SNP President Ian Hudghton MEP wrote to Scottish Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie yesterday, urging him to give backing to the people of Western Sahara at a forthcoming meeting of the EU Fisheries Council. It is anticipated that the Fisheries Council of 22nd May will approve an agreement allowing EU vessels to fish in waters under Moroccan control. There are fears that this could include waters belonging to the occupied territory of Western Sahara - and it has been reported that both Finland and Sweden intend to table declarations to the effect that Western Saharan rights must be respected.
Mr Hudghton stated: "There are grave concerns that the proposed EU-Morocco fisheries agreement could allow the illegal exploitation of Western Saharan resources. This runs contrary to the principle of self-determination - a principle which is a fundamental right.
"I am urging Ross Finnie to give backing to Western Sahara's plight. The UK government has so far been less than sympathetic to Western Sahara and has rejected calls to exclude their waters from the agreement. Nevertheless, the Scottish Executive is not obliged to follow the London line - and Ross Finnie should seek to use the influence he claims to have at Fisheries Councils.
"The European Parliament has this week demanded that the agreement with Morocco be suspended should evidence arise that it is being used to illegally fish in Western Saharan waters. Ross Finnie must back this call - and ensure that the UK government takes heed."
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.
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.
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.
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