The statement echoes comments from the presidents of Ceuta and Melilla who accused Morocco of attempting to strangle the cities’ economies.
Rabat – Officials and public figures in Spain and its two enclaves in northern Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, continue to express concerns over Morocco’s decision to close the borders in an effort to clamp down on smuggling and the informal economy of the two cities.
Spanish journalist Ignacio Cembrero spoke about the move during a conference on the “Impossible Ceuta-Morocco Border.”
Like other Spanish officials and public figures, the journalist sees Morocco’s decision as a means to “suffocate” the region’s economy.
Celebro, who worked as a correspondent for El Pais for 30 years, said that Morocco wants to strangle the regions’ economies because the Spanish enclaves are considered to “be trade parasites whose economy is based on sucking blood in northern Morocco.”
According to the journalist, Ceuta and Melilla were “until now, the busiest borders of the African continent.”
In October 2019, Rabat decided to suspend access to the Ceuta’s Tarajal II border, while the Melilla crossing border has been closed for more than 19 months.
Prior to the closure, Morocco’s government expressed serious concerns about the enclaves’ informal economies and their detrimental impact on the surrounding region and the north African country more widely.
Last year, the general director of the Moroccan Administration of Customs and Indirect Taxation Nabil Lakhdar said that the value of products entering Morocco through Ceuta stands between MAD 6 billion and MAD 8 billion annually.
Morocco’s decision caused a backlash from Spanish MPs and officials who accused the country of putting pressure on the two enclaves, aiming to isolate and destroy their economies.
Convinced the situation will continue to deteriorate, Cembrero argued that the Spanish government must intervene.
The journalist suggested that a lack of dialogue between Madrid and Rabat will only allow Morocco to add more restrictions, “harming not only Ceuta and Melilla people but the Moroccan population living in the surroundings of these two cities.”
Hundreds of people in northern Morocco earn their living by carrying merchandise between the enclaves and Morocco to sell.
The practice does not only harm Morocco’s economy through a hemorrhage of tax and customs duties, it is also dangerous for the goods carriers, or human mules, themselves. Congestion at the border has led to a number of deaths during crossings due to the high numbers of people desperate to cross into the enclaves.
While Cembrero deplored condemned the lack of communication between Madrid and Rabat, the two capitals report “exemplary” relations.
One of the latest statements extolling the bonds between Spain and Morocco came from King Felipe VI of Spain, who said earlier this month that his visit to Morocco in 2019 was a “testimony to the traditional friendship that connects our two countries.”
Meanwhile, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya visited Morocco in January for meetings with her Moroccan counterpart. She expressed shared Madrid’s satisfaction with bilateral relations between the two countries, emphasizing their continued cooperation in several sectors.
Cembrero’s statements, however, echo the remarks of a number of Spanish officials and MPs, particularly the presidents of the two enclaves.
Last month, the presidents of Ceuta and Melilla called Morocco’s decision to tighten restrictions on the borders of the two Spanish enclaves an attempt to “isolate and suffocate” their economies.
The spokesperson for the government of Ceuta, Alberto Gaitan also announced that the two Spanish enclaves need to come up with an economic program to overcome the challenges caused by Morocco’s decision.
“Spain and Ceuta must not go on their knees to Morocco and need to find an alternative exit route from this situation,” he said.
The spokesperson underlined that the two governments need to come up with an ambitious independent economic program that “does not depend on Morocco.”
It remains to be seen whether Spain will ask Morocco to ease pressure on its borders with Spanish enclaves.