Today during a special session in the Spanish parliament about the Ukraine war, Santiago Abascal (VOX) claimed that NATO wouldn't defend Ceuta or Melilla if they where attacked. Those two are considered mainland Spain, although geographically located in the north African coast.

Article 5 specifically mentions an attack in Europe of North America. Does this mean that NATO wouldn't be obligated to intervene if anyone attacked Ceuta, Madeira or French Guiana (to name a few)?

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

  • 2
    A good thing to check is if NATO played any role in the (Falkland war](en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falklands_War) Mar 2, 2022 at 12:51
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    So, you know what the treaty says. I'm not sure what you expect as an answer. Speculation whether it would be "massaged"/interpreted to mean more? Mar 2, 2022 at 12:56
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    @Fizz I was expecting exactly what the (currently only) answer provides: Article 6 specifies all islands in the Atlantic north of the Tropic of Cancer, which would include Madeira, even if they are not technically in Europe or North America. Usually this things are not as clear cut and there are considerations and exceptions. Mar 2, 2022 at 13:39
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    It may be important to note that when France joined NATO, it controlled large part of sub-Saharan Africa and was already fighting in Indochina. Clearly, the treaty wasn't meant to cover that and nobody was committing to get involved in that war. That's why this clause exist and, yes, it does mean that not all territories are covered by the mutual defense clause.
    – Relaxed
    Mar 2, 2022 at 20:48
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    If you're looking for interesting edge cases, try French Guiana. It's in South America, but part of France and also the EU.
    – Michael W.
    Mar 2, 2022 at 23:56

1 Answer 1


No those Spanish enclaves are not covered by NATO's article 5, you'd have to look at article 6 of the North Atlantic Treaty:

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:

  • on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France 2, on the territory of Turkey or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
  • on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.

The footnote says:

  1. On January 16, 1963, the North Atlantic Council noted that insofar as the former Algerian Departments of France were concerned, the relevant clauses of this Treaty had become inapplicable as from July 3, 1962.

According to Wikipedia on NATO's article 6 which mentions those and other exceptions:

Article 6 states that the treaty covers only member states' territories in Europe and North America, Turkey and islands in the North Atlantic north of the Tropic of Cancer, plus French Algeria. It was the opinion in August 1965 of the US State Department, the US Defense Department and the legal division of NATO that an attack on the U.S. state of Hawaii would not trigger the treaty, but an attack on the other 49 would.[55] The Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the North African shore are thus not under NATO protection in spite of Moroccan claims to them. Legal experts have interpreted that other articles could cover the Spanish North African cities but this take has not been tested in practice.[56] This is also why events such as the Balyun airstrikes did not trigger Article 5, as the Turkish troops that were attacked were in Syria, not Turkey.

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    I'd add that Spain joined NATO in 1982, so it was rather unlikely to get special treatment for its African territories that Algeria got, thanks to France being in from the beginning. Mar 2, 2022 at 13:07
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    @Fizz by that time those departments weren't covered anymore due to Algerian independence. I'll edit to include the footnote.
    – JJJ
    Mar 2, 2022 at 13:31

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