The Government orders a 600,000 euro consultancy to prepare the strategic plans for Ceuta and Melilla | Spain

Cross-border workers in a protest on December 6 demanding that they be allowed to travel to Morocco to visit their families without losing their jobs in Ceuta.
Cross-border workers in a protest on December 6 demanding that they be allowed to travel to Morocco to visit their families without losing their jobs in Ceuta.Antonio Sempere (Europa Press)

The Government of Pedro Sánchez has commissioned a consultancy of 600,0000 euros from the public company Tragsatec to design a national strategy for Ceuta and Melilla. This fundamentally economic plan began to take shape in June and was considered urgent, but the Executive has decided to commission a complete diagnosis of the two cities beforehand, which will not be ready until June 2022. The objective of the contract, announced this Wednesday in Ceuta by the Secretary of State for Territorial Policy, Alfredo González, is to obtain a detailed analysis of the economic, social and demographic situation of both territories. Also identify possible investments, projects and sources of financing to revitalize two economies asphyxiated, among other things, by the closure of the border and the end of tolerated smuggling.

The Executive decided to focus on its two places in North Africa after the diplomatic crisis with Morocco that had its most serious episode in May, when 10,000 migrants entered Ceuta irregularly. Then, government sources acknowledged to EL PAÍS that they were “neglected” regions and that when they looked up at them they were concerned about what they found. The strength of Spain against Morocco, they concluded, should also go through strengthening Ceuta and Melilla. “We are fully aware of the peculiarities of the two cities and the special attention they deserve,” González maintained at a joint press conference with the president of Ceuta, Juan Jesús Vivas.

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The economic data for both cities are bad. Ceuta has the highest unemployment rate and Melilla, the fifth. In Melilla, the Gross Domestic Product per inhabitant (19,211 euros) is the lowest in Spain and in Ceuta (20,803 euros) it occupies the fourth worst position. Both are well below the national average, which in 2019 stood at 26,406 euros, although they multiply the Moroccan average by up to six. In both cities the service sector, but especially the public sector, has a fundamental weight for the economy.

According to internal documents that EL PAÍS has had access to, there is a special concern about the demographic shift brought about by immigration, the social gap, the “incipient xenophobic outbreaks”, the saturation of public services and the deterioration of social life. -economic, which has accelerated with the strategy of “suffocation” carried out by Morocco. Border pressure and security are other priorities.

This economic plan works independently of the roadmap designed by the Executive for the future reopening of borders that Morocco closed in March 2020, but it has some common points. Among them is the possibility of changing the current regime of the Moroccan neighbors of Nador and Tetouan who do not need visas to enter and leave the two cities. The objective is to make visible the limits of the southern border of the EU, but it also reflects the distrust of local and national authorities of the use that their Moroccan neighbors make of basic services, especially Health, Education and social services. The strategic plan passes, in any case, to reinforce public services, considered “insufficient” for the current population. Also for promoting connections with the Peninsula.

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The Government wants to invest European recovery funds to support new sectors of activity that attract investment and thus reduce dependence not only on Morocco but also on Madrid. The consultancy should also identify other interesting areas for investment, such as infrastructure.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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