Morocco asks Spain to settle its debt over the Catalan independence bid

2 min
File photo of the leader of the Polisario Front and president of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Brahim Ghali.

Former Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo admitted in a television interview in March 2017 that Spain had called in many favours from different countries during the Independence bid - up until then - to help it fight Catalan independence. Basically, the idea was to prevent any pronouncement in favour of the idea of a referendum of self-determination or support for the theses of the Catalan government. And, little by little, these countries that helped Spain are asking it to settle its debt.

The latest of these has been Morocco, which, in a communiqué from its foreign ministry in which it reproaches Spain for its position on Western Sahara, reminds Madrid of how in 2012 they lowered, at the request of the Spanish government, the rank of the authorities who were to receive a Catalan economic delegation (as well as ensuring that the ambassador in Rabat was present at all meetings), and how in 2017 they denied a request for a trip by a "great leader of Catalan separatism". Spain, then, is now beginning to see the cost to its diplomatic relations of all that dirty war against the Generalitat's foreign action that took place under the PP governments.

And Morocco, which is now immersed in a diplomatic offensive to obtain international recognition for the annexation of Western Sahara, is a specialist in poking at Spain's contradictions for its own benefit. And although the Moroccan communiqué is a collection of distortions and manipulations, it is nonetheless a contradiction to defend a referendum of self-determination for Western Sahara, which belonged to Spain and whose citizens enjoyed Spanish nationality, and not to consider this option in the case of Catalonia. On the other hand, if Spain had allowed a referendum as the United Kingdom did with Scotland, it would now be in a position to demand similar treatment for the Sahrawi people from Morocco.

What is clear is that authoritarian countries such as Morocco, or even Russia in its relationship with Europe, have seen in the Catalan case a weak point in the respect for fundamental rights in European territory, and they do not hesitate to use it and will continue to do so in the future. In this case it is a full-fledged blackmail that seeks to make Spain stop aiding the Polisario Front and accept once and for all Moroccan sovereignty over this territory. Rabat's hypocrisy is textbook when it claims that they are in favour of the "territorial integrity" of Spain and continue to demand the return of Ceuta and Melilla and opening, whenever they see fit, their borders to allow massive arrivals of migrants to Spanish territory.

The Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, has to stand firm in defending the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people and, at the same time, he has to be coherent and move towards a solution to the Catalan conflict through the ballot box. This will be the only way to stop paying the bills run up by Margallo and those who followed him.