Spain's Foreign Minister said on Tuesday that the government is considering including the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla fully in Europe's visa-free Schengen Area. Arancha Gonzalez Laya did not specify a date for the move, in light of a dispute with Morocco related to Western Sahara.
Moroccans from the towns surrounding Ceuta and Melilla are allowed to enter the enclaves without a visa, but they need one to travel on by sea, land or air into Spain or the rest of the visa-free Schengen area.
According to Reuters, the move is expected to provoke the government in Rabat. It has allegedly halted negotiations for the renewal of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline concession.
Observers said that even if Rabat decides to end this concession, Spain will be able to maintain a steady natural gas supply via the new Medgaz pipeline, which is hooked up directly to the existing Almeria-Albacete gas pipeline in Spain.
Last month, around 8,000 people swam to Ceuta and attempted to climb the border fence to enter the enclave while the Moroccan authorities apparently looked the other way, in a move largely linked to a dispute over Western Sahara.
The cities of Ceuta and Melilla are controlled by Spain despite being located in the far north of Morocco. Melilla has a population of around 70,000 and has been under Spanish sovereignty since 1497. Morocco refuses to recognise the legitimacy of Spanish rule over the two cities, which it considers to be an integral part of the kingdom's territory.