Pegasus complicates the relationship with Morocco and the reopening of the borders of Ceuta and Melilla

Updated Sunday, May 8, 2022 –

Ceuta calls for the implementation of a commercial customs office and for the end of the Schengen exemption

The border crossing of Tarajal, in Ceuta.A. SEMPERE
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Two months after the letter that Pedro Sánchez sent to Mohamed VI in which he recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara, the land border crossings with Ceutaand Melilla they are still closed. This was one of the main issues to be resolved with Rabat, but neither the letter nor the subsequent visit by Sánchez to the Alau king seem to have succeeded. And now, the Pegasus crisis complicates the situation even more and jeopardizes the Government’s plan for detente with Morocco.

Initially, Morocco communicated to those responsible for the Interior that it had the intention of opening the border crossings on April 14, but it has been delayed and it is still unknown when it will take place. The last decree to extend the closure of the Spanish borders expires on May 15, a date that, however, does not agree with that of the Moroccan side, which moves it to May 31.

The truth is that the two countries have had differences for weeks about the reopening conditions. The main technical stumbling block at the moment is that Madrid, specifically the Ministry of Foreign Affairswants the resumption of passenger traffic between the two countries to be accompanied by the reopening of the Melilla commercial customs office, unilaterally closed by Morocco in 2018, and the creation of one in Ceuta.

The trade border at the ceut del Tarajal is an express request to the Government of Spain from the president of Ceuta, John Jesus Vivas, that Sánchez transferred to Mohamed VI on his trip to Rabat and to which the monarch had committed himself. The goods will also circulate normally, under a commercial dispatch regime through the respective customs posts, Sánchez explained in an appearance in Rabat.

But Vivas’ claim goes beyond the establishment of a commercial customs office. The president of Ceuta also defends the end of the exemption to the Schengen treaty as one of the solutions to mitigate the migratory pressure on the part of Moroccan citizens in the city. Indeed, including Ceuta within the free circulation of the EU would make the European border move to Tarajal and force Moroccan citizens to enter Ceuta by visa. Until the closure in 2020, people residing in the provinces of Tetum Y nador they did not need a visa to access the two autonomous cities.

Spanish sovereign

Morocco has always been opposed to ending this Schengen exception, since the entry of Ceuta and Melilla into free European movement would be an explicit recognition by Rabat of Spanish sovereignty over the cities. It will be necessary to see what happens after the turn of Spain with the Shara, but at the moment there is no movement in that sense.

Nor has there been an agreement yet on what will happen to the cross-border workers that Spain wanted to include in a first phase of return to normality and that Morocco has not fully accepted.

To all these technical problems, now the Pegasus crisis has been added, which implicates Morocco as the main suspect of having used the software espa According to well-informed sources, there could be a change of opinion in Rabat that jeopardizes the agreement on the imminent opening of the borders. The Foreign Minister himself, José Manuel Albares, has only recently promised that the borders will be opened in an orderly and gradual manner in the summer.

These sources confirm that the case of espionage with Pegasus on Pedro Snchez and the Defense Minister, produced in the days of the massive influx of people to Ceuta encouraged by Rabat and of which Morocco is suspicious – although the Government has been careful not to mention it expressly – has not gone down well in the neighboring country.

The first test of the new border relationship will surely occur in the Operation Crossing the Strait of this summer. An official familiar with the border reality consulted by this newspaper warns that the activation of the Operation should be subject to better controls. He believes that the situation in Ceuta should be comparable to that of the airport in decks in Madrid, and that the passengers of the vehicles are obliged to get off and be identified in order to cross into Spain, because, as he points out, security and control should prevail over the fluidity of the border. Canceling the Schengen exception may be the solution by reducing the traffic of people and vehicles that intend to enter Spanish territory.

The Undersecretary of the Interior, Isabel Goicoechea, and the director of Migration and Border Surveillance of Morocco, Khalid Zerouali, They presided over the meeting of the Spanish-Moroccan Mixed Commission on Thursday in Rabat. The devices to guarantee the development of Operation Crossing the Strait in 2022 will be similar to those established in 2019. According to Efe, Morocco would not prevent it from passing through Ceuta and Melilla.

A commercial traffic of 400 million

New conditions. The neighboring country does not plan to allow the indiscriminate entry of merchandise from the industrial estates to return to those near the passage of the border after the new border opening. Tarajalconsidered contraband by Morocco and called atypical trade by the Spanish side. From Monday to Thursday, between 10,000 and 15,000 people gathered on alternate days for men and women, who passed all kinds of products and belongings in bundles to the other side.

An “atypical” trade. The commercial traffic between Ceuta and Morocco generated more than 400 million euros per year. The passage of goods across the border constituted a surplus for the economy of both parties. Atypical trade left large incomes in Ceuta and Melilla. They were products bought in Spain by merchants from the northern provinces of Morocco who took advantage of the lack of fiscal control of the border crossing to avoid Moroccan import duties. Today, the four commercial estates located on the border of Ceuta are ghost spaces where many stores have hung the sign for sale or for rent.


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