EU launches talks on deepening economic relations with Morocco
"Just announced the launch of negotiations for a free-trade agreement with Morocco,'' European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso tweeted on Friday, after his meeting with Morocco’s prime minister Abdelillah Benkirane. That Free Trade Agreement will have consequences for Western Sahara.
With Barroso’s visit to Rabat last week, the European Commission has officially commenced its talks with Morocco on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA); a large-scale trade deal that will substantially deepen the Union’s already tight-knit trade ties with Morocco.
Though geared at facilitating the gradual integration of Morocco’s economy into the EU’s single market, the DCFTA is likely to drag occupied Western Sahara into the equation. So far, the EU has neglected to exclude the occupied territory from its trade deals with Morocco – thereby backing up Morocco’s untenable claims to its southern neighbour and undermining the UN peace process it claims to neutrally support.
Through intensifying trade with and investment opportunities in Morocco, European businesses risk becoming part of the protracted conflict if enticed to undertake commercial activities in a territory that the UN still classifies as a colony.
According to Reuters, trade between the EU and Morocco amounted up to approximately 24 billion euros in 2011, and the EU is keen to open up trade in the services sector. Morocco is also the largest recipient of European neighbourhood aid, with 580.5 million euros earmarked for 2011-2013.
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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