From Rabat to Madrid: Pedro Sánchez’s Balancing Act

Trade and Economics - February 22, 2024

Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, embarked on a trip to Morocco on February 22 amidst a turbulent domestic backdrop. While farmers in Madrid paraded through the streets with their tractors protesting measures affecting the agricultural sector, and the Congress observed a minute of silence for the two Guardia Civiles murdered in Barbate, Sánchez found himself in Rabat strengthening ties with the Moroccan Kingdom.

The relationship between Spain and Morocco holds paramount importance for both nations, not only in economic and trade terms but also in cooperation on security and migration issues, showcasing a full recovery in relations. The president’s last visit was on February 2, 2023, when Sánchez, alongside Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Ajanuch, led the XII High-Level Meeting in Rabat. This recent visit by Sánchez marks a positive step towards reinforcing these historical ties and promoting stability in the North African region.

The president’s agenda in Morocco has been packed. He met with Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Ajanuch to discuss bilateral relations and progress in implementing the roadmap between the two countries. Following these meetings, the Moroccan regime managed to secure new concessions from the Spanish Prime Minister, marking a significant step after the most prized one in March 2022: the historic shift in position on the Western Sahara dispute.

Furthermore, Pedro Sánchez has stated that there will be a forthcoming meeting between the Spanish and Moroccan governments aimed at clarifying customs regulations. Sánchez confirmed that once preparations on the Moroccan side are finalized, customs will be opened, reiterating the commitment to honour all the agreements reached in April 2022, which includes Spain’s endorsement of Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara. Government sources suggest that this opening will not be postponed beyond this year, and Moroccan authorities are dedicated to addressing the phytosanitary issues that have emerged. In Ceuta, this will mark the inaugural establishment of such a customs office.

One of the key initiatives supporting these investments is the joint organization of the 2030 World Cup, with Spain, Portugal, and Morocco as hosts. Morocco plans to invest around 1.3 billion euros in building a major stadium near Casablanca and renovating six other stadiums, aiming to host the final in Casablanca, despite competition from the Bernabéu or the Camp Nou.

With all this, the detailed clauses and commitments resulting from Sánchez’s engagements during the meeting are beginning to emerge. During the press briefing following the encounter, Sánchez mentioned Spain’s plans to “make investments in Morocco totalling over 45 billion euros until 2050,” highlighting Spain’s active participation in the neighbouring country’s economic modernization efforts, albeit without delving into specific details.

The Moroccan government intends to invest about 1.4 billion euros in improving its railway system, a project in which the Spanish company Talgo has shown interest. According to Sánchez, these infrastructures represent an “opportunity for Spanish companies,” and he has encouraged Morocco to present them at an upcoming Spanish-Moroccan summit, still without a set date, so they can participate in this project.

Sánchez has emphasized the current “excellent state of bilateral relations between Spain and Morocco.” Proof of this, according to Sánchez, lies in “trade exchanges exceeding 20 billion euros in 2022 and a growing presence of Spain as an investor in Morocco.” In a statement from the Moncloa, Sánchez mentioned discussing with the Moroccan Prime Minister the progress of various projects in education and cultural cooperation that were promoted during the previous meeting.

Pedro Sánchez’s recent visit to Morocco has been a significant step in bilateral relations between Spain and the neighbouring Kingdom. In a turbulent domestic context marked by farmer protests in Madrid, Sánchez focused on strengthening ties with Morocco. Although uncertainties and challenges arise, Pedro Sánchez’s trip to Morocco has laid the groundwork for closer cooperation and a stronger relationship between both countries. It remains to be seen whether the president’s additional concession in Rabat on Wednesday, will bring Spain any benefits.