Senator for Ceuta and Vox party member Yolanda Merelo asked the Spanish coalition government why they refused to intervene in the “siege of Ceuta.”
Rabat – Far-right Spanish political party Vox has accused the Spanish coalition government, led by Pedro Sanchez, of refusing to intervene against Morocco in what the party has dubbed “the Siege of Ceuta.”
Vox senator for Ceuta Yolanda Merelo slammed the Spanish government over the lack of action in Ceuta’s economic crisis. She said the “siege and strangulation of Ceuta” and its economy at the hands of Morocco “violates good neighborly relations.”
Merelo called on the coalition to outline how they intend to “alleviate the suffocation that Ceuta is suffering and by which trade and tourism are being damaged.”
Morocco implemented restrictions at the borders of Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish enclaves in its northern territory. The measures limit informal goods trafficking by foot as well as the informal import of fish via Ceuta’s Tarajal border crossing.
The measures came after Morocco could no longer ignore the hemorrhage of tax revenue caused by the informal economy.
In February 2019, the Director-General of the Moroccan Administration of Customs and Indirect Taxation, Nabyl Lakhdar, estimated the value of the products entering Morocco through the Ceuta border between MAD 6 billion and MAD 8 billion per year (between €550 million and €730 million).
Lakhdar underlined that Morocco needed a “radical” solution to “permanently put an end to contraband border crossings with Melilla and Ceuta.”
The restrictions, though implemented to protect the Moroccan economy, have had a devastating effect on Ceuta and Melilla. The decision to close customs in Melilla in July of 2018 has already damaged the economy of the enclave, depriving the city of an estimated €47 million in revenue.
As Ceuta’s economy struggles to stay above water, Morocco has invested in its northern region to strengthen the formal economy and industry in Tangier.
Senator Merelo questioned whether Morocco’s decision to close the borders was to protect and develop its own economy or to “suffocate” the Spanish enclave.
The Sanchez-led coalition responds
The government responded to Merelo’s calls in measured tones, emphasizing the strong diplomatic relations between Madrid and Rabat and the importance of maintaining a respectful dialogue with Morocco.
The government assured the Vox party senator that it is fully aware of Ceuta’s situation and is taking measures to cushion the enclave’s economy.
Spain pledged to examine the situation in Ceuta and set up a “meeting with the general directors of Customs of Spain and Morocco to discuss these issues and understand the object and scope of the measures taken.”
The coalition government emphasized that “bilateral relations between Spain and Morocco are based on dialogue, respect, and mutual understanding.”
“This constant dialogue, at all levels, between two strategic partners serves to resolve possible existing disputes, without having to resort to other measures such as protest, retaliation, or countermeasures,” the government underlined.
“It is hoped that within the framework of the excellent relations that are maintained with Morocco, it will be possible to agree on the best way to address this issue for the benefit of the Autonomous Cities of Ceuta, Melilla and the rest of Spain.”
Vox, however, was not satisfied with the government response and slammed the Sanchez-led coalition for taking the side of Morocco over Ceuta. Merelo believes that dialogue has produced no results and called for sanctions and protest against Morocco.