The Moroccan Lobby in Spain Called PSOE

A brief overview of how the PSOE's rhetoric on the question of Western Sahara has evolved and the effect those positions have had on a national and international scale.

Hasina Mulai Mehdi

10/5/20227 min read

A Bit of History....

During the Spanish transitional period, shortly after, Juan Carlos I, the prince at the time, transferred the administration of Western Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania in the so-called Madrid tripartite agreements, thus guaranteeing the throne and supporting the nearest monarchy (Morocco). 

Since 1977, none of the current governments in Spain have been able or willing to resolve the conflict driven by this transgression. The governments of the Popular Party have turned a blind eye. They have never considered this conflict a priority issue, believing Spain no longer has anything to do with it, even though Spain is the administering power of the territory. For their part, socialist governments have moved between talking about the rights of the Saharawi people and switching their words to avoid offending Morocco.

It is important to realize that Spain and Morocco are very close neighbors, so they are governed by "understanding each other." In fact, according to Eduardo Soller (researcher at CIBOD), "In the last century, relations with Morocco characterized Spanish domestic politics. (...) No other country has affected our domestic politics as much."

"The Moroccan Lobby in Spain Called PSOE"

In his book Morocco, the Strange Neighbor, Javier Otazu, a journalist and correspondent in Rabat for the Efe Agency for more than a decade, describes the relationship between the Spanish socialist party and the neighboring country.

Between 1976 and 2022, the PSOE has been dancing on two rhythms, at two different times, and on various issues, such as Western Sahara. On one hand, the rhythms of the base and direction, and on the other, the times of the electoral campaigns, the opposition, and the government duty.

Morocco, for its part, has engaged in extensive diplomatic efforts to "convince" organizations, businesses, and countries that friendship is worthwhile, and, most importantly, to accept its theses on Western Sahara. This was reflected in the role of Pedro Sánchez, a decision that raised blisters even internally.

How has the relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party developed?

According to the journalist Francisco Carrión, "the first and most important Spanish fishing ground for supporting majzén, the powerful circle that surrounds Mohamed VI, is in those who, at one time or another, have occupied the offices of Ferraz 70". Ali Lmrabet, an exiled Moroccan journalist, began a Twitter thread where he revealed his theory, taking into consideration how relations with French socialism worked: money and sex scandals.For his part, the Saharawi journalist, Salamu Hamudi, speaks of espionage systems, blackmail, and countless courtships.

In an interview for La Marea in 2016, the previous diplomat of the Polisario Front, Hach Ahmed (current leader of the Saharawi "dissident" Movement for Peace), explained how Felipe González's position changes regarding Western Sahara and linked them to Spain's entry into Europe and NATO, which made him get closer to the United States position. He also says that as a result, Hassan II, who was already among the allied leaders of North American countries, offered to facilitate cordial relations that could be hampered by the fact that the government of Spain was socialist. PSOE should be aware of the concerns raised by socialist governments in some countries. He continued by saying that despite the two countries' friendships in some areas, Morocco has constantly used blackmail against Spain, especially regarding Ceuta and Melilla. However, the Socialist Party has always tended to satisfy Moroccan desires to avoid problems in the regional and migration spheres, taking advantage of the need for cooperation to fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.

 He puts the rupture between Felipe González and the Polisario Front in the Junquito crisis, the president by then, who was considered the creator of the conflict by signing "illegal agreements with an occupying power in illegal seas that do not belong to him" and then sending a warship to an area that was already at war. He says, "This crisis served as an excuse for the behavior that the government of Felipe González had at the time."

It also highlights Morocco's role in Latin America, where Felipe González defended their interests, presenting himself as an expert in the area and ensuring that they were also Spain's interests. Felipe González did this when he got involved in the middle of the negotiations between the government of Eduardo Frei (Chile) and the Polisario Front, sneaking Morocco into the game, or when he called insistently on the Colombian president to withdraw his recognition of the SADR. More recently, he has also intervened among members of his own political party. For instance, he was convincing José Bono, who had to visit Morocco to "see the reality closely", after he had declared that "Morocco is not a democracy, nor can it have the level or be considered a friendly country, because it is a dictatorship disguised by personal power" or interceding between the barons of the PSOE to silence the internal criticism caused by the Sánchez government's change of position.

"We are aware of your experience of receiving many unfulfilled promises. Therefore, I don't want to give you a promise but to commit myself to history. Our party will be with you until the final victory.

Felipe Gonzalez (PSOE) speaks to Sahrawi refugees in Tindouf, November 1976.

Felipe Gonzalez

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

The second socialist president, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has also demonstrated a strong relationship with the Alaouite kingdom. He has even managed to receive the Order of the Throne from Mohamed VI. The former president even suggested that the Saharawi people should forget about the referendum and adopt "imaginative ways" to solve the conflict. And not only that, in 2015, while serving as former Prime Minister, he visited the occupied city of Dajla to attend the Crans Montana Forum, where he congratulated himself for having "recovered something as essential as a trustful relationship with Morocco". The Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time, José Manuel García-Margallo, reminded him that the African Union itself had requested the cancellation of the event since it would be hosted in a city which is illegally occupied.

Miguel Angel Moratinos

Javier Otazu affirms that the real Moroccan lobbyist in Spain right now is Miguel Angel Moratinos, and the upcoming celebration the World Summit of the Alliance of Civilizations, which will be hosted in the city of Fez (where Moratinos is High Representative), is proof of their deep friendship. It was mentioned in another article that Francisco Carrión claimed that several Spanish diplomats assured him that José Manuel Albares "had listened intently" to Moratinos' position regarding Western Sahara, but Morocco somehow denies that.

Maria Antonia Trujillo

Although the approaches to Morocco have become more obvious, a month ago there was a very controversial episode involving the former socialist minister María Antonia Trujillo, who said that the cities of Ceuta and Melilla "are an affront to the territorial integrity of Morocco" at a conference held in Tangier and inaugurated by Zapatero. She added that "These two cities are vestiges of the past that interfere with the economic and political independence of this country (Morocco) and, and it is not surprising, she has been labelled as ‘person not appreciated' in the autonomous city of Melilla given the close relationship between the two countries.


Despite these moves taking place in highly significant places, journalist Francisco Carrión asserts that "the authorities of the neighboring country still find it difficult to influence Spanish public opinion and are very reluctant to use their speech." Therefore, they have also invested a lot of time and money trying to undermine the majority support that Spanish society has given to the Saharawi cause (a big part of it goes to PSOE voters).

It is obvious that the PSOE continues to dance to two different beats when it comes to Western Sahara. Sánchez's change of position does not represent the majority of parliament nor its militants. This decision has stoked the distrust of the Saharawi people, both with the socialist party and with the left party in general. The Saharawi people feel used and deceived.

Every day, the POLISARIO front faces more diplomatic obstacles that must be overcome because it is no longer enough for international law to be on the Sahrawi people's side; it has become necessary to achieve political consensus in Spain and in other countries.


Although Western Sahara is consolidating new relations both in Latin America and on the African continent itself, it is prioritising a legal battle against plundering, which can mean little triumphs and a shot of optimism for the new generation of Saharawi people who have been strongly resisting.

What are your thoughts?

Is the PSOE the Moroccan lobby in Spain?

Do these leaders' decisions represent the opinions of their militants?

So far, our special on the PSOE and its close relationship with Rabat has piqued your interest.