The old idea of uniting Spain and Morocco through the Strait of Gibraltar is “closer,” according to the president of the state company that is studying this project in Spain, which calls for “public-private collaboration” to carry out “one of the largest and most spectacular infrastructures in the world.”
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In Spain, the company that has been analyzing this project for more than four decades is the Spanish Society of Studies for Fixed Communication through the Strait of Gibraltar (Secegsa), attached to the Ministry of Transport.
In the 2022 accounts that it recently sent to the General Intervention of the State Administration (IGAE), Secegsa no longer mentions the “blockade” of relations with Morocco as an impediment to the project, as it did in the 2021 accounts. On June 1, a renewed board of directors was formulated, which was joined in 2022 by Purificación Causapié, former spokesperson for the PSOE in the Madrid City Council and current director of the Cabinet of the Secretary of State for Relations with the Courts and Constitutional Affairs, Rafael Simancas.
The executive president of Secegsa since 2020 is Army Division General José Luis Goberna, who in an article recently published in the magazine Awraq, edited by Casa Arab, reviews the first four decades of this project and is optimistic after the “slowdown.” ” from the years 2010 to 2021, coinciding with the successive crises in relations between Spain and Morocco: “The project continues to take certain steps and is increasingly closer to reaching a successful conclusion,” he assures.
The chief executive of Secegsa points out its financing as a “determining factor” for the project, “especially in its future stages of construction and operation.”
And here it appeals to the input of the private sector. “The studies carried out have confirmed the wide offer for this type of works when the development and growth that they entail seems assured. The latest trends for this type of work no longer seem to be exclusive to the public sector, but rather closer to possible public-private cooperation. This varied and hopeful climate offers the fixed link project the opportunity to take the last steps that make one of the largest and most spectacular infrastructures in the world feasible and viable.”
According to Goberna, “we must not lose sight of the geostrategic nature of the Project and its financing methods in the global context, since both will be the two determining factors of its unavoidable execution in the 21st century.”
But the “main determining factor of its effective construction, once the uncertainties regarding the terrain and engineering have been overcome,” is not, in his opinion, financing, but rather the “strategic character” of the enclave.
The reasons are its geographical position, “which facilitates its centrality on the planet and its condition of intercontinental connection”, “its internationalization, given the presence of US and UK contingents in the area, through its military bases, transit frequent of the Russian fleet or Chinese investments”, and “the great interests present in the region in sectors such as trade, ongoing investments, large-scale transportation, or defense and security for the Western Hemisphere.”
Goberna’s article is prior to the 43rd meeting of the Spanish-Moroccan Joint Committee of the Strait of Gibraltar Fixed Link Project being held in April of this year. This committee had not met since 2009. As of the date of the article, which is not specified, contacts had not been resumed.
Studies, not works
The corporate purpose of Secegsa is limited to carrying out studies, never works, normally jointly with the Moroccan counterpart company, the SNED, both created in 1981. Any construction carried out in the future would imply a new bilateral agreement with Morocco, as as provided for in the international agreements in force on this subject.
Sources from the Ministry of Transportation indicate that “there is no tunnel project on the table to transport vehicles, people, etc.” and that currently “it is focused on telecommunications” and, where appropriate, energy. “We are in a period of development of these works of the working group but still in a theoretical and technical feasibility phase,” indicates a spokesperson, who refers to the telematic meeting that Minister Raquel Sánchez held in April with the Moroccan Minister of Infrastructure. and Agua, Nizar Baraka, in that bilateral committee that had not met for 14 years.
Then, Transport pointed out that “the meeting coincides with the reactivation of Secegsa, after several years without a relevant budget allocation, and with the task of carrying out the necessary studies to analyze the viability of the intercontinental fixed link for telecommunications and energy transport.”
elDiario.es reported in October 2022 that the Government, after Pedro Sánchez’s unexpected turn on the Sahara to get closer to Morocco, had decided to relaunch this project, after assigning it 2.3 million euros of the Recovery Plan funds and a departure from the General State Budgets to take “the definitive step” towards the start of the works. The Ministry of Transport then avoided specifying its plans and later a spokeswoman assured that “the tunnel has not been reactivated.”
Months later, in February, Raquel Sánchez announced during a visit to Morocco “a boost to the studies of the Fixed Link Project of the Strait of Gibraltar that was started by both countries forty years ago”, which she described as “a strategic project for Spain and Morocco and also for Europe and Africa”. She did it on a trip in which she learned first-hand about Morocco’s needs for high-speed rail, ports, airports or water management facilities.
In its accounts, Segecsa indicates that as of December 31, 2022, it had recognized from the Ministry of Finance an “not received” obligation of 610,000 euros of European funds from the recovery plan, of the 750,000 euros that it had allocated for 2022, for the “updating ” of the draft. “To receive these 610,000.00 euros, the Company must justify expenses for said amount attributable to the project.”
million dollar claim
Segecsa also reports the end of a lawsuit filed by a Spanish company, Presa Puente del Estrecho de Gibraltar, which claimed compensation of 89.9 million euros for an alleged breach of contract. “On April 20, the Court of First Instance No. 61 of Madrid issued its ruling dismissing the lawsuit.” The promoter of this project, which as its name indicates, proposes building a huge dam with a 2-kilometer-long bridge to unite Europe and Africa, is a builder from Jinn, Juan Valle, who in 2018 defined his proposal as “a normal work.” , nothing pharaonic ”.
The latest published version of the Spanish-Moroccan fixed link project is a document published more than a decade ago. It contemplated a 42-kilometer route between the North and South terminals to unite both continents in just over half an hour. On paper, a passenger and merchandise transport service has been proposed using shuttle trains for cars, buses and trucks. Conventional passenger and freight trains could also run through the tunnel. The forecast was about 9.6 million passengers in 2030 and the transit of 7.4 million tons of merchandise for that year.
For now, the only thing there is are previous studies in which a lot of money has been spent: 53 million until 2011 alone, according to what El Confidencial published in 2018. Between 1981 and 2014, 48 research campaigns were carried out, with ten surveys, of which four were deep marine surveys. During what Goberna calls the third “reflection stage”, until 2021, the studies “have been incorporating, on the one hand, the latest scientific advances on the tunnelability of the affected lands; and, on the other hand, the evolution in the tunnel boring industry.”
Although it is still “pending to ratify the last doubts regarding the technical feasibility of the work,” the military man insists, “we firmly believe that in the 21st century, the definitive execution of the great work of the fixed link will turn it into a door, a path, a common enterprise that will facilitate cooperation, collaboration and brotherhood between neighboring peoples that will be mutually beneficial in every sense, and will enhance the prominence that both nations deserve in the international community.”
The project has been read in an energy key after the EU’s decision to abandon Russian gas in the face of the aggression against Ukraine. In June 2022, Moroccan media pointed out that a future Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline could be channeled through the Euro-African tunnel. A gigantic project that would involve transporting gas through several countries in conflict. An alleged interest from the United Kingdom to make this connection through Gibraltar has also been aired.