16th July 2024
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Spain, Morocco sign 20 agreements on migration, investment, energy & education

The governments of Spain and Morocco have signed around 20 agreements to boost Spanish investments in everything from renewable energy to education, as well as doubling Spanish state support for firms setting up projects in Morocco.

The agreements also deal with better management of migration. They include an €800 million package to encourage investment by Spanish firms in Morocco, as well as several deals for education and job training

The first ‘high-level meeting’ of its kind since 2015 involved 11 Spanish ministers and 13 from the Moroccan government, and also produced an agreement to open customs offices on the border crossings at Spain’s North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

The wide-ranging meetings were also aimed at turning the page on diplomatic tensions linked to the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco is an ally to Western powers in fighting extremism and important in aiding EU migration policies, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez applauded what he described as a trust-building step at the signing ceremony in Rabat.

The borders of Ceuta and Melilla are often sites of tragedy for Africans who try on occasion to storm the fences in hopes of continuing on to continental Europe. The border policing methods of both Spain and Morocco fell under intense scrutiny after the death of at least 23 African men, many reportedly refugees from Sudan, when they stormed a border fence at Melilla last year. ALSO READ: Amnesty slams Spain & Morocco for ‘multiple human rights violations, a cover-up & racism’.

Morocco has reaped economic benefits from the EU in exchange for curbing irregular immigration to Spain. But Morocco’s efforts have failed to fully stop thousands of people, including young Moroccans looking for a better future in Europe, from attempting a dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean or a perilous Atlantic journey to the Canary Islands.

Moroccans make up the single largest foreign community in Spain, with 800,000 residents; Spain is the largest foreign investor in Morocco, making economic cooperation a top priority for the Moroccan government.

The Spanish government’s visit is seen as an effort to get something tangible in return for diplomatic efforts to mend ties with Morocco after a flare-up in tensions over the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1975.

The diplomatic crisis had begun over a year ago, when Madrid allowed Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front which seeks independence for the territory of Western Sahara, to be treated for Covid in a Spanish hospital.

Morocco, which accuses Ghali of war crimes, sees the Western Sahara as an integral part of the kingdom and a highly sensitive issue of security and national pride.

Sánchez then took the controversial decision to throw Spain’s backing behind Morocco’s vision for the future of the territory — more autonomy but remaining firmly under Moroccan control — to smooth over tensions. That then angered Algeria, a major natural gas supplier to Spain and backer of the Polisario Front movement. 

Sánchez insisted on Thursday in Rabat on the importance of improved paths of communications between governments with the intention of avoiding ‘unilateral actions, and never leaving out any topic regardless of its complexity’.

‘We are establishing the basis for the type of relations between Spain and Morocco for the present and the future … based on mutual trust,’ he said.

Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch praised the ‘renewed dynamism of our relations’. He also thanked Spain for its support of its proposal for Western Sahara.

ALSO READ: Pedro Sánchez visits Morocco to mark ‘new stage’ after Western Sahara reversal.

Pedro Sánchez with Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch
Pedro Sánchez with Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch. (Pool Moncloa/ Fernando Calvo)

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