EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies
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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.
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The Polisario Front - the UN recognised representation of the people of Western Sahara - brought two actions against the EU Council before the EU Court: one calling for the annulment of the EU-Morocco agriculture agreement, and another calling for the annulment of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement. Their reason for trying the EU Council? Both agreements were being applied to Western Sahara.

In the UK, Western Sahara Campaign UK - a solidarity group - brought action in the UK High Court against two British government agencies: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HRMC) and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Western Sahara Campaign UK argued that the UK was unlawfully allowing products, originating from or processed in Western Sahara, to be imported into the country under a trade agreement with Morocco.

Below, find timelines of key-events for each of these three court cases. In chronological order.


1. POLISARIO TRIES EU COUNCIL OVER EU-MOROCCO AGRICULTURE AGREEMENT

March 2000 – The EU-Morocco Association Agreement enters into force. A free trade area liberalizing two-way trade in goods was created.

October 2005 – The EU Council gives the EU Commission a mandate to negotiate further trade liberalization for (processed) agriculture and fishery products.

02 December 2010 – EU Council signs agriculture agreement.

12 July 2011 – The European Parliament’s rapporteur in the Agriculture Committee recommends Parliament to reject the conclusion of the proposed agri-deal issues.

26 January 2012 – The European Parliament’s International Trade Agreement votes in favour of the agri-agreement, in spite of the recommendation of its own Rapporteur calling for the rejection of the agreement.

14 February 2012 – WSRW publishes the report ‘Conflict Tomatoes’, revealing the massive growth of the Moroccan agriculture industry in occupied Western Sahara and the export of the produce to the EU.

16 February 2012 – In the plenary session, the European Parliament approves EU-Morocco agriculture agreement. (369 MEPs voted in favour, 225 against and 31 abstained)

08 March 2012 – EU Council formally concludes the agriculture agreement with Morocco.

17 June 2012 – WSRW publishes the report 'Label and Liability', documenting how produce from Western Sahara ends up on the EU market, labelled as Moroccan.

12 September 2012 – EU Commission implements the new agreement.

01 October 2012 – The agriculture agreement between the EU and Morocco enters into force.

19 November 2012 – FP brings action against EU council (case T-512/12) asking for the annulment of the Council decision concluding the agriculture agreement with Morocco.

10 December 2015 – The Court of Justice of the European Union annuls the EU-Morocco agriculture agreement in so far as it applies to Western Sahara.

19 January 2016 – The EU Council appeals the Court’s decision to annul the EU-Morocco agri-deal in as far as it was applied to Western Sahara.

13 September 2016 – The Advocate General of the CJEU presents his Opinion, concluding that "Neither the EU-Morocco Association Agreement nor the EU-Morocco Agreement on the liberalisation of trade in agricultural and fishery products apply to Western Sahara".

21 December 2016 - The Court of Justice of the EU confirms in its final appeal the argumentation of the Advocate General and annuls the initial judgement from December 2015. The reason for annulment is that Western Sahara has no part in the application of the 2000 and 2012 agreements.



2. POLISARIO TRIES EU COUNCIL OVER EU-MOROCCO FISHERIES PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT

December 2011 – The European Parliament rejects the one-year extension of the Protocol to the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement.

January 2012 – EU Commission asks the EU Member States to be mandated to renegotiate a fisheries protocol with Morocco.

July 2013 – The EU Commission initials a new Fisheries Protocol with Morocco, which will allow EU vessels to resume fishing in the waters of Western Sahara.

November 2013 – A divided EU Council (COREPER) decides to back the proposed new Fisheries Protocol with Morocco. Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the UK and the Netherlands did not support the deal.

December 2013 – The European Parliament votes in favour of the new EU-Morocco Fisheries Protocol.

March 2014 - FP brings action against EU Council (case T-180/14), asking annulment of Council decision concluding the FPA Protocol with Morocco.

July 2014 –  The Protocol enters into force.

2017 - The Court decides to judge on the below and related case from Western Sahara Campaign UK first, and on the Polisario case later.

2018 - A judgment can be expected perhaps later this year, after the judgment on the below case was concluded on 27 February 2018.


3. CASE INITIATED BY WESTERN SAHARA CAMPAIGN AGAINST UK GOVERNMENT AGENCIES - REFERRED TO CJEU

February 2015 – Western Sahara Campaign UK brings action in the UK High Court against Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HRMC) and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

15.05.2015 - The UK High Court granted Permission by Order.

July 2015 – Substantive hearing takes place at the UK High Court.

October 2015 – the UK High Court refers the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The UK Judge stated: “I conclude that there is an arguable case of a manifest error by the Commission in understanding and applying international law relevant to these agreements.”

September 2017 – The Court of Justice of the European Union holds a hearing on the case.

January 2018 – The CJEU Advocate General issues his Opinion on the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement, and calls it invalid because it is applied to Western Sahara.

27 February 2018 - The Court of Justice of the European Union judges the agreement inapplicable to Western Sahara.

    

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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

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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.
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