With the recent shift in Spanish politics, the diplomatic gains Rabat and Madrid have made in recent months might now be lost, following a new row.
The feud between Morocco and Spain over Ceuta and Melilla which has come and gone for decades has once more raised its ugly head. Just recently, Spain filed a complaint against Morocco for calling the two cities “Moroccans.”
The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in the complaint that it “rejects” Morocco’s claims to the two cities, as reported by The Arab Weekly and agencies
Spain’s borders, including Ceuta and Melilla, are “internationally recognized,” Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs retorted.
This news comes weeks after Morocco denounced a European Commission official for stating that Ceuta and Melilla are Spanish cities within the EU’s borders. Rabat described the statement as “hostile.”
Ceuta and Melilla, often described as Spanish enclaves, are located in northern Morocco. Morocco lays a historical claim on the cities, arguing that they were part of Morocco prior to Spanish colonization, while Spain strongly defends the enclaves’ status as European cities.e
These two cities represent the only land border the European Union shares with Africa.
The latest episode of discord between Morocco and Spain regarding Ceuta and Melilla comes months after the two countries reconciled.
In 2021, Spain’s hosting of the leader of the separatist group Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, for medical treatment caused a diplomatic rift between the two countries.
The Polisario Front lays claim to Western Sahara, a territory that has been under Morocco’s rule since 1975 after gaining independence from Spain.
In a move largely viewed as retaliatory, Moroccan border control agents loosened security at the borders with the EU, allowing thousands of migrants to cross into Ceuta.
In an attempt to restore peace with Rabat, Madrid broke its neutrality in the Western Sahara case and supported Morocco’s claim.
The recent rise of the People’s Party (PP) to power in Spain signals a new chapter in the country’s relations with its southern neighbour. Given the party’s reputation for taking a tough stance on Spain’s foreign policy towards Morocco, the future of the relationship between these two nations is shrouded in uncertainty and so it is unclear weather the new coalition it will form will support the previous government’s support for Morocco and its claims to Western Sahara.