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Ceuta Incident: EU Adopts Biased Yet Toothless Motion Against Morocco

The European Parliament has adopted a highly symbolic resolution in favor of Spain’s position on the Ceuta migration influx incident, yet it does not impose any practical repercussions.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on June 10 slamming Morocco for its perceived role in the sudden influx of migrants into Ceuta in May. The European Parliament’s vote accepted Spain’s telling of events, yet did not include any practical consequences for Morocco, likely against what Spain had hoped for.

The European Parliament adopted resolution 2021/2747 by 397 votes in favor, 85 against as well as 196 abstentions. The resolution claims that Morocco violated the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child by “using minors” in the sudden influx of migrants in Ceuta in May.

Spain had hoped to enlist the EU in its diplomatic spat with Morocco. The result of those efforts is sure to disappoint foreign policy officials in Madrid. 

Europe protecting its own 

The EU took Spain’s biased reporting of the Ceuta crisis without any consideration for Spanish actions regarding its illegal hosting of separatist leader Brahim Ghali, yet still chose for a light-handed and diplomatic resolution that’s clearly designed to ease tensions with Morocco.

While the statement admonished Morocco for its alleged participation in the influx of migrants, for which Morocco has denied any involvement, the lack of real-life consequences for Morocco is evidence of its important role regarding Europe’s border security and foreign trade. 

Madrid’s representatives at the EU had sought to leverage the power of the EU political bloc against Morocco, yet returned from the Strasbourg vote disappointed. The EU appeared to indicate it would accept Spain’s telling of events and admonish Morocco for its perceived role in the event, and then move on to return to the various lucrative trade deals the bloc makes in Morocco.

When push came to shove, the European Parliament appeared to not want to offend too much its trusted douanier on border issues, its detective on terrorism, and its valued partner on trade. That approach contrasted with the EU’s response to Belarus in recent weeks, which is set to result in sanctions on the eastern European nation.

One important conclusion that Morocco is likely to take from the EU resolution is that Spain has been unwilling to resolve the diplomatic crisis in an equal bilateral way. For Rabat, the resolution will be evidence that Spain, instead of starting a dialogue, chose to go to the EU in order to try to pressure Morocco into submission. With that attempt now failed, a resolution in the Spanish-Moroccan diplomatic crisis seems further away than ever.

Symbolic finger-wagging

The European Parliament fully accepted Spain’s telling of events yet still appeared reluctant to confront Morocco in any real way, likely fearful of endangering billions in trade or even losing an important partner that protects Europe’s borders and regularly helps foil terrorist plots on the continent.

The resolution oozed with the neo-colonial, yet inconsequential, finger-wagging often seen from powerful western nations when they have confronted their partners in the developing world over perceived human rights issues. 

According to the statement, the European parliament is convinced that cooperation with countries like Morocco “should be based on the long-term objective of tackling the root causes of irregular migration.” It vows for the EU to help in “strengthening economic development, investment and the creation of new job opportunities, and promoting quality education for all children in the region.”

As long as such EU resolutions aim to simply “reject,” “exclude” or “reiterate,” political points, Morocco can rest assured that Europe needs Moroccan cooperation to the extent that it is unwilling to offend Moroccan tempers. 

Spain’s diplomats at the European Parliament will now have to return to Madrid, having done little to direct the might of the EU against Morocco. Instead, it will likely have reinforced that Morocco’s connections with Europe are not so easily severed for the sake of a bilateral diplomatic spat.


In May, thousands of irregular migrants crossed to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from northern Morocco. The event frustrated Spanish politicians, officials, and media, who accused Morocco of blackmailing Spain amid the crisis between Rabat and Madrid.

The accusations came amid a crisis between the neighboring countries after Algeria and Spain colluded to help separatist leader Brahim Ghali enter Spanish territories.

In response to Spain’s attempts to attribute tension to irregular migration, Morocco’s government argued that the issue is a matter of broken trust.

The government also described the Spanish act as an action against the spirit of cooperation between the two countries.

Today, the European Parliament adopted the resolution, without imposing sanctions on Morocco. The resolution also welcomed Morocco’s decision to facilitate the return of unaccompanied minors who entered Europe illegally.

The second paragraph of the resolution reads that the European Parliament welcomes Morocco’s step to “facilitate the re-entry of all identified unaccompanied children who are on European Union territory irregularly.”

The resolution also called on Spain and Morocco to work together to allow the repatriation of children to their families, which must be guided by the best interest of the child and carried out in compliance with national and international law, in particular, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The resolution recalled that Morocco has been among the signatories of the convention since 1990.

The adopted resolution also cited the “the principle of family unity and the right to family reunification should always be safeguarded,” calling on Morocco to “uphold its commitments” effectively.

Morocco has repeatedly emphasized commitment and a key role in dealing with irregular migration challenges. The North African country denounced Spain’s attempts to “Europeanize” the crisis.

Bilateral resolution required

Morocco also emphasized that the crisis between Rabat and Madrid must be tackled as a bilateral tension. The Moroccan government also emphasized its key role, emphasizing that it does not to be graded by Spain nor its media.

Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita argued that Morocco’s efforts against human trafficking are based on shared responsibility.

Bourita emphasized that the EU barely covers less than 20% of the costs that Morocco invests to tackle irregular migration challenges.

“A partnership is not a one-way street,” Bourita said, noting the importance of collaboration and shared responsibility in migration management.

The FM also said that Morocco dismantled 8,000 human trafficking cells, 14,000 irregular migration attempts, including 80 operations in Ceuta in the past four years.

The resolution adopted today also applauded Spain’s “efficient and professional response” of  Spain’s security bodies and armies amid criticism and decry from international NGOs and human rights activists.

Spain deployed its army, which used tear gas to disperse migrants that arrived in Ceuta in mid-May.

Videos also showed army personnel preventing migrants, including minors, from leaving the sea upon their arrival in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

Other footage depicted the  Spanish army pushing the migrants to the sea.

Activists condemned Spain’s use of collective deportation of the migrants without assessments. In a debate aired on Al Jazeera, Secretary-General of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles Catherine Woollard  described a situation in which people are “collectively expelled without individual assessment is a situation that is illegal under EU and international law.”

Woollard emphasized that Spain is expected to respect the good reception of migrants and provide them with individual assessments.

Ruth Ferrero,  a lecturer in political science and senior researcher at Complutense University of Madrid, also condemned the situation, describing Spain’s deportation of minors as a “blatant violation of international law.”


Source: Morocco World News.

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