Morocco still seems not to abide by the commitment made with Spain to "avoid everything that offends the other party, especially in what affects the respective spheres of sovereignty", as announced on February 2 in Rabat by the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, referring to Western Sahara, on the one hand, and Ceuta and Melilla. of another. The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has presented a diplomatic censure last week against the vice president of the European Commission responsible for immigration, Margaritis Schinas, for having repeatedly defended that the two autonomous North African cities are Spanish and European Union borders. In the annex of the note verbale of protest transferred by Moroccan diplomacy to the Delegation (Embassy) of the EU in Rabat, to which EL PAÍS has had access, a dozen "hostile statements" of Schinas about Morocco and "the Moroccan cities of Ceuta and Melilla" are collected.
Marred by the delay in the opening of commercial customs at common land borders, the High-Level Meeting, in which the governments of Madrid and Rabat formalized their reunion three months ago in the Moroccan capital, sees how the key issue of sovereignty is again called into question. In the European Union it has drawn attention, with a mixture of "surprise and discomfort", that Morocco has presented the note verbale in the EU Delegation in Rabat against Schinas two years after it first pronounced on the Spanishness of Ceuta and Melilla. It happened shortly after more than 10,000 people stormed Spain across the Tarajal border in Ceuta, amid the passivity of Moroccan authorities.
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"It seems as if Morocco has woken up after two years. Since then he had not said anything [about Schinas' statements]," they add. On the 11th, the vice president of the EU reiterated his well-known criteria on the Spanishness of Ceuta and Melilla in a forum in Brussels. "It's very rare. They now present a repertoire of statements from the past two years, as if they had been closely following their activities. Why at this time?" asks the source.
In the note verbale, addressed on the 17th to the EU Delegation in Rabat by the European Union Directorate of the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "deep concern is expressed about the hostile statements" of Schinas towards Morocco at the European Security and Defense Summit held in Brussels on the 11th of the same month, and a "categorical rejection" of such statements.
Morocco alleges that in that forum the Vice-President of the Commission referred to "the hybrid threat" posed by the use of immigrants as a "weapon". "It was first produced on the Greek-Turkish border of Evros in 2020 (...) and a few months later in the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa," Schinas explained in the course of an interview lasting more than 25 minutes. "Around us there are forces, regimes, leaders ... authoritarian elements that will not hesitate to use human suffering and people as pawns of political operations to harm us," he argued.
The tone of Rabat's complaint, as interpreted in the European Union, has not been seen as very diplomatic. "If you intend to pass on a message of this type, it is not done with a note verbale sent to the EU Delegation in Morocco, which is not at all common," say those familiar with Brussels' diplomatic practices. "It is not the behavior that is expected, of respect and subtlety, of a country that receives great aid with whom it gives it," emphasize the same sources, who transfer that many officials in Brussels have disliked Morocco's complaint about Schinas. Waiting for an eventual official reaction, it is considered, since it is not an elegant way of communicating. "That's not how you work," they conclude.
"Moroccan cities of Ceuta and Melilla"
The Rabat diplomacy attached to the note verbale a detailed annex entitled "main hostile statements of Margaritis Schinas (...) about our country and the Moroccan cities of Ceuta and Melilla since May 2021". Morocco assures that it has repeatedly expressed its opposition to previous similar statements by the Vice-President of the Commission, also responsible for the promotion of the European way of life, through different channels. The Moroccan Foreign Ministry also calls for "putting a definitive end to the line (of statements) maintained" by Schinas "to preserve the serenity of cooperation [with the EU] and its harmonious deployment."
His three tweets cited in the report provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the EU Delegation in Morocco refer in particular to Ceuta or Sebta (the Arabic version of the North African autonomous city) as Spanish and Union borders. Be it in a European forum in Seville; in interviews with Spanish media, such as the newspaper Abc or the Efe agency; Italians, such as Avvenire, or French, such as Le Figaro, Moroccan diplomatic observers have been attentive when reviewing Schinas' successive statements.
Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission, last February in Brussels.delmi álvarez
Morocco complains that, over the past two years, the vice-president of Greek origin has reiterated again and again that Ceuta and Melilla are Spanish and European borders. He also censures that he has defended the same idea in the plenary of the European Parliament. And he questions that he has warned in RNE that "Europe will not be intimidated". "In recent months, we have seen attempts by third countries to instrumentalize migration. Let us make it very clear that no one can blackmail the EU. We are too strong to be victims of such tactics which are not acceptable in today's Europe. Ceuta is a European border and what happens there is not a problem only for Madrid, but it is a problem for all [the 27]," he told Spanish public radio.
He said this on May 19, 2021, when more than 10,000 people, including hundreds of minors, had just broken into Spain amid the tolerance of the Moroccan authorities. The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, then conveyed her support for Spain in a tweet published in Spanish: "Europe expresses its solidarity with Ceuta and Spain."
The Commissioner for the Interior, Ylva Johansson, added more specifically that "Spanish borders are European borders", and demanded that Rabat fulfill its commitment to control irregular departures and accept the return of people who have left Morocco in this way. Charles Michel, president of the European Council, the body that represents the Twenty-seven, finally riveted in a tweet in Spanish the European position: "The borders of Spain are the borders of the European Union."
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