In the midst of the migratory crisis that is hitting Europe, especially Spain, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs travelled to Morocco to discuss new financial aid to combat irregular migration.
Ylva Johansson reminded the audience that the European Union has granted Morocco aid amounting to 343 million euros since 2018 to control migration. One of the main objectives of the visit, as the European Commissioner herself explained, was "to sit down and negotiate the readmission and facilitation of visas".
During a press conference, Ylva Johansson stressed the difficult situation the islands are experiencing: "19,000 immigrants who arrived in the Canary Islands this year, approximately half of whom are believed to be Moroccan citizens". She added that Morocco was a country that faced "many challenges" and that they were there to discuss how they could face those challenges together.
In this regard, the Commissioner acknowledged that one of the ways to help Rabat will be to facilitate Schengen visas for Moroccans, a great step forward in relations between the EU and the Moroccan country, as it is not an easy task for its citizens to obtain these visas. The European Union has not specified what Morocco will offer in exchange for this concession.
Johansson, who met with both the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of the Interior, stressed that she is very satisfied with the cooperation that already exists between the EU and Morocco, and that she believes that Morocco and the EU have a 'partnership of trust'.
The European Union has been supporting Morocco since 2013 through the implementation of its National Strategy on Migration and Asylum. In addition, the EU and Morocco have an Association Agreement for Mobility which was relaunched in 2019.
Morocco is a relevant region on a geostrategic level for the European Union, as it is the meeting point with the Middle East. This visit is part of a series of previous contacts made by Spain. The Spanish minister of the interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, visited Morocco on 20 November where he held a meeting with his Moroccan counterpart, Abdelouafi Laftit, with the aim of strengthening co-operation between both countries in migration matters.
Like the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Marlaska stressed the Atlantic route taken by migrants from the Sahara to the Canary Islands, one of the most dangerous. President Pedro Sánchez is scheduled to visit Rabat on 17 December.
The visit of the president of the government to Morocco is not without controversy, as according to various Moroccan sources Mohammed VI will not receive the president. The Royal House claims that "the king's agenda is complete" and "for health security of the COVID-19". If this meeting does not take place, Mr Sánchez would be the first head of the Spanish government in recent years not to meet the Alawite monarch after the High Level Meeting in Rabat.
The monarch is thus responding to the position held by the United Nations' Podemos on the question of Western Sahara. Pablo Iglesias has shown on many occasions that he is in favour of holding a free referendum in the region. King Mohammed VI lets it be known that he disagrees with the Executive of the Coalition PSOE-PODEMOS in the midst of a serious migration crisis.