Rabat – Eduardo de Castro, President of the Spanish enclave of Melilla Government hopes for the reopening of borders with Morocco by 2022.
In a Christmas speech, Castro said he is optimistic about relations with Morocco, saying he trusts that “there is clear will for close cooperation.”
He acknowledged, however, that there are still some aspects that need “improvement.”
The Spanish official recalled the migration crisis, citing the mass migration entry that took place in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in May. Castro said the border crisis that took place in Ceuta “shook” the city.
He also cited the economic crisis that hit Ceuta and Melilla after Morocco closed its borders with the two Spanish enclaves.
He expressed his wishes that the border between the enclave of Melilla and Morocco return to normal next year.
“The good relations that must always exist between neighboring countries will be restored,” he commented.
Both Spanish and Moroccan authorities have been restricting travel between the North African country and the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla due to COVID-19 crisis.
However, Morocco closed the borders with the enclaves months before COVID-19 to fight illicit smuggling.
Residents of northern Morocco’s regions close to the two enclaves have faced immense economic hardships due to the border closures, in addition to constant reports of locals suffering at the hands of drug smugglers on both sides of the border.
Moroccan customs have explained that it has been receiving complaints from trade operators in Morocco due to “unfair competitions” caused by products from Ceuta and Meilla.
It remains to be seen whether the Spanish and Moroccan government will achieve a settlement regarding the situation of the North African enclaves amid attempts to restore normal diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The move angered Morocco, which saw Spani’s sheltering of the Polisario leader as being against the principle of cooperation and partnership.
In recent months, both countries acknowledged positive signs that cooperation and relations are good between the two countries.
But it still remains to be seen whether the positive signs seen in recent weeks will ultimately prevail despite reports of lingering tensions over unsettled territorial disputes.