Why do Spain have European cities of Ceuta and Melilla on African soil?

 Why do Spain have European cities of Ceuta and  Melilla on African soil?

Ceuta and Melilla are the only EU territories on the African continent & their borders have-been the center of migration crises & diplomatic disputes.

Ceuta and Melilla have been with Spain for more than 500 years but Morocco has-been claiming them since its independence in 1956.

International law does not recognize them as colonies & the UN  United Nations supports the fact that they are Spanish provinces.

Ceuta and Melilla

Morocco reopened its land routes to Ceuta and Melilla on 17 May this year two years after the Corona epidemic. This is a sign of a new era of better relations between Morocco and  Spain.

Relations between 02 countries improved after Pedro Sanchez decision by the Socialist government to recognize Morocco claim to Western Sahara sovereignty. The Western Sahara conflict has long-been a source of tension between 02 countries.

Although many hope that the warmth in relations between the 02 countries will eliminate or at least soften Morocco claims to Ceuta and Melilla.

However experts who have-spoken to British news Mando are not convinced that the African country will abandon these historic claims altogether.

But how did these North African cities become part of Spain?

Ceuta and Melilla are the only land borders between  European Union & Africa.

How did Ceuta and Melilla become Spanish?

Melilla has-been from Spain since the 15th century while Ceuta has-been part of Spain since the 17th century.

In 1415 Ceuta was one of  most important economic & strategic ports in the Islamic world & was controlled by various Berber & Arab families for centuries.

But when seven centuries of Muslim rule in Spain were coming to an end & Christian rulers were recapturing  Iberian Peninsula Portugal seized control of Ceuta.

A century later in 1580 royal families of Portugal & Spin joined the so called Iberian Union thus becoming part of Spanish rule. After the dissolution of the Union of Portugal & Spain Spain retained Ceuta.

Seven hundred years of Muslim rule in Spain came to an end with unification of the Catholic royal family of Spain & Portugal.

Melilla was conquered by the Castelian monarchy in 1497. After the defeat of the last Muslim ruler in Granada & complete overthrow of Muslim rule in Spain a fleet was sent to coastal city of Melilla by order of Aragon Ferdinand II & Isabella I.

The snatching of Ceuta and Melilla from Muslims is painful memories of defeat and humiliation for many Muslims.

What is  significance of  Spanish Ceuta and Melilla?

Spain expansionist ambitions required a presence in these parts of North Africa. For Spain controlling access to  Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar was a defensive priority.

Manuel Torres Soriano a historian at the Pablo de Oliveid University in Sevilla told British News Mando: Was very important.

Manuel Torres added that Ceuta is just across the Strait of Gibraltar and only 14 kilometers off the coast of Spain while Melilla is critical to dealing with the threat of piracy. Piracy was a major security issue for Spain.

Spain considers these 02 cities to be an integral part of its existence due to presence of 05 centuries old wire in the Ceuta and Malala of Spain.

Now with a stable population Ceuta and Melilla are Spanish like any other part of Spain says Manuel Torres.

Why does Morocco claim Ceuta and Melilla?

Since independence Morocco has often called for an end to Spanish occupation of Ceuta and Melilla.

Morocco claim is based on idea of ​​a great Morocco which claims sovereignty over other parts of North Africa including the Western Sahara. But when Morocco raised the issue at the UN United Nations UN rejected Morocco claim.

Morocco claims sovereignty over 

Samir Benis a Moroccan political analyst says that after independence from Spain & France Morocco believed that the future of Ceuta and Malala would be resolved amicably.

Spain now refuses to negotiate with 02 cities. Spain insists that both cities  Spanish for more than ⁰⁵ centuries and are an integral part of  Spanish state.

Why do Spain have European cities of Ceuta & Melilla on African soil?

However Benz questions the Spanish position from a historical point of view.

Benz told British News Mando Throughout most of history these 02 cities have never been considered fully Spanish. Their status was military forts & open prisons where people were sent to be sentenced.

What does international law say?

Experts told British News Mando that there was a lot of politics surrounding Morocco claims on Ceuta and Melilla & that it was not just a legal issue.

In fact they are not the only 02 cities in conflict between Morocco & Spain.

Spain also controls the Wales de la Gomera rock the Alhocemis rock Chafarinas Islands & the island of Peregil off coast of Morocco.

In July 2022 protesters stand o Moroccan coast in front of the island of Peregil with a banner that reads: We demand the liberation of all occupied territories of Morocco including Ceuta and Melilla

Unlike Ceuta and Melilla these areas have no population. Wales de la Gomera has a military base but no civilian population.

This is very important. It will always be easier for Morocco to claim uninhabited territories than Ceuta & Malala Jamie Trinidad an international law expert at Cambridge University told the British News.

Jamie Trinidad an international law expert says: Spain legal position is that the cities became Spanish long before Morocco became a state. & under the law these territories are not considered colonies because they have-been fully integrated into Spain under  Spanish constitution.

A new step?

Relations between 02 countries have taken a new turn after Spain recognized Morocco plan for sovereignty over Western Sahara.

The Western Sahara was a Spanish colony until 1975. There is a dispute over the status of this area. Morocco claims it as its territory while the Saharan people demand a free country.

In 1991 UN United Nations set up a special mission to help the people there decide their future with the aim of holding a referendum in which the Sahara people could choose between independence or accession to Morocco. To date, however the referendum has not-been held.

Spain has abandoned its policy of neutrality on the Western Sahara for decades which has led to domestic criticism. Spain change in policy towards the Western Sahara has created a diplomatic tangle with Algeria. Algeria is a historical rival of Morocco that supports the Sahara people of the conflict.

Pedro Sanchez Spanish government faces domestic criticism for recognizing Morocco plan for sovereignty over Western Sahara

A change in Spain position on Western Sahara means an improvement in relations which could soften Morocco claims to cueta And Melilla.

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Carlos Echeverria director of the cueta and Melilla Observatory & professor of international relations at  National University of Distance Education believes the situation is unlikely to change.

A lot of people think that improving relations between 02 countries will usher in an era of peace but I do not think the stability of an era of peace is certain said Professor Carlos Echeverria. This will need to be confirmed.

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