According to Spanish media, the new regulations are the most recent in Morocco’s efforts to “suffocate” the economy of Ceuta and Melilla.
Rabat – Morocco’s customs have established new regulations against products originating from the Spanish enclave of Melilla, Spanish newspaper El Confidencial reported on August 17.
According to the newspaper, Moroccan customs no longer accept the EUR.1 movement certificate. The form certifies the European origin of products.
In practical terms, the move means that Morocco no longer considers products coming from Melilla as European, allowing the country to apply higher taxes on the goods.
Melilla-based companies have attempted to send their products to Almeria, in southeastern Spain, before shipping them to the Moroccan port of Beni Ansar, near Melilla, El Confidential reported.
However, according to the newspaper, Moroccan authorities have tightened their measures to prevent such maneuvers.
The treatment of products from Melilla as non-European goods would significantly hamper their competitiveness in the Moroccan market, giving room to local products to better position themselves.
The Spanish newspaper qualified the new measures as a “harassment” of Melilla, condemning the Spanish government’s silence.
“The Spanish government did not protest by convening, for example, the Moroccan ambassador to Madrid or recalling its ambassador from Rabat. Spanish diplomacy did not even write a verbal note to protest,” El Confidencial wrote.
The newspaper also recalled some of Morocco’s “unilateral decisions” such as closing the land borders with Ceuta and Melilla due to the COVID-19 pandemic and expanding sea borders “over the limits” of the Canary Islands.
Morocco’s development projects in the north
Morocco did not issue an official statement about the alleged customs regulations, but Morocco has recently worked to mitigate the negative economic repercussions the Spanish enclaves have had on the country.
In 2019, Morocco suspended smuggling activities with Ceuta and Melilla, which generate €700 million ($833 million) for the autonomous cities every year.
The Moroccan government initially suggested that the main reason behind the decision was the injuries and deaths among smugglers, caused by the several-hours-long blockades at crossing points.
However, Moroccan authorities later said the impact of illegal imports on Morocco’s economy also played a role in the decision.
In February 2019, the Director-General of the Moroccan Administration of Customs and Indirect Taxation, Nabyl Lakhdar, estimated the value of products illegally entering Morocco through the Ceuta border at MAD 6 billion ($621.2 million) to MAD 8 billion ($828.3 million) every year.
The smuggling operations cost Morocco between MAD 2 billion ($207.1 million) and MAD 3 billion ($310.6 million) in unpaid taxes yearly.
To offer job opportunities for Moroccan smugglers who lost their source of income, the Moroccan government is creating two economic zones. The first zone will be located in Fnideq, near Ceuta, while Nador, near Melilla, is set to host the second one.
The zones will install the necessary infrastructure for economic and social development in Morocco’s northern region, according to the Moroccan government.
In June, Spanish news agency EFE reported that the construction of the economic zones had already begun.