31 Saharawi NGOs call for change in EU's trade policy
While the EU is in the process of negotiating a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Morocco, 31 Saharawi NGOs recommend the EU to respect international law by excluding their occupied homeland. The organisations represent the vast majority of Saharawi civil society groups in the occupied territories of Western Sahara and in the refugee camps in south-west Algeria.
The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) will allow for Morocco’s progressive economic integration into the EU single market, offering the country more opportunities to export its goods to the EU and to attract European investments. In return, the EU countries will be granted better access to the Moroccan market.
If the EU sticks to its business-as-usual with Morocco – not expressly defining the geographical extent of the agreement and therefore failing to explicitly exclude Western Sahara from the deal’s scope – the DCFTA may open up huge opportunities for EU business in the occupied territory.
In their letter to the European Commission dated 26 June 2012, the 31 NGOs, representing Saharawi civil society in the occupied territories and the refugee camps, expressed the following views:
1. In all future trade deals between the EU and Morocco, we would urge that the territory of Western Sahara is clearly and explicitly excluded.
2. No Trade Agreement should be signed with the occupying power Morocco, for economic activities to take place in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, in disregard of the wishes and interests of the Saharawi people.
3. If entering into an Agreement covering the illegally occupied Non-Self Governing Territory of Western Sahara, all measures must be taken to consult the Saharawi people and respect their interests. A transparent strategy must be presented to ensure that the Saharawi people are genuinely consulted and that they give their consent to the process. In addition, a full assessment of human rights implications must precede the take-off of those negotiations.
4. The EU should encourage Morocco to show respect for human rights both inside its internationally recognised borders and in its extra-territorial behaviour, notably in Western Sahara.
The full letter of the 31 organisations can be downloaded here.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.