As Europe lenders shy Sahara controversy, Morocco looks to China
Several big European investment banks have indicated that they will not finance renewable energy projects in occupied Western Sahara. As a result, Morocco is forced to look for other, less ethically inspired funders.
"The large money lenders deserve credit for refusing funds for such deals. The plundering of occupied Western Sahara is today a race to the bottom, where the least ethically minded funders and companies close their eyes to basic social responsibility. We believe Morocco might have hit the bottom in China", said Erik Hagen, chair of Western Sahara Resource Watch.
The European positions on refusing Morocco credit for such projects in Western Sahara were voiced in the aftermath of a report published by WSRW in August of last year. That report “Dirty Green March” detailed Morocco’s plans to build wind and solar energy plants inside the occupied territories of Western Sahara. As a net energy-importer, Morocco is facing ever-increasing energy bills. Investing in solar and wind energy could alleviate expenses.
However, some of the envisioned plants will be located outside of Morocco’s internationally recognised borders, and inside the territory that many Saharawis fled from after Morocco’s military invasion in 1975. Problematically, Morocco would thus make itself even more dependent on upholding the illegal occupation. An issue which does not seem to go down well with European investors and the World Bank.
Nevertheless, Morocco has according to Reuters managed to team up with investors from China, Japan and the Gulf region. Morocco’s Minster for Foreign Affairs, Salaheddine Mezouar, boasts of having secured $9 billion for the solar project, consisting of 5 plants. Two of those are planned in occupied Western Sahara; a 100 MW plant near the town of Boujdour and another 500 MW plant just south of the capital El Aaiun.
The Minister however declined to give Reuters further details on the financing contracts with specific parties, yet stated that the financing is not conditional on the location of the plants.
"That is their problem. We have no financing problems. If some people don't want to come, others will", the Minister told Reuters on EU investors backing out.
The European denial of issuing credit resembles what WSRW has seen from other government controlled funding institutions. US agency USTDA has stated something similar on refusing Morocco funds for marketing the oil industry in Western Sahara, while the Scandinavian export credit agencies have stated comparable positions on Western Sahara projects in general.
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.
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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