THE European Commission could give Morocco €500 million to keep migrants out of the EU for the period of 2021 to 2027, the EU body has said in a statement.
The two sides are set to reach an agreement that would be a 50% increase on the sum of €343 million for 2014 to 2020.
A high-ranking EU source told the El Pais newspaper that Morocco was a ‘very important’ partner of not only Spain and France, but the whole of the European community.
“This quantity gives an idea of how ambitious Brussels is to address Spanish fears that the its southern neighbourhood would be neglected in the latest budget,” added the El Pais source.
Morocco has land borders with the two Spanish towns of Ceuta and Melilla on the African continent.
It also has to tackle migration organized by people smuggling cartels regularly from the North African country to Andalusian beaches across the Straits of Gibraltar and Canary Islands.
The funds will pay for integration and protection projects for refugees living in Morocco, forced returns and police cooperation to fight against organized criminals in the area.
The European Commission is looking to sign similar deals with Algeria, the Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania.
With Rabat claiming it invests €435 million to stop the migrant surge, it has pressed the EU hard for the €500 million figure.
The sum is supplied by the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument of the EU (NDICI).
The fund has a budget of €79,500 million for 2021 to 2027, 13% more than the previous period.
Talks were made all the tougher by an incident in which Morocco allowed 10,000 migrants to enter Ceuta in May last year.
“No one can blackmail Europe,” vice president of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas said at the time.
A similar surge of migrants into Spain on June 24 this year was violently pushed back by Moroccan and Spanish security forces.
Although about 37 migrants died in the border disaster, Spain’s Prime Minister thanked Morocco for the ‘necessary’ action, blaming it on the people smugglers.
Demonstrations flared up in Barcelona, Madrid and other Spanish cities over the tragedy.
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