BREAKING: EU Court stops EU-Morocco fish deal in Western Sahara

The EU Court this morning issued a ruling stating that the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement is only valid if it does not apply to the waters of Western Sahara.
Printer version    
The Court ruled that the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement cannot be applied to Western Sahara or its adjacent waters, as that would violate the people of Western Sahara's right to self-determination, and, accordingly, their right to consent to any such agreement that would affect the territory.

The Court's press release states that "currently, the greater part of Western Sahara is occupied by Morocco, which considers it to be an integral part of its territory." The Court does not share that Moroccan claim. "Taking account of the fact that the territory of Western Sahara does not form part of the territory of Morocco, the waters adjacent to the territory of WS are not part of the Moroccan fishing zone", says the Court's press release.

"If the territory of Western Sahara were to be included within the scope of the Fisheries Agreement, that would be
contrary to certain rules of general international law that are applicable in relations between the EU and Kingdom of Morocco, inter alia the principle of self-determination", the press release continues. "The Court concludes that the "Moroccan fishing  zone" under the Protocol does not include the waters  adjacent to the territory of Western Sahara", the Court's press release reads. "The Court therefore holds that, since neither the Fisheries Agreement nor the Protocol thereto are applicable to the waters adjacent to the territory of Western Sahara, the EU acts relating to their conclusion and implementation are valid."

Download the Court's press release of 27 February 2018 here.
Download the full ruling here.

The Court thus follows its Advocate General, Melchior Wathelet, who issued his Opinion on 10 January this year. Wathelet concluded that the agreement was "invalid" for being applied to Western Sahara, and that the EU had no right to enter into a fisheries agreement with Morocco that covered the waters of Western Sahara. The Advocate General's Opinion can be downloaded here.

The ruling is also in line with the Court's ruling of December 2016. In a case brought before it by the UN-recognised representation of the people of Western Sahara - the Polisario Front - the Court of Justice of the EU issued a final judgment on the EU-Morocco agriculture agreement, stating that no EU trade or association agreement could be applied to Western Sahara due to its "separate and distinct" status, without the consent of the people of that territory.

See a short video from the opening remark by the Court today (Youtube).

Today's case was initiated by Western Sahara Campaign UK in 2015. Though the UK High Court concluded that there was "an arguable case of a manifest error by the [European] Commission in understanding and applying international law relevant to these agreements", it did refer the case to the EU Court for advise. That referral resulted in today's judgment by the EU Court.

"We welcome the judgment of the European Court, says John Gurr of Western Sahara Campaign UK. "Again the Court has given a clear message to the European Commission that any agreements, whether for fish, other produce or aviation with Western Sahara must have the consent of the Polisario or it will be illegal. This judgement makes it clear that European trawlers in the waters of Western Sahara should cease fishing immediately."

Earlier this year, the EU Commission requested the Member States for a mandate to negotiate a renewal of the fish deal the Court has now invalidated. Not even two weeks ago, the EU Member States indicated they would approve the Commission's request.

Since you're here....
WSRW’s work is being read and used more than ever. But our financial situation is tough. Our work takes time, dedication and diligence. But we do it because we believe it matters – and we hope you do to. If everyone who reads our website or likes us on Facebook, would contribute to our work – 3€, 5€, 27€ … what you can spare – the future of WSRW would be much more secure. You can donate to WSRW in less than a minute here.
"I call on the Commission and Member States to carry out a total reset of its relation towards Morocco and Western Sahara, in conformity with international law", says Greens/EFA Member of the European Parliament Florent Marcellesi. "EU-based companies need to heed the ruling of the Court and have to put their activities within a framework that secures legal and economic certainty, that means with the consent of the Saharawi people."

Morocco has occupied three-quarters of Western Sahara, including the coastal strip, for over 4 decades. In October 1975, the International Court of Justice rejected Morocco’s territorial claims over Western Sahara and recognised the Saharawi people's right to self-determination.  Since 1975 Morocco has supported the settlement of its citizens in Western Sahara, arguably in breach of Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions. The United Nations and NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have found evidence of serious human rights abuses.


06.03 - 2018 / 06.03 - 2018Kosmos Energy maintains propaganda site after Western Sahara exit
02.03 - 2018 / 01.03 - 2018What is HeidelbergCement doing in occupied Western Sahara?
01.03 - 2018 / 01.03 - 2018Confirmed: Innophos key client of Western Sahara phosphate rock
28.02 - 2018 / 28.02 - 2018South Africa stands up against the plunder of Western Sahara
28.02 - 2018 / 28.02 - 2018Bermuda shipping company drops Western Sahara
27.02 - 2018 / 27.02 - 2018EU and Morocco announce continued fisheries partnership
27.02 - 2018 / 23.02 - 2018EU Parliament slams Commission on Western Sahara talks
27.02 - 2018 / 27.02 - 2018Polisario: open to negotiate Western Sahara deals with the EU
27.02 - 2018 / 27.02 - 2018Saharawi refugees celebrate EU Court victory
27.02 - 2018 / 27.02 - 2018BREAKING: EU Court stops EU-Morocco fish deal in Western Sahara
23.02 - 2018 / 23.02 - 2018SA Court confirms: Morocco has no ownership over Saharawi phoshates
23.02 - 2018 / 21.02 - 2018EU Member States disagree over toxic fertilizers
21.02 - 2018 / 21.02 - 2018Vigeo Eiris goes back on false claim
20.02 - 2018 / 20.02 - 2018EU Parliamentarians concerned over Commission's respect of rule of law
15.02 - 2018 / 15.02 - 2018Sweden to vote against new EU-Morocco fish talks
08.02 - 2018 / 08.02 - 2018Studies continue on Kosmos Energy's block
07.02 - 2018 / 07.02 - 2018Kosmos and Cairn have pulled out of Western Sahara
07.02 - 2018 / 07.02 - 2018Why WSRW refuses to take part in the EU's Western Sahara consultation
03.02 - 2018 / 03.02 - 2018Unison condemnation of the EU Commission from Western Sahara groups
02.02 - 2018 / 01.02 - 2018Siemens fails to respond Western Sahara question at AGM


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.
EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies


It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the three different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents. News Archive 2018 News Archive 2017 News Archive 2016 News Archive 2015 News Archive 2014 News Archive 2013 News Archive 2012 News Archive 2011 News Archive 2010 News Archive 2009 News Archive 2008 News Archive 2007 News Archive 2004-2006

Register for our English newsletter:

These web pages have been built with the financial support of the trade union Industry Energy