The new laws have alarmed Spanish media, leading to a series of speculations on tensions between Morocco and Spain.
Law 37-17 delimits Morocco’s territorial sea, extending over 12 nautical miles from Moroccan coasts. According to the law, and in accordance with international law, Morocco has complete sovereignty over its territorial sea and the airspace above it.
In its territorial sea, Morocco has the right to build and protect pipelines, cables, and navigation equipment. The country also has the right to enforce its fiscal, medical, and immigration laws in the territorial sea.
The legislative text protects Morocco’s rights to preserve the ecosystem and freely perform research on its territorial sea.
The second text, Law 38-17, delimits Morocco’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), extending over 200 nautical miles from Moroccan coasts, along with the limits of its continental shelf, 350 nautical miles away from its coasts.
In the EEZ, Morocco has the right to establish artificial islands and equipment and exploit them. The law also ensures the right of scientific research and laying submerged pipelines and cables.
The officialisation of the new laws comes more than three months after their approval by the Moroccan Parliament.
In December 2019, the approval of the then-draft laws caused an outrage among Spanish media, calling the move an attack on Spain’s rights in the Atlantic Ocean.
The waters facing the Spanish Canary Islands and the Moroccan coast between the southern cities of Laayoune and Dakhla have been a source of conflict between Morocco and Spain since the late 1970s.
Responding to speculations in the Spanish media, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita stressed that Morocco has “a sovereign right” to redefine its maritime borders.
On January 24, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya flew to Morocco to meet with Bourita and discuss the issue.
Following the meeting, Laya agreed that Morocco has the right to consolidate its maritime sovereignty, but it must also “respect international conventions on maritime borders.”
The two diplomats agreed that negotiations are the only solution to the conflict and both parties vowed to maintain an open and constant dialogue on the matter.