Reopening of Customs as Morocco and Spain Relations Improve

The diplomatic relations between Morocco and Spain is set for a significant shift as the two nations prepare to relaunch commercial customs operations with Ceuta and Melilla. Moroccan Ambassador to Spain, Karima Benyaich, has announced the kingdom will soon recommence these customs activities, marking a crucial step forward following a roadmap established by both countries. According to news reports, reopening of Customs as Morocco and Spain Relations Improve is part of a roadmap, initiated in March 2022, came into being after Spain expressed its support for Morocco’s autonomy plan regarding the Sahara issue. It has since become a cornerstone in fortifying the bilateral ties between Morocco and Spain.

This roadmap delineates the political trajectory to be pursued by both nations. A significant milestone was reached during a meeting in Rabat in February 2023, where pivotal agreements spanning economics, politics, social affairs, culture, and education were solidified, underscoring the positive synergy between Morocco and Spain.

Despite encountering technical hurdles that caused delays in the reopening of commercial crossings, Morocco appears poised for the imminent resumption of customs operations with Ceuta and Melilla, as affirmed by Ambassador Benyaich. While exact dates for the reopening remain unspecified, Morocco expresses confidence in resolving these technical challenges promptly.

Ambassador Benyaich highlighted the disappearance of goods smuggling and the informal economy following the resolution of the diplomatic crisis between the two nations. She emphasized the mutual responsibility of Morocco and Spain to prevent such occurrences, underlining the commitment to implement decisions effectively in accordance with the roadmap.

Diplomatic sources reveal that a committee has been diligently addressing obstacles hindering pilot tests aimed at reopening the border crossings, showcasing the efficacy of ongoing bilateral coordination. Technical assessments are slated to gauge the effectiveness of reforms implemented by the committee.

In recent months, trial runs have been conducted to resume customs activities, focusing on the passage of hygiene products and industrial oils.

The suspension of commercial customs with Ceuta and Melilla in 2018 was a response from Morocco to combat the smuggling of illicit goods into its territory from these enclaves, precipitating a significant bilateral crisis. Moroccan authorities estimated substantial economic losses due to such activities, prompting the call for a lasting solution to curb smuggling at the borders.

However, the crackdown on smuggling has also impacted Moroccans residing in northern cities such as Tetouan, Fnideq, and Nador, who relied on these enclaves for access to Spanish products, sustaining their livelihoods through informal trade.

Despite historical tensions, Morocco and Spain share multifaceted diplomatic, commercial, and military relations, with recent years witnessing concerted efforts to deepen cooperation. Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares lauded the burgeoning ties between the two nations in March 2023, emphasizing the paramount importance of the relationship with Morocco in Spain’s foreign and state policies. Tensions between Morocco and Spain including, the European Union (EU) regarding the Sahara issue have added another layer of complexity to their relationship. Morocco has long criticized the Spain and EU’s stance on the Sahara, particularly its support for self-determination in the region.

Amidst the efforts to strengthen ties, lingering issues between Morocco and Spain cast a shadow over their relationship. Disputes over territories like the Sahara and the sovereignty of Ceuta and Melilla have historically strained diplomatic relations. Additionally, sporadic tensions over migration and trade have surfaced, complicating efforts to foster deeper cooperation. Despite these challenges, both nations remain committed to dialogue and diplomacy in resolving their differences and advancing mutual interests.

He underscored Morocco’s pivotal role in combating terrorism, dismantling extremist networks, managing irregular migration, and its substantial economic contributions to Spain. As both countries navigate the complexities of their shared history and current challenges, the prospect of enhanced collaboration looms large on the horizon, promising mutual prosperity and stability.