The decision is clear. The trade agreement cannot be implemented in Western Sahara, which falls outside of the international borders of Morocco. However, the court does not stop there. In its decision, the judgement goes even further, all the way back to the 2000 Association Agreement which frames the EU-Morocco relations. That agreement too, the court states, cannot be included in Western Sahara. The reasoning follows the line of arguments by the general-advocate of the court who in September 2016 came to the same conclusion. The court thus goes even further than the original judgment from 2015.
"It is not apparent that that people consented to the agreement being applied to Western Sahara", the court stated in a press release.
21 December 2016: The Court of Justice of the EU, in general, 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. "This is a wonderful victory for the Saharawi people and for those who advocate for respect of international law in Western Sahara. The EU Member States which over so many years have advocated for international law in the territory are now proven right. The EU now has to abide by the law in its relations with Morocco, and not put obstacles to the UN peace process in Western Sahara as is the wish of Morocco's main ally, France", stated Erik Hagen of Western Sahara Resource Watch.
The decision came after EU had appealed a judgement by The General Court of the EU Court of Justice on 10 December 2015. See full timeline in the box.
Even though all states joined the original appeal in January 2016, there was a division within the EU on the applicability of the agreement on Western Sahara goods. Sweden and Netherlands had been most outspoken, stating that no Western Sahara produce can be introduced to the EU as Moroccan.
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.