On Monday afternoon, the EU Ministers of agriculture voted through with a clear majority a fisheries agreement with Morocco. That permits EU fishing vessels to fish offshore the occupied Western Sahara, something which is very controversial. Sweden was the only country to vote against, and was also alone in its protest.
Sweden fought very hard until the end when the EU's agricultural ministers gathered in Brussels for a final decision.
The agreement entails that the EU is to buy fishing quotas from Morocco. It is first and foremost Spanish and Portuguese vessels that will get the right to fish in Western Sahara waters, areas that are occupied by Morocco.
All except Sweden voted yes. All countries except Sweden voted for the agreement. Sweden did not get any other countries to join the protest. Finland, Ireland and Holland, however, made their own declarations with reservations.
The Swedish government writes in its protest that the agreement does not fully take into account that Western Sahara is not a part of Morocco's territory. In addition, Sweden is of the view that there are no guarantees that the Western Saharan people will benefit from the fishing agreement.
The UN's former legal chief, the Swede Hans Corell, has previously investigated the question of the right to natural resources in Western Sahara, and he understands the Swedish protests:
– Yes, very much so. It is actually consistent with the opinion that I expressed in a statement that I made to the Security Council when I was the legal chief at the UN. Then, it wasn't about fishing, but about oil exploration. But the problem remains the same, says Hans Corell.
Controversial territory Foreign oil companies have previously pulled out of the area, since it is deemed so controversial to exploit the natural resources there.
Hans Corell also believes that one can question the influence of the Western Saharan people at this point.
The UN has for long tried to solve the question of the occupied Western Sahara. The intention is to hold a referendum there, on what the future should be.
"Does not contribute to a solution" – Great efforts have been made by the UN to solve this question on the status of Western Sahara. And I can hardly believe that such an agreement will contribute to finding a good solution of that question, says Hans Corell.
It is not clear whether it will have any effect that single EU states such as Sweden makes its own political statements.
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.
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