The Spanish and Moroccan Foreign Ministers held a meeting on the afternoon of Tuesday 21, after which they announced a total normalisation of the "transit of goods and people by land". The opening is scheduled for January 2023, as well as a high-level meeting planned for the end of November.
Although neither Bourita nor Albares openly mentioned Ceuta and Melilla in their speech to the media, the fact that they speak of land borders indicates that they are referring to the passage through the two Spanish autonomous cities in North Africa. The establishment of customs in these two cities is a point of the joint declaration of April 2022, which both governments have committed to progressively implement.
La reapertura de la Aduana Comercial entre España y Marruecos en Melilla y Ceuta, tal y como ha anunciado hoy el Ministro Albares, se producirá de manera ordenada y gradual en enero.— Sabrina Moh /❤️ (@sabrinamohh) September 21, 2022
Una vez más, el Gobierno del Presidente @sanchezcastejon, cumple 🌹#GobernamosContigo 🇪🇸
From Melilla, the Government delegate in the autonomous city, Sabrina Moh, praised the statements made by the two ministers and confirmed through a publication on the social network Twitter that Albares and Bourita referred to Ceuta and Melilla.
Before its closure in 2018, by Morocco's unilateral decision, the customs post of Beni Enzar in Melilla allowed the administration to collect 40 million euros a year in taxes on the movement of goods. These are the figures that Enrique Alcoba, president of the Melilla employers' association, gave to Atalayar last June. Alcoba also estimated irregular pre-pandemic trade (without customs) at another 60 million euros.
The Melilla employers' association has already expressed on several occasions its desire to see a commercial customs office with Morocco prosper. From Ceuta, the secretary general of the Ceuta Chamber of Commerce, Joaquin Molinedo, expressed similar wishes to those of his Melilla counterparts. Unlike Melilla, Ceuta has never had a border customs post with Morocco.
Sources quoted by the local newspaper El Faro de Ceuta claim that the Spanish government has already taken steps to ensure that the Tarajal border post is equipped with the minimum infrastructure necessary for the operation of a commercial customs office with Morocco.
The businessmen of the two autonomous cities are anxious for this customs office to be set up so that the transit of goods can be fully regulated by the Spanish and Moroccan authorities. Along with an extension of the special tax regime for Ceuta and Melilla within a European Union framework, the priority for this sector is to put an end to the strangling situation suffered by the two Spanish cities in North Africa.
According to the ministers' statements, the opening of the customs posts will be "progressive", in the same way as the resumption of the transit of people on the land routes linking Spain and Morocco.
Albares stressed during his speech to the media that the new stage in relations between Spain and Morocco, which was consecrated in March 2022 with the preference shown by the Sánchez government towards the Moroccan solution to the Sahara conflict, has led to a 30% increase in Spanish exports to Morocco. Sales are expected to reach 6 billion dollars. In addition to trade, Albares also welcomes better cooperation on the control of irregular immigration.