Spanish newspaper El Espanol Thursday released a new and damning report about Morocco’s plans for the Spanish enclaves in its northern provinces. The article claims that King Mohammed VI aims to empty Ceuta and Melilla by luring Jewish business owners out of the cities in order to hijack the economy.
The June 18 article quotes a Jewish businessman under the condition of anonymity. The shoe export entrepreneur alleges that he received a phone call on Friday, June 21, from a Moroccan switchboard.
During the course of the telephone call, the businessman claims a representative from the Moroccan Royal household told him that if he chose to move his business to the Moroccan side of the border, he would be “completely free to make an investment” and would benefit from “bonuses within the Moroccan taxes, which are also lower than the Spanish ones; and management assistance in opening and infrastructure.”
The Royal representative also allegedly offered to facilitate exports to other African states as part of the bargain.
According to El Espanol, the Royal agent explained that the plan entails “implementing a commercial customs office that would supply the northern area of the Rif and thus strengthen the business environment of Beni Ensar to relaunch the port areas.”
The newspaper alleges that the Moroccan leadership also contacted business owners with Moroccan origins. The plan, according to El Espanol, is to force Spanish-owned businesses in Ceuta and Melilla to close by setting up an economic hub in direct competition on the other side of the border.
The report “confirms” that Andre Azoulay, long-term adviser to King Mohammed VI, is behind the phone calls and that the plan aims to meet both an economic and cultural vision. According to El Espanol, Azoulay and King Mohammed VI are targeting Jewish business owners as part of a wider plan to preserve the Jewish community in Morocco.
As part of the plan, El Espanol writes that Morocco has also targeted Jewish business owners in Gibraltar, offering them the same terms.
Read also: Spain, Gibraltar, and UK: What Negotiations Mean for Morocco
Vox and El Espanol
The right-wing newspaper’s claims come after Spain’s far-right political party Vox called on Spain’s coalition government to “stop Morocco from annexing” Ceuta and Melilla.
On June 10, the Vox delegate for Ceuta said: “We demand that the government clarify whether it plans to give into pressure from Morocco and allow Ceuta and Melilla to become an annex of the neighboring country.”
In an official statement, Vox cited a previous report from El Espanol. In a May 31 article, the newspaper outlined claims that Morocco intends to implement border restrictions after the COVID-19 lockdown.
According to the report, when the borders reopen, Moroccans and tourists alike will have to pass into the enclave through passport control and will not be able to use Moroccan ID cards or cross the border without a passport stamp.
Anyone entering the cities carrying merchandise will have to declare the imports and pay the necessary tariffs. Export and import will be regularized, meaning that the queues of people carrying goods on their backs at the borders will become a thing of the past.
“The merchandise will have to arrive in Morocco from the peninsula,” wrote El Espanol, quoting “Moroccan sources.”
El Espanol emphasized that, as yet, there has been no confirmation of these plans. “We have no evidence that Morocco is going to end porting in the city,” sources within the Ceuta and Melilla administrations told the newspaper.
The report then claimed that if Spain does not agree to the proposed measures, “Morocco will completely close the borders.”
Ceuta and Melilla have been struggling economically since Morocco imposed stricter border regulations in order to clamp down on the informal economy. Smuggling between the enclaves and northern Morocco was causing severe damage to the Moroccan economy through a hemorrhage of tax revenue.
Since the implementation of border restrictions, it has become clear that Melilla and Ceuta need to develop a new, regulated economic model in order to rescue their struggling economies.
Read also: El Espanol: Morocco Exploits COVID-19 to Cut Off Ceuta, Melilla
Vox has also accused Morocco of laying siege to Ceuta. In May, Vox senator Yolanda Merelo accused Madrid of abandoning the enclave, asking when the coalition government intends to intervene “in the siege of Ceuta.”
Merelo called on the coalition to outline how they intend to “alleviate the suffocation that Ceuta is suffering and by which trade and tourism are being damaged.”
She lashed out at Morocco, accusing the country of “violating good neighborly relations.”
The government, led by Pedro Sanchez, responded to the Vox accusations in measured and calm tones. Madrid, the central government said, is well aware of the economic troubles facing Ceuta and is collecting information to formulate a route plan for the city.
The coalition government also emphasized that “bilateral relations between Spain and Morocco are based on dialogue, respect, and mutual understanding.”
“This constant dialogue, at all levels, between two strategic partners serves to resolve possible existing disputes, without having to resort to other measures such as protest, retaliation, or countermeasures,” the government underlined.
“It is hoped that within the framework of the excellent relations that are maintained with Morocco, it will be possible to agree on the best way to address this issue for the benefit of the Autonomous Cities of Ceuta, Melilla and the rest of Spain.”
While the government in Madrid is taking a pragmatic, action-based approach to the crisis facing Ceuta and Melilla through dialogue with Morocco, Vox and the governments in the two cities have chosen a more bellicose route.
Rather than focusing on developing a new and regularized economic model for the two enclaves, the right-wing governments in the two cities appear to be expending their energy on second-guessing Rabat and paranoid tantrums over newspaper reports.
Read also: Vox: Madrid Must Stop Morocco From Annexing Ceuta, Melilla