The resumption of relations between Spain and Morocco comes with new cooperation agreements for economic development. Following the Spanish government's recognition of Morocco's plan for Western Sahara, ties between the two countries are better than ever. Thanks to this, many experts and media have once again taken up one of the joint projects between the two nations that never became a reality: the Spain-Morocco tunnel.
This bridge between Africa and Europe was first planned in 1979, but never saw the light of day, but many are already saying that this diplomatic push could be the key to its construction. It is a tunnel that would connect the shores of both countries through the Strait of Gibraltar, with a length of 42 kilometres between the two territories.
Its construction could boost the economy in both regions, especially in the areas closest to the project. If this plan were ever to become a reality, it would facilitate the movement of people and goods more easily and quickly than by plane or ship, and would develop transport in the western Mediterranean.
Europe and Africa could be connected and trade could be expanded and developed more effectively. As a result, the European market could have easier access to the African continent's market by entering through Morocco.
The origin of this project dates back to 1979 after the signing of the Spanish-Moroccan joint declaration. In this memorandum signed between the kings of the time, Hassan II of Morocco and Juan Carlos I of Spain, the will to collaborate in important sectors was expressed, aware of the future between Europe and Africa, as well as the work and positive consequences that the construction of the tunnel would have. From this document was born the scientific and technical cooperation agreement between the two kingdoms, which was the basis for the feasibility study of the project.
Many institutions contributed to the financing of the project in the past. These include the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, Arab funds and the African Development Fund. There are still two public companies from both countries, SNED and SECEGSA, which have been interested in the project since it began to take shape.
Despite this, and following the various diplomatic conflicts that the two nations have experienced, the project was put aside and saved for a future in which the waters would be calm. Now, everything seems to indicate that the initiative has been taken up again with the reigns of Mohammed VI and the Spanish monarch Felipe VI. In addition, it is worth noting that the intention to link the Alawi country with Gibraltar via a maritime tunnel or bridge was recently announced, so Spain would be interested in having its own entrance to Africa.
There is currently a Joint Commission between five Spanish and five Moroccan members that meets every six months, and one of the issues it addresses is the construction of this tunnel. The aforementioned companies continue to present their reports and notify this institution with each progress in the study today.
All the experts and diplomats from both countries who have spoken on the subject agree that it would be beneficial for both parties and that it would lead to important economic development. With its construction, it would be possible to develop logistics platforms, transhipment zones in the transport chain, the rationalisation of infrastructures, the use of storage facilities, and even the reduction of transport costs.
Moreover, not only would trade and the flow of goods between the two continents be favoured, but the use of the tunnel as a new gas pipeline between Morocco and Spain could also be exploited. This would allow gas to be transported in both directions without having to resort to other methods, something that would benefit both parties after their conflict with Algeria.
The tunnel seems feasible, but when it was being studied, drawbacks arose. The Strait of Gibraltar is very deep and there are sea currents, winds, tides and waves that could complicate its construction in every way. But the main concern is that the bridge would be located on top of the Azores-Gibraltar fault, one of the Eurasian tectonic plates. In the event of an earthquake caused by the collision of these plates, this is an added difficulty and puts its viability in jeopardy. However, due to this situation, it would be very costly to carry it out and this becomes one of the main obstacles to implementing the plan.