EU looks to avoid energy imports from Western Sahara

The European Commission recognizes the importance of respecting "the separate and distinct status of the territory of Western Sahara" when considering energy imports from Morocco.
Published: 02.02 - 2017 09:53Printer version    
In response to a Parliamentary Question on the installation of renewable energy plants in Western Sahara, the Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, stated that the Joint-Declaration of several EU Member States with Morocco for future trade in renewable energy can only be implemented in accordance with international law.

“The Declaration will be implemented taking due account of the separate and distinct status of the territory of Western Sahara under international law. This might require a case-by-case assessment taking into account that electricity from renewable sources is usually traded by commercial undertakings”, stated Commissioner Cañete.

The Commissioner’s response, which came in writing, includes a reference to the 21 December 2016 Judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union, concluding that the EU’s Association and Liberalization Agreements with Morocco cannot be applied to Western Sahara, as it is not part of Morocco. The reply can be accessed through this link, via clicking the 'answer' button that is next to the Parliamentary Question's subject line.

It is not clear from the Commissioner's statement how energy developed in occupied Western Sahara could be avoided in practice, if Morocco would connect the territory's energy plants to its own national grid.

On 17 November 2016, Spain, Portugal, France and Germany signed a Joint Declaration with Morocco for future cooperation on renewable energy. Specifically, the EU Member States eye an import of clean energy from Morocco in the foreseeable future. Morocco's advances on the renewable energy front have been internationally acclaimed - but a sizeable part of its planned and operational renewable energy plants are located in the territory it holds under illegal occupation since 1975; Western Sahara.

By 2020, more than a quarter of Morocco’s entire green energy production will be located in Western Sahara, making Morocco more dependent on its illegal presence in the territory, and thus further complicating an already arduous peace process. For further information, see our "Powering the Plunder" report, detailing Morocco's attempt to green-wash its occupation and the role of Siemens in that endeavor.

Cañete's reply signals a shift in the EU Commission's position vis-à-vis Western Sahara. Where before, the Commission would consistently state that Western Sahara is de facto administered by Morocco - a theory which the Court ruled invalid - it now recognizes the "separate and distinct status" of the territory. It is a peculiar touch of irony that this first on-record recognition comes from Miguel Arias Cañete, who in his previous position as Spain's Minister for Fisheries campaigned tirelessly for the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which is applied in the waters of occupied Western Sahara. The CJEU is expected to start proceedings to assess the legality of Western Sahara's inclusion in the fish deal this year.


News archive:
01.02 - 2018EU has sealed Western Sahara trade deal in violation of Court Judgment
30.01 - 2018Vigeo Eiris reports untruly about UN human rights approval
29.01 - 2018'Biggest importer' of phosphate rock is pulling out
12.01 - 2018Glencore has left occupied Western Sahara
22.01 - 2018German government not supportive of business in Western Sahara
10.01 - 2018Polisario calls on EU to halt all trade talks covering Western Sahara
10.01 - 2018EU Court advocate: Fish agreement invalid for including Western Sahara


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

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