The Spanish breakthrough

Pedro Sánchez and Mohammed VI

The English word 'breakthrough' is an adjective derived from the lexical field of American football, which can be translated as the breaker, referring to a player who attacks with impetus and efficiency, breaking through the defensive line and approaching the end zone, thus changing the rhythm of the game. Hence the introduction of the word in international relations to indicate any new radical change. In fact, it is a real 'breakthrough' what Spain did through the letter of the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, addressed to King Mohammed VI, dated Monday 14 March, in which the Moroccan proposal for autonomy for the Sahara is supported as the most serious, credible and realistic basis for the resolution of this dispute. 

This change of stance on the Sahara issue is a turning point, considering the moral responsibility of Spain, which has a profound knowledge of the cause of this issue, given its colonial history in the region. This change should also be reflected in bilateral relations between Morocco and Spain, and this is what His Majesty King Mohammed VI revealed on 31 March in response to the Prime Minister's letter.  An important turning point given that Spain adopted a position of neutrality, which Rabat described as negative. For Spain used to open its doors to the Polisario, while its communities and political leaders welcomed it.  With the prime minister's letter, Spain has not only adopted a positive, but also a constructive position. This position must be translated through renewed thinking - which goes beyond the framework designed by the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement signed in Fez in 1979 between the late King Hassan II and King Juan Carlos - into the horizon of a strategic cooperation that goes beyond the issues of security, immigration and trade.   

So, whatever position we occupy, we are faced with the duty to adopt a new conception of these relations, or rather a new imaginary that breaks with what we have been preserving. The extreme right in Spain will not change its view of Morocco, nor will the extreme left. However, the view of Spain - as a single body - has changed through its political scenario, the core of its state and the different entities of civil society that compose it; rather, it has revealed what it was hiding, and that is the most important thing. 

Also, the first thing we will have to reconsider is the issue of Ceuta and Melilla, which will have to be thought of from a new angle - going beyond the territorial entity and sovereignty - taking into consideration the human and emotional aspects and mutual cooperation. Perhaps this was the objective of Hassan II's proposal when he invited the creation of a think tank.  And although the proposal was not even evaluated by Spain, this does not prevent us, as Moroccans, from thinking differently, taking into account Spain's strategic transformation of our country. A way of thinking that looks to the future rather than the past, that is bold and that could perhaps be a way of resolving an anachronistic situation regarding the islands that are a stone's throw from the Moroccan coast; these being, in principle, pressure cards that Spain held in relation to Ceuta and Melilla. 

Then, the situation of the Spanish language in Morocco will have to be rethought, or rather, it will have to be restored to its favourable position in both the north and south of the country, and flourish in the centre. For, knowing that French has replaced Spanish in the north, in Sidi ifni and in the south of the country, what danger would the teaching of Spanish pose to Moroccan national unity? In the United States of America, for example, some states use Spanish, as in the south, others use French, as in Louisiana, and in Philadelphia they use German. However, there is unanimity on the Constitution and the unity of the country forever.  

And finally, Spanish companies must be prioritised in order to motivate them to invest in the country, especially in the north and south.

Today we are faced with the obligation to formulate a new imaginary far removed from the jihad, the reconquest, and its consequences and derivations. At this point, I wonder: what would the broadcasting of a television series entitled 'The Conquest of Al-Andalus' on an official Moroccan channel during the month of Ramadan mean? An aberration that, in my opinion, does not fit in with the wishes and plans for the construction of a mutual future. Nor does it reassure Spaniards who, until recently, were shocked by terrorism, both in Madrid and Barcelona. For, the dissemination of such a series with this terminological charge of jihad and conquest goes completely against the plans that Morocco has designed for its relations with its northern neighbour, and which were declared at the highest levels; especially at the conclusive moments, when Madrid and Barcelona were subjected to terrorism in March 2004 and August 2018, respectively. Moreover, the dissemination of the aforementioned series is unfortunate, especially in the current times. It should be realised that one page is being turned in international relations and another is opening, a new stage that requires a new commitment in our relationship with Spain. Remember the Spanish strategists who, in the 19th century, thought back to Spain and Morocco as a single nation sharing history and geography. This description may be uncomfortable at first glance, but it reveals that the interests of our peoples are conditioned by the close relationship between the two countries.  This is how the Strait of Gibraltar will be a bond of union, not an isthmus that separates us. In other words, in the words of a former Spanish diplomat, Spain's relationship with Morocco is that of a marriage, while Morocco's relationship with France is that of a bride. For, no marriage is free of altercations; it is, however, more resilient to fluctuations. It is time to go home, the ball is in our court!

This article was published in the editorial of the Moroccan history magazine Zamane, April 2022, n°102.