Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell told about Trump’s suggestion during a lunch in Madrid organized by Club Siglo XXI, a respectable cultural association that dates back to 1969. According to El País newspaper, Trump argued before a Spanish delegation visiting the White House that “the border with the Sahara can’t be longer than ours is with Mexico,” to which the Spaniards said it actually would have to be longer by about a half.
Spain does have a border wall in Africa, where its tiny enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta are separated from Morocco by rows of wire fences. The enclaves regularly see crowds of asylum-seekers storming the fences in hopes of getting into a Spanish jurisdiction.
Borrell’s anecdote didn’t specify when and in what context Trump voiced his suggestion, which may have been intended as a joke. Diplomatic sources say that it was probably in late June, when the minister visited the US in a trip coinciding with that of the Spanish King and Queen.
During the lunch the Spanish minister argued that Europe has to find a way to tackle flows of immigrants from Africa, considering that the continent will likely double its population over the next 20 years. According to Europa Press, Borrell stated that Europe cannot absorb as many people as there are trying to come, “especially if they are Muslims”, without compromising its cultural identity.
He criticized politicians who advocate for a massive investment program in Africa similar to the one the US used to help rebuild Europe after World War II, saying the amount that the Europeans are prepared to spend in Africa is dwarfed by China’s plan to pump $60 billion into the continent, he said.
Borrell also criticized the approach to the immigration problem taken by Italy’s new government and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. He said the EU has to find “more civilized methods,” that simply preventing people rescued in the Mediterranean from landing on a European coast is not a solution. He warned that, unless a viable solution is found, Europe would see a further rise of Euro-sceptic politicians like Salvini.