Ceuta is a Spanish enclave located in North Africa, bordered by Morocco and lies at the end of a narrow isthmus. It is governed as part of Cadiz province in Spain.
Both Ceuta and Melilla have a long history. Both cities date their original establishment to the sailors and merchants of the ancient Mediterranean, and the Phoenicians. Years later, Ceuta became the site of a Carthaginian settlement, which eventually, was taken over by the Romans. The city was then captured by the Vandals, who at some point lost it to the Byzantium during the 5th century. As the years passed, Ceuta had been ruled by the Visigoths, Arabs, Portuguese, until the Spanish seized control in 1580. Since then, Ceuta has remained a jurisdiction of Spain, except for a time period from 1694 to 1720 when the Moors gained control.
Ceuta and Melilla have been considered Spanish exclaves for the past five hundred years; however, they have never held colonial status under Spanish law. They were two of the fortified military settlements that Portugal and Spain conquered on the North African coast in the 15th and 16th centuries to fight piracy. Both cities predate African colonization by European powers and the Spanish protectorate over Northern Morocco. This protectorate was ended in 1956 after Morocco successfully fought a war of independence against France. Surely, most of Morocco was under the French protectorate, so when it was terminated, Spain had no influence or real power to continue its own protectorate.
After Morocco gained independence, it laid claim against the Spanish possessions that included Ceuta, Melilla and dependent positions such as the Penon de Velez de la Gomera, Penon
de Alhucemas and the Chafarinas Islands. These are still under Spanish sovereignty, populated by Spanish nationals and under the Spanish law which makes them an integral part of Spain.
Spain claims these territories on historical grounds: right of success and terra nullius principles; longevity of occupation; national security and the UN territorial integrity of the state principle. Spain emphasizes that most of the inhabitants there are Spanish nationals and wish to stay under Spanish rule. Additionally, treaties were signed by Morocco and Spain in connection to the Sovereign Territories. Morocco contends that the UN standards of decolonization must be implemented because the Spanish occupation blocks the financial and political autonomy of the kingdom as the Spanish bases debilitate Moroccan national security.
Definition of Key Terms
Is a peninsula which narrows to an isthmus before broadening into the
Almina peninsula which is a military zone; the civilian settlement is concentrated on
The isthmus and western part of the peninsula. There are 20 km of sea coast and 8 km of
A territory that was conquered by Spain in 1497. Because of its location on the Mediterranean coast and offering access to the Rif mountain region, it had to be defended from attack by land and sea. Until the 19th century, one of its major roles was that of a penal colony then it became a free-port in 1902 and an important military base.
The supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable power by which an independent state is governed and from which all specific political powers are derived; the intentional independence of a state, combined with the right and power of regulating its internal affairs without foreign interference.
A state that is controlled and protected by another.
Terra Nullius Principle
Is a Latin expression meaning “nobody’s land”, and is a principle sometimes used in international law to describe territory that may be acquired by a state’s occupation of it.
UN standards of decolonization
In 1990, the General Assembly proclaimed the first International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, including a specific plan of action.
After being colonized time and time again by the Carthaginians, Greeks, and Romans, Ceuta and Melilla became independent under the Byzantine ruler Count Julian. They contained commercial importance such as gold and ivory, and so, they were always disputed upon until 1415, when Portugal gained control. The port passed to Spain in 1580 the Treaty of Lisbon in 1688. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936), Gen. Francisco Franco dispatched an expedition to Spain from Ceuta. In 1995 the Spanish government approved statutes of autonomy for Ceuta, replacing the city council with an assembly similar to those of Spain’s other autonomous communities.
Before the arrival of the Arabs, Morocco was inhabited by Berbers who were ruled by
Rome. In 681, the Arabs brought with them a new language and a new religion, Islam. The Muslim troops believed that there was no more land to conquer beyond Morocco’s Atlantic coast, so they started to spread Islam throughout the Sub- Saharan Africa and Europe. However, under the leadership of Tarik Ibn Ziyad, Muslims crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and conquered Spain and Portugal. They were stopped in the south of France in a city called Poitier.
