Spain’s support for Morocco’s Western Sahara claims to sovereignty hangs in the balance as it is still unclear whether its present conservative government will stay in power. And so is it correct or even tactful for its Prime Minister to holiday in Morocco, many will ask.
An unannounced family holiday to Morocco by Spain’s acting prime minister has sparked criticism by both right-wing rivals and left-wing allies at the height of a political impasse at home and amid rocky relations with Spain’s southern neighbour, Reuters reports.
The holiday is the first Pedro Sanchez has taken abroad since he took office in 2018 and is a rarity for any prime minister of one of Europe’s top holiday destinations. His office said it was a strictly private vacation, paid for entirely by Sanchez.
It comes as Spain faces either a repeat election or months of wrangling between its fractured and fractious political actors over the formation of a fresh government following an inconclusive general election.
Spain has a sticky diplomatic relationship with Morocco over issues including migration, airspace, territorial waters, customs and land borders.
Tensions eased slightly after Madrid last year radically shifted its policy towards the dispute in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that Morocco considers its own but where the Algeria-backed Polisario Front independence movement seeks a nation state. Madrid said it regarded Rabat’s autonomy proposal for Western Sahara as “serious, credible and realistic”.
The move infuriated Podemos, the hard-left junior coalition partner of Sanchez’s Socialists, which supports the Polisario Front and has harshly criticised what it describes as the Spanish government’s unexplained volte-face.
Idoia Villanueva, Podemos’ foreign affairs spokesperson, said the latest trip was evidence of Sanchez’s problematic policy on Morocco.
“Sanchez continues to show his complacency toward Morocco, day after day, while Morocco continues to violate fundamental rights with impunity,” Villanueva posted on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
The opposition People’s Party – which has called for Sanchez to be more transparent about his ties to Morocco – also slammed the trip, with official Miguel Tellado describing it as a “clear provocation” stemming from Sanchez’s “arrogance” in an interview with Onda Cero radio station.
Far-right Vox wrote on its X account: “Sanchez seems to like Morocco more than Spain”, and accused him of “opening doors” to illegal migration and giving aid to Moroccan farmers amid a drought in Spain.
Moroccan media first reported – and welcomed – Sanchez’s choice of holiday destination. Le 360 news site described it as being “intended as a message of friendship” and referenced Spain’s backing for Rabat’s position on Western Sahara – a shift that represented a major coup for Moroccan diplomacy on its main foreign policy objective.
The site praised Sanchez’s closeness to Morocco “although many Spanish politicians reproach him for it”, contrasting his stance to that of his political rivals in Madrid.