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Spain postpones the reopening of the border crossings at Ceuta and Melilla by 15 days

Madrid and Rabat maintain their differences in tackling the "full normalisation" of borders outlined in the April joint statement
Frontera Ceuta

AFP/FADEL SENNA  -   File photo of the border between the Moroccan town of Fnideq and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta

The Spanish government has postponed the reopening of the land borders of the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla with Morocco for 15 days, two weeks in which the government hopes to shore up a minimum agreement accepted by the Moroccan authorities that guarantees the proper movement of people and goods. A commitment made by the parties in April during the visit to Rabat by the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez.

The period of the extension will be "only 15 days while the conditions for the orderly and progressive reopening of the land posts are being finalised", contains the order issued by the Ministry of the Interior, published on Saturday morning in the Official State Gazette (BOE). However, "without prejudice to its possible modification to respond to a change of circumstances", in the event of a prior agreement.

Point three of the joint declaration made by Spain and Morocco assured the full normalisation of border crossings "in an orderly manner, including the appropriate customs and people control devices on land and at sea". A pact which, if fulfilled, would put an end to the closure decreed two years ago as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and extended in 2021 by Morocco, which cited the same reasons in a context of diplomatic crisis.

The reopening of the borders was scheduled for 30 April. However, the Interior Ministry said that some details and "exact mechanisms" of the agreement still need to be "finalised", so the process will have to wait at least a couple more weeks, according to the BOE, during which negotiations between the Spanish-Moroccan working groups created for this purpose will be extended.

Fernando Grande-Marlaska
PHOTO/AFP  -   Moroccan Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit and his Spanish counterpart Fernando Grande-Marlaska in 2020

Madrid and Rabat maintain their differences on the reopening. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by José Manuel Albares, present at the president's audience with King Mohammed VI, is in favour of the simultaneous reopening of the commercial customs in Melilla and the establishment of another in Ceuta, as Sánchez himself announced from the Guest Palace in Rabat at the press conference following the meeting with the Alaouite monarch.

Morocco, for its part, plans to reopen the transit of goods through the previously authorised crossings without the establishment of commercial customs. The negotiations, which are expected to continue in the coming months in various areas of cooperation, have not yet revealed the new conditions for cross-border workers, who will also have to wait to see their situation resolved.

Bilateral talks are at an "advanced" stage, according to the Interior Ministry. The head of the portfolio, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, revealed on Friday an "imminent" reopening of the land borders with Morocco, without specifying dates, and assured that the Ministry is working on a process that will be "gradual and that will have all the guarantees, both in terms of health and security".

The current border order expired on Saturday 30 April; however, the Ministry under the direction of Grande-Marlaska emphasises that this order includes all the restrictions applied to national external land, sea and air borders by virtue of the recommendations issued by the Council of the European Union in the framework of COVID-19. At the same time, the Interior Ministry has implemented a police reinforcement in the two autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla.