The North African Kingdom of Morocco sits just 8 miles (15km) from the southern coast of Spain and Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy promised this week to embark upon “a new era” of relations between the two countries.
Speaking in Rabat on Wednesday the prime minister said “There is much more uniting us than there is dividing us”.
Rajoy met with the Moroccan prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirán (pictured right), and the pair agreed to hold a high-level talks between the two countries later this year. It will be the first such talks between the two countries since December 2008.
Following the meeting Spanish government sources said that there was no discussion regarding the status of the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla (Spanish territory on African soil), a subject that has long caused tension between the two countries.
Rajoy also met with King Mohamed VI where he praised the reforms that had been implemented in the country and which would put Morocco “at the forefront of the Arab world and an example to be followed by other countries”. Following the meeting Rajoy quipped “I consider myself a friend of Morocco”.
This trip was Rajoy’s first official foreign visit since becoming prime minister in November 2011 and his Moroccan counterpart Benkirán was said to be delighted that he had chosen Morocco for his first official foreign visit saying it was “a gesture that we greatly appreciate”. Benkirán also added that he was convinced the meeting would prove to be “the first step in a series of fruitful meetings”.
Rajoy has promised to ensure that future relations with Morocco form “a fundamental part of Spanish foreign policy” and also reinforce the “special relation and friendship” the countries share.
Rajoy gave guarantees that Spain would be by Morocco’s side to help contribute to the continuing success of it’s reforms both political, economic and social, saying “there is no other country in the world that is more interested than Spain in seeing a prosperous, democratic and stable Morocco”.
Spain’s proximity to Morocco makes it a “gateway to Europe” and this is exploited by drug gangs who see the Costa del Sol as the best place to bring marijuana and cocaine into Europe, although much of it merely passes through Morocco on it’s way from South America. This has caused tension between the two countries yet often their respective police forces work together to bring down the gangs. Often the smugglers don’t make it to Spain with many losing their lives in the waters of the Gibraltar Strait. Many unmanned boats and packages of drugs wash up on the beaches of Andalucia yet there was no mention of this in the talks, despite it being a serious issue for both countries.