Moulay Idriss created the Idriss Dynasty and the first Muslim State in the west during the year 788. Since then, the country has been ruled by several other dynasties such as The Almoravids, The Almohads, The Merinides, and the Saadians. In 1660, the Alaouite Dynasty succeeded in keeping out invaders. As a result, many coastal cities like Tangier, El Jadida, and Essaouira were occupied by European powers, mainly Spain and Portugal.
Spain occupied the North and the South of Morocco, while it was under the French protectorate in 1912. After World War I, Tangier became an International Zone that was occupied by over 20 Western countries.
In 1956, Morocco finally gained its Independence. In 1975, The Saharan provinces returned to Morocco after the “Green March” under the Spanish control. In spite of the independence of Morocco, the two cities Ceuta and Melilla in Northern Morocco are still administered by Spain.
Major Countries and Organizations Involved
Morocco argues that Ceuta and are remnants of Spain’s colonial past and should be ceded to Morocco. Most of the Moroccan arguments rely on the similarities between Ceuta, Melilla, and Gibraltar. The argument that they hold is that the Spanish claim to Gibraltar is similar to the Moroccan claim to Ceuta and Melilla.
It is a Spanish exclave, military post, and free port on the coast of Morocco. Even though it is touching the borders of Morocco, Ceuta is considered an autonomous country managed by Spanish authorities.
The Spanish authorities claim to the two territories of Ceuta and Melilla go back to 1497. Spain believes that Ceuta and Melilla should be under their rule as most of the citizens wish for it to be that way. The Spanish authorities believe that the Moroccan government will not be able to maintain the infrastructure and services that Ceuta and Melilla require.
NHCR has expressed concerns to the Spanish authorities about the extremely poor conditions in which refugees are living in. they have urged the government to utilize more resources to improve the situation. They believe that conditions fall well short of the minimum standards required by the recent EU directive on reception standards, which must be transferred into Spanish law.
Timeline of Events
Description of event
October 22, 1849
Higher Spanish classes, France and the UK support the war declaration on the north African nation
Spain colonizes the region now known as Western Sahara.
June 30, 1958
Morocco and Spain sign the Treaty of Angra de Cintra.
Spain defeats the Moroccan army in the Tetouan war.
January 1, 1860
Battle of Castillejos took place and earned Spain a victory
February 6, 1860
End of the Battle of Tetouan
March 23, 1860
Spain claims victory in the Wad-Ras battle
March 30, 1912
Morocco’s Sultan Abdelhafid signs the Fez Treaty with France, allowing the French army to make Morocco a protectorate.
Western Sahara becomes a Spanish province and becomes known as Spanish Sahara.
Morocco asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to decide its claims of sovereignty over Spanish Sahara.
November 14, 1975
Morocco and Spain sign the Tripartite Agreement
UN Envoy James Baker presents Baker Plan I
Baker updates the first version of his plan, coming up with Baker Plan II
April 23, 2004
Morocco rejects Baker Plan II
Relevant UN Treaties and Events
Latest Treaties signed by Spain and Morocco
· Treaty of Utrecht, 1713
· Treaty of Marrakesh, 1767
· Hispano-Moroccan Treaty, 1799
· Treaty of Tangier, October 1844.
· Treaty of Wad-Ras, 26 April 1860
· Spanish Protectorate in Morocco, 27 November 1912
· Treaty of Angra de Cintra, 30 June 1958
· Treaty of Fez, 30 June 1969
Latest Resolutions signed by Security Council
· 16 December 1965 (2072)
· 13 December 1974 (3292)
· 22 October 1975 (377)
· 10 December 1975 ( 3458)
· 29 April 1991 (690)
· 30 April 2007 (1754)
· 31 October 2007 (1783)
· 26 April 2016 (2285)
· 28 April 2017 (2351)
Previous Attempts to solve the Issue
Spain and Morocco have tried several tactics to solve this issue; for instance, they have been working together to regulate the extensive amount of migrants entering Spain yearly. Ceuta and Melilla are the most important points of controlling immigration into Spain. Since the late 1990s, the European Union (EU) has spent millions of dollars to support the control of the borders around Ceuta and Melilla, while paying Morocco for helping them protect the border and funding a high fence around the towns.
Resolutions continue to be written frequently but are not implemented in these two
countries. Neither Morocco nor Spain have asked the UN for assistance to solve this issue and it doesn’t seem like the UN is focusing much on intervening to support them.