Casablanca, Morocco (ADV) – When one leaves Morocco and crosses the border to enter the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, one immediately has the feeling of having entered a calm and prosperous European city. But it is only prosperity of facade.
The contemporary Ceuta is now known not for its past prison, but for its status of “open air prison” for those trying to reach Europe from Africa.
Militarization of the border, excesses and burrows of Spanish border guards during the assaults of Sub-Saharan African migrants of the border barriers, but also racial hatred against African populations in the enclave: reasons for conflicts related to forced mobility of Africans are not lacking, but also one can adds up diplomatic tensions over Morocco’s right to be given back these stolen cities.
Indeed, since its independence, Morocco has always considered Ceuta and Melilla as an integral part of its territory and refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Spanish government. The population of Moroccan descents living in these cities enjoys within Morocco the exact same rights as their fellow Moroccan brothers.
Since 1961, supported by many Arab countries as well as by the USSR, Morocco raised its demands regarding the cities of Ceuta and Melilla before the UN General Assembly.
Tension between the two countries reached its peak in July 2002, during the most serious bilateral crisis in decades: Morocco decided to readmit to its motherland the islet of Perejil, a small uninhabited rock located west of Ceuta, provoking a response, ten days later of Spanish forces who occupied it back. This episode then required the intervention of American diplomacy to find a rapid solution to the crisis.
Faced with these incessant demands on the part of Morocco, the Spanish population of Ceuta and Melilla feels anxious that they might have to leave one day at any time. This is the reason why the successive heads of government in Madrid have carefully avoided any official trip to these occupied cities. King Juan Carlos broke this unwritten law in 2007 by carrying out a controversial state visit to both cities, during which he affirmed his political will to permanently anchor Ceuta and Melilla in the national territory.
Former Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, in a parliamentary session in Rabat, quickly responded: “Spain must understand that the time of colonialism is irrevocably over.”
“Ceuta and Melilla are an integral part of the Moroccan national territory and their recovery will be through direct negotiations as was the case for Tarfaya, Sidi Ifni and the Moroccan Sahara,” he said.
The former Moroccan prime minister, leader of the Istiqlal nationalist party, who has always called for “work to recover all Moroccan territories, including Ceuta and Melilla”, said that Juan Carlos’ visit, to Ceuta, was “of such a nature as to affect relations between the two countries and on security and stability in the Mediterranean region”.
According to Salahdine Mezouar, the former Moroccan minister of foreign affairs and cooperation in 2013, in an interview with the Spanish daily EXPANSIÓN, “The only thing that cannot be changed is geography. These are two Moroccan cities. We are convinced that the intelligence of the two countries and the strategic interests between the European Union and Morocco will help find solutions that take into account the historical legitimacy of Morocco. But in all historical conflicts, there is always a solution. These are two Moroccan cities, they are in Morocco, Spain knows it and the Spaniards know it…”
“These are two Moroccan cities that depend on another country and that Morocco must recover. It makes sense, the Arab world spent seven centuries in Andalusia, but it did not stay, it came out, “he added.
Morocco, supported by the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), continues to claim its right for restitution of these two enclaves, considered an integral part of the Kingdom’s territory (just as Spain claims Gibraltar from Great Britain). The African Union (AU) recognizes that these two provinces are occupied by a foreign power and the OIC does not hesitate to involve a religious dimension in the claim of the enclaves.
According to Madrid, Gibraltar should be decolonized by respecting “the principle of territorial integrity” and not that of self-determination.
And then, would not it be time for the Spaniards – who rightly claim their sovereignty over Gibraltar – to do the same with their “possessions”, their colonies in Moroccan territory? And to return to Morocco the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, points of passage of a massive African immigration since Ceuta and Melilla are de facto European territories as well.
A little reminder to refresh the memory of Spanish diplomacy: there was a time when King Juan Carlos told the British Ambassador in Madrid, Sir Richard Parsons, that it was not in Spain’s interest to recover Gibraltar in the near future … because King Hassan II will immediately reactivate his claim on Ceuta and Melilla. “
This “royal confession” in Madrid, dated July 1983, on the occasion of the 76th birthday of Juan Carlos, and he was still on the throne.
“The Spaniards liked to say that Ceuta and Melilla were not comparable to the case of Gibraltar, that it was two cities part of Spain,” said Sir Parsons, adding: “Of course, it is nonsense; it is a very comparable situation.”
Let us leave national sensitivities and emotional justifications on one side: the sovereignty of European countries must end territorially in Europe. And today’s Spain, which has removed the imperial eagle from its official shield, must liberate these two African cities which it holds. Only Spanish ultranationalists, with obvious pride, would eventually want to shed the last drop of blood through foreign territories that Spain will have to return sooner or later.
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