Relations between Spain and Morocco have had ups and downs over the past two years. So far, the situation seems to have stabilized with Spain’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara, which has reduced migratory pressure to Ceuta, Melilla and the Canary Islands, the meeting between the Spanish President and the King of Morocco. in April, and meetings between. the ministers of the two countries.
However, the situation may change due to unique issues. One of these is negotiations aimed at fixing the maritime median between the Moroccan and Canary coasts. The waters to negotiate, west of Morocco and the Canary Islands, have a subsoil filled with tellurium, cobalt and other rare minerals needed by the modern economy. Anyone with control of these waters is likely to profit from their exploitation, so both parties are likely to seek to control them. The conflict in Western Sahara threatens to cover up the negotiations. Even if Spain recognizes Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara – thus recognizing sovereignty over its waters – it is not a position shared by the EU, as seen last year when it was annulled by the European Court of Justice ( ECJ) the EU-Morocco fisheries agreements because they cover Western Sahara. The Polisario Front could take the negotiations between Spain and Morocco to the ECJ if it considers that the water at stake is Sahrawi and not Moroccan. A decision by the ECJ in favor of Sahrawi’s position will certainly end negotiations, as Morocco will not accept that the Polisario Front has anything to say in a territory it considers its own.
The maritime area to negotiate is located west of the Canary Islands, with an extension of 350 miles. Of this 350 miles, there is an area 200 miles to the southwest where the territorial waters of Morocco and the Canary Islands overlap. Within this 200 mile area is Mount Tropic, a mountain in the sea with large deposits of tellurium and cobalt. These two minerals are essential for the manufacture of solar panels and batteries for electric cars, two fundamental elements of the modern economy. Therefore, whoever controls his waters will definitely profit from getting these two elements from his land, which will bring him economic benefit. So it is likely that at the start of the water negotiations, the two countries will compete for control of Mount Tropic, which will lead to friction. If Morocco sees danger of losing control of Mont Tropique, it is likely to launch a national law to increase the waters surrounding the mountain, claiming they own it. Such a move was already made in early 2020, but the Alawite country finally backed off when it became known that its approach lacked the support of the international community. However, the growing international community’s recognition of Morocco’s position in the Sahara has strengthened Rabat’s ability to make unilateral decisions within the framework of negotiations if it fails to achieve its objectives. . In this regard, the Spanish government’s decision to support the Moroccan position could serve Morocco to increase Mont Tropique in the same way it tried to do in 2020.
The Saharawi conflict could arise when negotiations between Spain and Morocco begin. Although in the eyes of some and others, the waters to negotiate were considered Moroccan or Spanish, for a large part of the international community, they were still Sahrawi, which would oblige the Polisario Front to be involved in the negotiations. , which is unacceptable for Morocco. In this regard, the ECJ’s decision to suspend EU -Morocco fisheries agreements because they include Western Sahara – which is not considered Moroccan – could play a significant role in hindering negotiations, especially if the Polisario decides to bring them before the ECJ an examination of their legality. The ECJ’s decision in favor of Polisario’s thesis will inevitably lead to the cessation of negotiations, which could damage relations between Spain and Morocco. The deterioration of Spanish-Moroccan relations will lead to increased migration to Ceuta, Melilla and the Canary Islands, which will provoke mistrust on both sides, who will accuse each other of deteriorating relations.
In conclusion, Even if relations between Spain and Morocco are at a good point after last year’s crisis, there are outstanding issues that could condition the relationship for better or worse. One of these issues is negotiations aimed at improving the maritime median of waters located west of the Canary Islands and Morocco. These waters – especially Mount Tropic – are rich in tellurium and cobalt, and anyone who controls them can gain an economic advantage from exploiting them. Morocco is likely to resort to national waters annexation laws if it fails to win mineral water control negotiations, as happened in 2020. International recognition of its position in Western Sahara gives Morocco has more energy to test it now than in 2020. The Saharawi conflict could play a role in the negotiations. The Polisario Front may request that its voice be heard in negotiations on waters it considers its own. At this stage, the ECJ’s decision to suspend fisheries agreements between Morocco and the EU because they include Western Sahara could complicate negotiations, as both parties are obliged to include Polisario, which is not acceptable in Morocco. . This could lead to a deterioration in relations between Spain and Morocco which could lead to increased migration to Ceuta, Melilla and the Canary Islands, which could increase tension between the two parties.
We need to see how the negotiations go when they start to figure out whether this question would weaken Spanish-Moroccan relations.