ceuta border crossing, This has caused the biggest migratory crisis in the area, an issue that has forced European diplomacy to intervene, to come to remember that billions of euros can be played in neighborhood relations.
In 1922, the serious Spanish military defeat in the Rif area, with the victory of Abd El-Krim near Anual, led to a humiliating defeat that extended the war in time until, in 1926, Abd El-Krim surrendered.
That conflict causes the death of 11,500 Spaniards, and represents the redefinition of national politics that ends up undermining the foundations of the monarchy of King Alfonso VI, noted for instigating a poorly thought-out battle, with numerous human losses, which led to the dictatorship of Primo of Rivera.
In 1956 the independence of Morocco from France and Spain was signed, with another deep revolt, seconded by Sultan Mohamed V.
In 1975, with Francisco Franco in bed, dying, the Green March took place. They are the embers of the response to the colonialism of Spain that at that time the mythical Western Sahara maintained as a Spanish province.
Years ago, in 1970, the United Nations agreed that Western Sahara – claimed by Morocco and Mauritania – hold an independence referendum. Spain agrees to make it so in 1974. A year later, Morocco deploys 300,000 people in a peaceful march, clad in green, the symbolic color of peace, and after days, Spain decides to withdraw, bearing the burden of meaning of loss of power and international influence that this entailed for the country.
It is the time of the reign of Juan Carlos I, who just after the Green March reaches the throne of Spain, although during that contest, the monarch already exercised the functions of head of state. With the Green March, Morocco once again won another battle against Spain.
The relationship between the two monarchs has spilled rivers of ink on the media. It was said that they even called each other “brothers.” After 23F, and when Juan Carlos takes on institutional packaging and international respect as ambassador of Spain, relations with Morocco seem less tense.
But in 1995, the cities of Ceuta and Melilla adopted the statute of autonomous cities, a blow to the long-awaited sovereignty that Morocco has over those two places of geostrategic position on the borders and in the passage of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Already in 2002, a ship from the Royal Moroccan Navy took the Island of Perejil, located 4 km from Ceuta, in the Mediterranean Sea, creating a new casus belli with Spain. The then government of José María Aznar, in favor of Western Sahara holding elections to opt for self-determination, decided to intervene militarily on the island to expel the soldiers who were occupying the place.
In this operation, the role of the United States is crucial. Their American friend served as arbitrator and the waters returned to the status quo prior to the taking of the Island of Perejil in 2002. And in fact, the disagreements did not stop. The Kings of Spain did not go to Morocco to the wedding of Mohamed, son of King Hassam II.
This situation of disagreement extended until the attack on the Casa de España, in Casablanca, and after this the subsequent attack on 11-M. But before that, Morocco had already cut off the fishing agreements with the European Union, clearly damaging the interests of Spain.
The assault on the Island of Perejil by Morocco is the first great crisis of Spain with the neighboring country in the 21st century.
It is in the year 2015 when another migratory crisis takes place on the Spanish coast with 2,800 people arriving in boats, being then Turkey and Greece the most affected countries.
The breaking of the agreement
In December 2020 the security agreement on migration matters is broken, and these dates coincide with the recognition by Donald Trump of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, with an agreement in between for the exploitation of Sahrawi resources.
Spain’s attempts to prevent the new US administration of Democratic leader Joe Biden from supporting Morocco’s sovereignty over the controversial Sahara Square have not come to fruition.
In this deterioration of relations between Spain and Morocco since the end of last year, the transfer to La Rioja, by the Government of Pedro Sánchez, of the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, to be precise, accused of rape, terrorism, torture and crimes against humanity, has unleashed one of the biggest diplomatic crises between the two countries.
Morocco does not admit that Ghali is in Spain, that in its opinion he came out under a false name – which the Spanish Government denies, and the National Court has just said that it will not investigate. Similarly, he does not tolerate her returning to Saharawi soil.
The conflict is served, but it is still more than an excuse to tighten the rope in the economic demands, putting ahead a migratory crisis that decays any government, even more in times of pandemic.
In this hectic environment, and to further increase the image of weakness of the Government of Spain in the face of such an important commercial partner for the country – there are more than 60,000 Spanish companies that export to the Alawite kingdom -, Carles Puigdemont, the most Catalan fugitive famous in the history of Spain, has claimed the sovereignty of Morocco over Western Sahara.
And he also does it just when ERC and JxC close an agreement of the Government of the Generalitat of Catalonia, highlighting that Esquerra Republicana -independentist like him ex-Honorable Molt, to be precise- is a partner of the Government of Spain.
The relevance of Robles
Defense Minister Margarita Robles, in a forceful role in defense of Spain’s sovereign interests, accused Morocco on Thursday of subjecting Spain to “blackmail” at the border with Ceuta, violating the norms of international law. And “we are not going to accept the slightest blackmail or questioning of territorial integrity,” he warned.
This Friday, however, the Spanish Minister of Defense opted to resume “diplomatic channels” with Morocco and strengthen relations with a country with which Spain is “obliged” to understand and respect itself after the migration crisis in the autonomous city of Ceuta.
“That is the line that must be followed, the line of agreements and not the line of fait accompli,” Robles said, while celebrating the “positive and hopeful news” that have occurred “in the last hours.” .
In this way, Minister Margarita Robles has also referred in her presentation to the fact that “border controls have been resumed” and that an agreement has been “reached with the Government of Morocco on the issue of returns” of migrants who crossed the Ceuta border this week.