Conservative Spanish make themselves heard in the wake of El Othmani’s comments on Ceuta and Melilla.
Agadir – A recent study by SocioMetrica has found that 73% of Spanish citizens believe that the country should be “more forceful” in its defense of Ceuta and Melilla against Morocco.
According to the survey, 63% of Spaniards said that Morocco is a threat to Spain’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Only the voters of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and Podemos expressed a mixed or even favourable stance towards Morocco. The voters of the more conservative parties expressed a generally aggressive stance against Morocco.
The survey poised two questions. One was “Should Spain be more forceful in the defense of Ceuta and Melilla against Morocco?” 73.1% of those surveyed answered yes, 18.9% answered negatively, and 8.1% were undecided.
The other question was “Do you think that Morocco represents a threat to the sovereignty of Spain in Ceuta and Melila?” 63.1% of respondents answered yes, 30.6% answered no, and 6,3% answered that they “do not know.”
The confrontation over Ceuta and Melilla has garnered a lot of coverage on both Spanish and Moroccan media.
The survey’s findings come across as a direct response to Moroccan Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani’s recent comments on the status of Ceuta and Melilla.
“Ceuta and Melilla are among the points on which it is necessary to open discussion… This file has been suspended for five to six centuries, but it will be reopened one day,” El Othmani said in an interview Saudi television channel Al Sharq.
In response, Spain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Cristina Gallach said that “Spain expects all its partners to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country,” according to a press release.
Meanwhile, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister of Spain Carmen Calvo insisted “there is no issue” to discuss with Morocco. “Ceuta and Melilla are Spanish,” she said.
SocioMetrica’s survey comes amid simmering tensions between Madrid and Rabat. In recent weeks, the two countries, which until recently referred to their relationship as “excellent” and “essential,” have shown signs of fundamental disagreements on sensitive, strategic topics.
Observers have identified recent developments in Western Sahara, news of increased cooperation between post-Brexit Britain and Morocco, and the longstanding contention over the status of Ceuta and Melilla as the main sources of the growing Rabat-Madrid rift.
On Western Sahara, Morocco has notably — though in its traditional diplomatic, behind-the-curtain manner — voiced its discontent with Spain’s equivocal, and at times hostile, stance on the decades-long conflict.
In Madrid, meanwhile, two rumored developments appear to have raised eyebrows among Spanish officials and commentators.
One is the reported US plan to move its naval base from Rota, Spain, to Tan-Tan, southwestern Morocco. The other is the rumored resurgence of interest in a planned tunnel connecting Gibraltar with Tangiers.
Morocco has strongly denied the first report, whereas the second remains an unconfirmed rumor making the rounds in the media. Despite the lack of evidence corroborating either story, conservative Spanish outlets like El-Espanyal — which reported on the SocioMetric survey — have been quick to fire at Morocco.
While the past weeks have been marked by tensions between Morocco and Spain, the two countries have largely played down their disagreements, resorting to their usual approach of defusing and appeasing until they reach a more amicable denouement.
In defiance of official Spain’s position, however, conservative politicians, newspapers, and political commentators routinely lampoon Morocco, which they are eager to present as an “existential” threat to a number of Spanish interests.
As the media and marginal — but vociferous — political quarters add fuel to a feud that both Morocco and Spain are more inclined to defuse than exacerbate, it remains to be seen how Rabat and Madrid will respond to the souring political climate.