The shrinking borders of Spanish capital: from Brussels to Gibraltar and from America to the Sahara via Ceuta

22 December, 2020

Ceuta

1Spanish interests in Brussels are increasingly challenged. Placing Josep Borrell as Mr PESC (EU Commissioner for External Action), was originally marketed as the great international success of the Sánchez government. Spain is back was the slogan -funnily inconsistent even in language, as the original was also stated in English instead of Spanish- asserting that Borrell’s appointment was the first sign of a greater influence of Spanish national capital’s interests in Brussels. However, less than a year into his term of office, Borrell is the most controversial European Commissioner, with a weaker position. This is partly due to the opposition of imperialist interests between European partners. From the position regarding Venezuela to the relationship with the Balkan countries via the war in Libya, in which Italy and France are arming opposing sides and above all the relationship with China and the USA, they all compel Borrell’s European discourse into contortions and casuistic tricks which are increasingly strained in order to maintain appearances.

But its main vulnerability points directly to the position of Spanish capital: Greece -and behind it France- accuses Spain and Borrell in particular, of serving as a shield for Turkey against Macron’s attempts to impose sanctions to stop Turkish pressure in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya. The charges have been intensified by Borrell’s hiring of Nathalie Tocci, a director of ENEL (the Italian electricity company that owns Endesa) as a consultant – a position equivalent to a Secretary of State in the Commission’s structure – who represents the link between Turkish and Italian oil interests. …which threaten directly Cyprus and Greece by calling into question, by means of the Turkish navy, their territorial waters.

2 This has aggravated the difference in attitude of Brussels during the Brexit negotiation between Ulster and Gibraltar … which forced the Spanish government to minimally advance its positions by recognizing for the first time Gibraltar as a de facto sovereign state. It is a historic step backwards in the aspirations of the Spanish state, which at first allowed the Palace of Santa Cruz (spanish ministry of Foreign Affairs) to dream of a co-managed Special Economic Zone and the transition of the British naval base towards a shared status .. but in the end, all they have achieved is strengthening the status of the Campo de Gibraltar as a bantustan: almost 12,000 workers cross the border daily to work with reduced welfare rights in one of the largest international centers of opaque capital flows. It seems that participating in the business without controlling it too much is enough for Spanish capital. The CCOO union representative on the Rock, who as a good unionist puts the interests of capital before those of the workers, stated today that what worried him most was the closure of the commercial border in view of the loss for Spanish exports. It worried him more than the closure of the land border for the workers and of course more than the new coronavirus strain.

3 But there is one country that the Spanish government cannot deceive about its weakness – and even less so when remaking strategic balances in the Gibraltar Strait and the Alboran Sea -, the Moroccan state, the old and strategic Makhzen. Morocco has played on its own crisis to, release a new wave of migrants, to relieve the pressure of thousands of unemployed workers in the Saharan manufactures, to pressure the EU for more funds, and push Spain to align with France and weaken Algeria’s aspirations, through the Polisario, to annex the former Spanish colony of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro. The recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara by the US, which, as the official press says, is worth its weight in gold, strengthens Morocco’s position not only in the region and against its immediate rivals, but brings it closer to the alliance between the Emirates, Israel and Saudi Arabia, from which it hopes to obtain new investments. The only cost to the Moroccan Makhzen has been Egypt, even the Palestinian national authority has accepted Morocco’s new relationship with Israel. The gain not only comes in recognition and investments, it strengthens Morocco against the EU as a whole and against France and Spain in particular. The final push? To launch a lukewarm demand on Ceuta and Melilla. At this point, the nervous and robotic-like response of the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as the hysterical disproportion of the leader of the opposition have confirmed to Rabat the Spanish weakness and therefore the opportunity it has to pressure the Spanish bourgeoisie so that, once again, it will give up its interests in the Sahara.

4 In the end, beneath diplomatic dances, political discourses and military movements, imperialism is nothing other than material interests measured in flows of commodities and capital. The imperialist interests of Spanish capital have historically been oriented towards Latin America on the one hand and towards the Mediterranean on the other. The same approach has been taken since the union of the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. In the end the bourgeoisie inherited the geographical position of the classes that preceded it in power. It is not without a certain humour that the main representatives of both perspectives today are, on the one hand, Santander and BBVA, that is, the two large banks born in the main ports of Castile, and on the other hand, Repsol and Naturgy, two companies historically owned by the CriteriaCaixa group, born in Barcelona, the main port of Aragon.

BBVA is withdrawing from Latin America. After selling funds, pension funds and banks in Chile, Paraguay, etc. It has just sold its last license in the United States, with which it intends to save the year by paying dividends through de-capitalization. Repsol announced the reduction of oil and gas exploration from 24 to 17 countries. Naturgy maintained its contract with Sonatrach (the Algerian state gas company) at the last minute and thanks to the direct intervention of the state, which sent Sánchez himself to Algiers. His position, however, is also weakened: gas is crucial for Spanish capital to be able to play in the European Green Deal. So now the conditions are set by Algerian capital.

These are just a few examples, significant but perhaps not as dramatic as the fact that the Spanish trade balance reduced its positive side by 92.7% in the first half of the year. The horizons of Spanish capital are shrinking. And with them, its political borders – in the Americas and in Brussels – and even physical ones – in Gibraltar and Africa – are beginning to be called into question.

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