Washington, DC — As the debate over the future of Catalonia rages on in Spain, the rest of the world is standing idle letting a serious constitutional predicament escalates into a European crisis. If Europe choses to play down the significance of the situation in Barcelona, Morocco, notwithstanding it is not a European nation, should be engaged and involved in the debate over the independence of Catalonia.
Madrid’s long term support of Sahrawis calling for a referendum in the Western Sahara is a ground for a Moroccan involvement in the Catalan quandary. In fact, Morocco has the best candidate to convey its views, impressions and reminders about Madrid past and present positions on the Western Sahara versus the Government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy handling of Catalan effort to hold a referendum for self-determination.
Ms. Mbarka Bouaïda, the Moroccan Deputy Foreign Minister, should be the face and the mouth of Rabat’s drive into the Catalan debate. The young, telegenic and articulate Moroccan diplomat is fluent in Spanish and familiar with her northern neighbors’ politics.
Ms. Bouaïda, who is originally from the Sahara, must focus on Spain’s hypocritical positions on the Western Sahara conflict. Mr. Rajoy can’t present the Catalan question as an internal matter when his country has been closely involved in the Western Sahara conflict that Morocco views a domestic issue.
Ms. Bouaïda must advise the groups of Spanish parliamentarians who keep surfacing in the Moroccan controlled Sahara to champion the local independence movement to stay home and support the Catalans.
For Spain’s ruling elites, on the Right and the Left, Catalan plebiscite on independence is unconstitutional. For Rajoy and his Government all Spaniards must vote on a secession referendum and thus the government in Barcelona had no right to take such a unilateral step. As such, Ms. Mbarka Bouaïda should emphasize the “similarities” between the Moroccan and Spanish definitions of a self-determination vote.
Morocco’s responses to Spain’s previous calls for a referendum in the Western Sahara have been uneven and flawed. Moroccans hope to see the young Moroccan diplomat rectify this unacceptable lapse. The crisis in Catalonia is the perfect occasion for Ms. Bouaïda to ask Madrid to clarify its positions on the conflict in North Africa which have been unclear, and sometimes contradictory.
Ms. Bouaida should remind the Spanish political parties who have been overly, and sometimes covertly, supporting Algeria’s efforts to deny Morocco’s historic right to govern the Moroccan Sahara, that Rabat is in position to throw its support behind the Catalan independence.
In fact, it was the late King Hassan II of Morocco who used the Catalan card to startle Spain’s political establishment. King Hassan’s 1994 invitation and reception of the then Catalan leader Jordi Pujol as a head of state sent Spain into a rage and panic. The late King threw the red carpet for Mr. Pujol and it may be time for King Mohammed VI to do the same for Catalan regional President Artur Mas.
A King Mohammed invitation for Mr. Mas to visit Morocco can’t be viewed as a provocation since Spain hosts the Polisario separatists and offer refuge and support to their cause.
If the pro-Polisario (An Algerian backed separatist group calling for an independent Western Sahara) lobby in Spain accuses Morocco of colonizing the Western Sahara, Moroccans charge that modern day Spain was born with an annexed Catalan and Basque countries.
It is duplicitous for the Polisario supporters to claim that the only solution to the Sahara dossier is through a referendum then deny the Catalans and the Basques the right to vote on their futures. Furthermore, the same Spanish media that has been criticizing Morocco for refusing to hold a referendum for the Sahara is defending Madrid’s decision to deny Barcelona the right to vote.
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