Sunday, August 11, 2013

Spain's Hypocrisy over Gibraltar - But What About Ceuta and Melilla?

Spain is involved is a rather foolish game at the moment, trying to play hardball with the UK over the island of Gibraltar. Apart from the glaringly obvious fact that it is a fight they can not win, it shines the spotlight on Spain's occupation of Moroccan territory on mainland Morocco and some of its off-shore islands. A recent article by Luke Coffey in the Huffington Post highlights Spain's hypocrisy. 

Sebta (Ceuta) in Morocco -  occupied by Spain

Spain's antagonistic behavior toward Gibraltar is unbecoming of a NATO ally in 21st-century Europe. A €50 tax at the border on top of seven hour long border crossings, 200 illegal incursions by Spanish vessels into Gibraltarian waters in 2012, and intent to sell 20 jet fighters to Argentina- these are not the acts of a friend and partner.

Spain's current political and economic woes are well known. It is clear that the government in Madrid desperately needs a distraction. For many in Spain the issue of Gibraltar is just the distraction needed. But Spanish disdain for Gibraltar is pure hypocrisy - and many in Spain know it.

Spain still holds two exclaves, Sebta (Ceuta) and Melilla, and controls three more such smaller areas called the Plazas de Soberanía - or Places of Sovereignty in or just off the coast of its neighbour Morocco.

Ceuta is a city of 79,000 people roughly twice the size of Gibraltar. Melilla is a city of 73,000 and also larger than Gibraltar. Both cities are located in Morocco in the same way Gibraltar is in Spain. Since they are legally part of Spain, Ceuta and Melilla are the only two EU cities located in mainland Africa. They are also part of the Schengen Agreement and the Eurozone. According to a 2007 poll the vast majority of people in Spain, 87.9%, say Ceuta and Melilla are part of Spain. In the same poll 50% said that they did understand the claim Morocco has on the two cities.

Moroccan Committee to Free Ceuta (Sebta) and Melilla activists trying to occupy the Penon de Velez de la Gomera

In addition there are the three geographical and political anomalies that form Spain's so-called Plazas de Soberanía in Morocco.

The Chafarinas Islands is a small group of three islands located two miles off the coast of Morocco. Last summer the Spanish interior minister, during a visit to Melilla, suggested that Spain might deploy security forces to the islands. Of course, the Moroccans were not thrilled by this possibility.

The Peñón de Alhucemas is an island located 350 meters (not miles) from the Moroccan coast. This island has a perimeter slightly smaller in size than London's Olympic stadium. As of 2012 it was home to 30 soldiers of Spain's 32nd Mixed Artillery Regiment.

Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera in Morocco - occupied by Spain

The Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera is located at the tip of a small peninsula. This Spanish peninsula is connected to Morocco by an 85m long isthmus making this one of the world's shortest international land borders. There is also a small Spanish military garrison based there.

Separate to these three Plazas de Soberanía is the small but contested Perejil Island. Located just 250 meters off the coast of Morocco, this island was the scene of an armed confrontation in 2002 between the two countries. Thankfully, nobody was injured when Spanish commandos were sent to liberate the island from Moroccan naval cadets. Peace was brokered by then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell after both sides agreed to return to the status quo ante.

The legality or righteousness of Spain's numerous possessions in Morocco is not the object of this article. But it is clear that Spain's disdain for Gibraltar is purely hypocritical when viewed through the wider lens of Spanish possessions in Morocco.

Read the full article here: Huffington Post

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Anonymous said...

In my opinion the answer is: yes Spain is hypocrite on this issue. Good article!

Anonymous said...

Ceuta and Melilla were Spanish before Morocco exist like a nation.Ceuta was Portuguese before.Gibraltar was Spanish.That's the difference

Anonymous said...

Of course Morocco as a nation already existed before Ceuta and Melilla was been occupied and colonised by Spain. Only the name was different and Morocco was also larger; it contained the part of land that is now known as Mauritania. This is also a consequence of colonisatian, for your information. So don't play the game of semantics.

By the way, just use your eyes and brains Carla Jimenez: Ceuta and Melillia lie in AFRICA and not in Europe...

Anonymous said...

Spanish Sahara was 'Spanish' before Morocco existed as a nation, Carla. Does that mean it should still be Spanish?

It's a colony on the African continent and is double standards of the most blatant kind.

Anonymous said...

Hypocritical Spaniard

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Neither Spain or Portugal existed before, stop being Hypocrit please, I'm enough with the spanish ignorance, a stupid touristic country where no one speaks english

Anonymous said...

Hi all, I have just come across this webpage and I could not resist giving my two cents.
So most British people argue that Spain is hypocritical because they refuse to consider Ceuta and Melilla as colonies. Then I see Spaniards replying that Morocco was born in the late 50s and that therefore it does not make sense for them to claim those territories. That argument is wrong, Morocco got the independence from France and Spain in the 50s, but was unified earlier, in 1666 with the Alaouite dynasty. However there IS a reason why Ceuta and Melilla cannot be considered colonies along with Gibraltar. That reason is that Ceuta and Melilla were not taken during the colonization of Morocco, but during the war between the Muslim dynasties (not even the current Alaouite, but the older Marinid and the Wattassid dynasties respectively) and the kingdoms in the Iberic peninsula in 1415 and 1497 (during the Reconquista in which the Muslims invaded most of the peninsula). Neither Spain nor Morocco existed by that time (we are talking about 4 centuries before the colonization of Morocco!). Morocco claiming Ceuta and Melilla is equivalent to Italy claiming part of France "because at some point some empire/dynasty (the roman empire) owned part of France, and that empire/dynasty was geographically based where Italy is now", the only difference being that Ceuta and Melilla are small and separated by the Mediterranean sea.
Don't get me wrong, I do not consider Gibraltar a colony, but that is for different reasons (I consider that the treaty of Utrecht should be observed, and unlike British people think, most Spaniards do not actually claim Gibraltar, but its waters and the isthmus, but that is another story). Whether Gibraltar is a colony or not is a different matter, the conjuncture is different, as I explained it makes no sense to consider Ceuta and Melilla colonies and whether Gibraltar is considered one or not cannot be extrapolated to these.

John said...

Spain also controls to this day the town of Llivia, surrounded by French territory, due to a curious interpretation of the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees. If France were to request the town, would Spain acquiesce?

Anonymous said...

Clara Lopez: I was born in Ceuta in the 60's, so i am a Spanish citizen not Morrocan. First of all i want to make it clear that i am not interested in the Gibraltor debate, eg being Spanish or not.All i have to say is that Gibraltor enjoys being a tax haven, also Ceuta & Mellila should enjoy the same luxury. Secondly 99% of both cities want to be spanish, not morrocan