Sunday, March 26

Never two fronts at the same time

New times, wild times. Take your share, no one gives anything away


Europe has the eastern front open in a channel, so it is logical that it tries to keep the southern flank stable. Spain is the southern border of the European Union and in this context I believe that the letter sent by Pedro Sánchez to the Alawite monarch should be analysed, in which a position already supported by the Zapatero government is made explicit, ignored without rectification by Mariano Rajoy and maintained by France, Germany and the United States. The decision is pure realpolitik (“policy based on pragmatic criteria regardless of ideologies”, according to the RAE) and the doubt that it raises is based on the ideological journey that one is willing to make —The price of the garden— and the benefits that this brings to Spain, the Saharawis, Algeria and the European Union.

It does not admit discussion that Spain, as a colonial power that badly left a territory on which an attack was launched through the use of an unarmed civilian population, was called to organize a self-determination referendum in its former possession to conclude in an orderly manner the decolonizing process. Nobody disputes this. The reality is that after almost half a century the situation is bogged down, with the possibility of consultation becoming more and more impossible and remote.

The three scenarios that were on the table are:

1) The maintenance of the status quo, that is, that Morocco maintains de facto sovereignty over the Sahara —as it has— and that Algeria and the Polisario Front continue to dispute it. This situation prevents cooperation between Algeria and Morocco, has led to the closure of the most important gas pipeline and paralyzes the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA). It does not seem to promise any improvement in the situation of the Saharawi population that lives poorly in the fields.

2) Morocco accepts the independence of the Sahara, an impossible scenario since for Morocco it is a sacred cause. The self-determination referendum has become impossible after so long and the initial disagreement regarding the electoral corpus is now impossible to resolve. Who could vote? The Moroccans established in the territory for more than four decades could not do it?

3) The proposal for economic development and autonomy proposed by Mohamed VI. This is the option that the great Western powers support, the one that made its way from the Zapatero government and the one that appears in the letter from Sánchez to the Alaouite monarch that we have just met. Algeria could benefit from this solution, agreed upon under the auspices of the UN, and the Saharawi people could get out of the impasse, although it is debatable that they would never cease to be a second-class people within the Alawite kingdom.

So the question has always been whether to maintain the current situation indefinitely or try the proposal for autonomy – theoretically inspired by Spain, although in a non-democratic regime – that could appease the area. That is the reality, as much as I would have liked the legitimate aspiration of the Saharawis to decolonization with self-determination to be fulfilled. Now, and just now, the Government of Pedro Sánchez has decided to clearly express its commitment to this third way, as Zapatero already did verbally, and as Rajoy left in the air during the RAN X (High Level Meeting) under the auspices of United Nations. How do we wear? Personally, I am not going to defend it tooth and nail nor am I going to oppose it specifically because I need to know what elements of real benefit we are going to obtain as a country and what internal flows within the European Union, in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, have advised us to capture in writing the step that had already been started. I understand that the Government has to explain —as far as possible so as not to harm European interests vis-à-vis Russia— how and why this step has been taken. This is diplomacy, in case you didn’t know. That yes, I need to know that the step has been measured, that the withdrawal of the Algerian ambassador is a controlled kick, that there are not going to be problems with the gas pipeline —and I allow myself to think that this is the last thing that is wanted at this time— and that everything is part of a plan agreed upon with the European Union.

At this point of change in geopolitical and geostrategic visions, it does not seem bad to me to try to resolve the southern flank of the EU. This is not the time, as we care for millions of Ukrainian refugees, for Morocco to cause us trouble by letting uncontrolled flows try to storm what is the EU’s southern border. It is also time for Ceuta and Melilla to see their borders reopened in order to recover a commercial pulse that they need, and it is also time for Europe to ensure Morocco’s collaboration to stop the entry of jihadists, a threat that we can reissue now. Is it too much to pay for that to abandon a status quo that it was never going to be able to get anywhere, beyond the political and moral maintenance of a position impossible to put into practice? It is a question that admits several answers and I, at least, am going to respect those who do it in a different way.

I only ask myself one question that is decisive for me and that is whether it has been done well, to obtain the benefits noted, or if it has been done poorly, that is, if the consequences have not been well calculated and this is going to cause problems, for example with Algeria and its gas. That is the politics of reality. This is probably one of those moves that, like staying in NATO, if necessary, can only be taken by a progressive government.

I perfectly understand the position of Vice President Díaz and Podemos, because it is lawful to maintain it and because it is consistent with the traditional position of the left, although it would be good to reflect on whether it is more practical to change it. What seems absurd to me is that Feijóo and the PP shout to the heavens over an issue that, in reality, is close to their practical approach to making peace with Morocco. That was the position they maintained when the leader of the Polisario Front was welcomed, accusing the Government of creating problems and provoking Morocco, something that according to Casado was the last of the last. On that occasion they made it clear that the PP does not consider the Polisario Front one of the official actors in the conflict, as the United Nations does. Why are the clothes torn now? Anything goes to undermine the government. Before for being with the “bad guys” of the Polisario and picking on Morocco and now for making friends with Morocco and picking on the “good guys” of the Polisario. This is what is not admissible: absolute chameleonism, the fact that nothing matters or is valued if it is not for its potential to achieve power.

I guess today is another one of those days when few of my readers will agree with me and that doesn’t invalidate our unspoken contract. From honesty I tell you that I think the century has awakened and that it is time to be pragmatic because it is impossible for us to make all the tortillas without breaking any eggs. I am waiting to know the true geopolitical implications of this step, which the Government must explain, and that no errors of judgment have been made when taking it. While he left me my garments intact, today I don’t tear them.