Ceuta and Melilla, once again in the spotlight. The two Spanish cities once again take center stage on the occasion of the NATO Summit that is being held this week in Madrid. The questions that arise in relation to the two Spanish and European territories most exposed to the migratory push and even to the jihadist threat that ignites in the Sahel arise in the public debate.
What does the Washington Treaty establish?
In accordance with article 5 of the Treaty, the member nations of the Alliance agree that an armed attack against one or more of them, which takes place in Europe or North America, will be considered as an attack directed against all of them.
What is the geographic area covered by the Treaty?
Article 6 specifies that an armed attack against one or more of the allied nations will be considered to be any attack that occurs against the territory of any of them in Europe or North America, against the French departments of Algeria (with Algerian independence ceased to exist in 1962), against the territory of Turkey or against the islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.
Are Ceuta and Melilla included in this definition?
No. The two Spanish cities are theoretically outside the territory covered by the Washington Treaty as they are enclaves located on the African continent. The same does not happen with the Canary archipelago, which does fall within the definition of Spanish islands located north of the Tropic of Cancer.
Would Spain have the support of NATO if Ceuta and Melilla were attacked?
During the 40 years that Spain has been a member of the Alliance, this question has always received two answers: that of those who strictly read Article 6 of the Treaty and therefore exclude the two cities from the protective umbrella of the Alliance, and that of those who prefer focus attention on article 4 according to which the allies will consult each other when, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened.
Could Spain invoke the Treaty to defend Ceuta and Melilla?
Yes. It could do so using article 4 of the Washington Treaty, given that both cities form part of the territorial integrity of Spain – disputed only by Morocco – and consequently are European Union territory. In addition, it could wield the EU Security and Defense initiative that does include Ceuta and Melilla as Spanish and community cities.
Is it possible to expect a modification of the Treaty to clarify the status of both cities?
Spain has never requested a modification of the Treaty because it has never doubted that the Alliance would protect its territorial integrity, that is, every inch of land under its sovereignty. It is possible, however, that the New Strategic Concept to be approved in Madrid expressly includes this principle, which would suffice to dispel the doubts raised by the literal reading of the Treaty. An express mention of Ceuta and Melilla at the request of Spain would open a friction front with Morocco.
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