The Spanish president will also assume the rotating Presidency of the European Union in the second half of the year.
The international agenda for 2023 of the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, will include various points of contention, including the relations with Morocco and Algeria, marked by Madrid’s position on Western Sahara. In addition, on July 1 he will assume the rotating Presidency of the European Union.
According to the Spanish Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares, a summit between senior officials of the Governments of Spain and Morocco could be held in the last week of January or the first week of February, although the date has not yet been defined. Before that meeting, Spain will reopen the customs office in Melilla and inaugurate one in Ceuta, reports Europa Press.
The recovery of relations between Spain and Morocco began after Sanchez sent a letter to King Mohamed VI in which he stated that the Moroccan plan to convert Western Sahara —a former Spanish colony that according to the UN has been pending decolonization since 1975— into one of its provinces is the “most serious, credible and realistic” for the resolution of the conflict.
After that letter, Sanchez and the King of Morocco held a meeting on April 7 at the Royal Palace of Rabat, in which they agreed to work on the implementation of a roadmap for the “construction of a new stage in their relationship bilateral”. Within this framework, they also decided to move towards a High Level Meeting, which would be the first since 2015.
The beginning of the crisis
The diplomatic crisis between the two countries originated after the reception that Spain offered to the leader of the Polisario Front, as the national liberation movement of Western Sahara is known, Brahim Gali, who later, after Sanchez’s change of position, stated that Madrid “has pending accounts that one day it will have to pay”.
“What is behind that decision? The second betrayal after 1975,” said the leader of the Polisario Front, adding that it is a “pure and hard betrayal.” “We have followed Sanchez’s argument and it does not convince anyone. They are ways of misrepresenting reality,” said Gali.
For this reason, the Front decided to break its link with Spain due to its support for Morocco’s plan to “legitimize the forcible annexation of territories of Western Sahara.”
The Algerian question
The change in Spanish position on Western Sahara generated another crisis that still needs to be resolved. It concerns Algeria’s decision to interrupt the 2002 Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighborhood and Cooperation after considering “unjustifiable” the rapprochement of Madrid with Morocco. The measure was also accompanied by a limitation on the shipment of gas to Spain and the reduction of commercial activities.
Faced with this situation, Sanchez stated that he would “love” to travel to Algiers, the Algerian capital, to unlock the crisis and rebuild the relationship.
Leading the European Union
On July 1, Spain will succeed Sweden as the rotating Presidency of the European block, in such a way that Sanchez will have to preside over the two Councils that will be held in October and December in Brussels, Belgium.
It also plans a summit between the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), to be held in Brussels next July.