European Court annuls EU trade agreement with Morocco
The European Court of Justice has this morning ordered the annulment of a trade agreement between Morocco and the European Union since it includes the territory of Western Sahara. "A landmark decision in the history of the occupation of Western Sahara", states WSRW. Press conference in Brussels, Friday.
The conclusion is as follows (translated from French by Western Sahara Resource Watch):
“The Council Decision 2012/497 of 8 March 2012 on the conclusion of an Agreement in the form of an Exchange of Letters between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco concerning reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products, processed agricultural products, fish and fishery products, the replacement of Protocols 1, 2 and 3 and their Annexes and amendments to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Kingdom of Morocco, of the other part, is annulled insofar as it permits the implementation of the agreement in Western Sahara” ["…est annulée en ce qu’elle approuve l’application dudit accord au Sahara occidental”]
As the parties met in Luxembourg earlier this year, an important part of the argumentation of the Council and Commission was that Polisario did not have a legal standing in such a process. Polisario is indeed representing the Saharawis in UN talks, the EU institutions said. But they claimed this does not mean they can represent the Saharawis in a court.
The judgment today (paragraph 114) declares that Polisario is indeed directly and individually affected by the trade agreement between Morocco and the EU, and that there is “no doubt” regarding the ‘recevabilité’ of the demand of annulment.
"This judgment shows how clear-cut the Western Sahara case is legally. Neither Morocco nor the EU have the right to exploit the resources of Western Sahara. No state in the world recognise the baseless Moroccan claims to that land. If the EU wants to deal with the goods of Western Sahara, they need to first consult the people of the territory, not Morocco", stated Sara Eyckmans, coordinator of Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW).
"This is a good day for the Saharawi people. Hopefully this will be the first step in stopping not only the overall trade, but also the unfounded EU fisheries practices which originate from the Franco era", Eyckmans stated.
The former Legal Counsel of the UN, Hans Corell, has in he past said he is "embarrassed" of being European, in the light of the EU's illegal agreements with Morocco. The EU has applied Corell's statements to legitimise their actions. Some states, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, have been very clear that in their interpretation that the FTA with Morocco cannot apply to Western Sahara.
Two other cases are currently dealt with in the ECJ. One is initiated by the same Frente Polisario, regarding EU fisheries in the territory. The other is a case initiated by Western Sahara Campaign UK regarding labelling of goods -; a case which was forwarded to the ECJ by a UK court in October 2015.
The EU is now in negotiations with Morocco for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. The EU has ignored all requests from WSRW to have the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara explicitly excluded from those negotiations.
For further comments or questions, contact;
Erik Hagen, board member of WSRW, firstname.lastname@example.org Sara Eyckmans, coordinator of WSRW, email@example.com Julia Finer, Director Emmaus Stockholm, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.