Maria Traspaderne |
Rabat (EFE) eight years and the biggest bilateral crisis of the last two decades.
The summit takes place at a time of particular tension between Morocco and Europe, after the recent resolution of the European Parliament asking the Maghreb country to respect freedom of expression and in the context of suspicions of its involvement in the “Catargate” corruption affair. ».
The President of the Spanish Government, whose Socialist MEPs voted against the resolution to the Moroccan satisfaction, travels to Rabat with the intention of softening these relations and strengthening ties with its strategic neighbor to the south.
It does so after starring in March last year in a historic turn in favor of Morocco in its position on the Moroccan national cause: Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony administered de facto by Morocco in dispute with the Saharawi people.
Sánchez goes to the Moroccan capital with 12 of his 22 ministers -Foreign, Interior, Justice, Industry, Transport, Social Inclusion, Agriculture, Education, Culture, Science, Economic Affairs and Ecological Transition-, none of them from the left-wing party Podemos with the one who governs in coalition, who rejects this change in Spanish foreign policy.
The Spanish ministers are going to hold bilateral meetings on Thursday with their Moroccan counterparts in their respective ministries and will then sign some twenty agreements in a plenary session to be held at the Moroccan Foreign Office.
For his part, the Chief Executive will meet with his Moroccan counterpart, Aziz Ajanuch, and a possible audience with the King of Morocco Mohamed VI has yet to be finalized.
Twelve meetings in 20 years
This is the twelfth summit since, in 1993, Spain and Morocco began to apply the friendship treaty that includes the supposedly annual meeting, of which the last one was held in 2015.
Two High Level Meetings (RAN) scheduled for 2020 and 2021 were canceled by Morocco, which, encouraged by US support, maintains a more aggressive policy in the Sahara conflict.
This territory, over which former US President Donald Trump recognized Moroccan sovereignty in December 2020, was in fact the trigger for the worst crisis with Spain since the Perejil island incident in 2002.
Against the backdrop of US recognition, the disagreements started in April 2021, when the Spanish government welcomed the leader of the Saharawi government in exile, Brahim Gali, into the country under a false name.
This was followed by the entry in May from Morocco of thousands of migrants into the Spanish coastal city of Ceuta without the country’s border authorities doing anything to prevent it and the withdrawal of the Moroccan ambassador in Madrid.
In March 2022, after almost a year of diplomatic relations at a minimum, Sánchez went from neutrality on the Sahara issue to supporting the Moroccan proposal for autonomy of the territory under the sovereignty of the Maghreb country.
The response was automatic. In April Sánchez visited Rabat and was received by Mohamed VI, after which they published a joint declaration to open a “new stage” of relations, in which the holding of a RAN was mentioned before the end of the year.
Borders, migration and terrorism
Despite internal criticism of his change over the Sahara, the Spanish president has continued with his policy of rapprochement with Morocco and in recent months different Spanish-Moroccan groups have been meeting to outline the agreements that will be signed at the summit. , which will begin on Wednesday afternoon with a business forum.
Sánchez, accompanied by his Moroccan counterpart, will close this key forum, since Spain has been Morocco’s main trading partner for more than a decade, with a flow of 10,000 million euros in 2022.
However, some delicate issues remain to be outlined, such as the opening of the commercial customs offices of Ceuta and Melilla, enclaves in North Africa that Morocco labels “occupied prisons”. A few days ago a pilot test was carried out, but it remains to be seen if they will work at full capacity.
Also the Atlantic maritime borders with the Canary Islands, which in 2020 were delimited by Morocco, entering the exclusive zone of the Spanish islands, to the Spanish surprise.
In what Spain has noticed a change is in Moroccan border control, since the entry of migrants from Morocco fell by 25% in 2022 compared to the previous year.
File image of a group of sub-Saharan Africans traveling in a pneumatic boat that left the coast of El Aaiún, in Western Sahara, and were rescued by Maritime Rescue in the Canary Islands. EFE/ Carlos De Saá
The North African country has reinforced it since April, in a few months in which one of the worst migratory tragedies experienced at the Melilla fence has occurred: the death in June of at least 23 migrants trying to jump over it. An episode criticized for the Moroccan police action, defended at all times by Sánchez and the EU.
Another point to be discussed will be terrorism. The summit takes place a few days after the murder in the Spanish city of Algeciras of a sacristan at the hands of a young Moroccan immigrant pending expulsion, which has revived the debate on jihadism in Spain, an issue in which the authorities of both countries are They boast of collaborating closely.