Why WSRW refuses to take part in the EU's Western Sahara consultation
The EU's foreign affairs department has invited WSRW to take part in a consultation process regarding EU-Morocco trade talks covering Western Sahara. Though in principle always open to dialogue, WSRW had to decline.
"Western Sahara Resource Watch wishes to maintain a close dialogue with all EU institutions and Member States, as we have done in the last decade. We will also continue to do so in the future. However, for the first time ever, we have turned down a proposed meeting with the EU's External Action Service (EU)", chair of Western Sahara Resource Watch, Sylvia Valentin clarifies.
Valentin explained that these are exceptional circumstances. WSRW is concerned by the lack of clarity on the purpose of the meeting, considering that an agreement with Morocco has already been initialed, and that the representative body of the people of Western Sahara has not been invited to formally discuss whether they consent to a trade agreement that covers the territory of Western Sahara.
"As a matter of transparency, WSRW wants to publish its correspondence to the EEAS explaining why we could not accept the invitation", Valentin states.
Find the latest mail from WSRW to the EEAS below, sent 5 February 2018
Thank you for your reply. We very much appreciate your invitation, yet regretfully, we will have to decline. Please allow us to elaborate – as we presume that in the spirit of consultation, we can at least state our reservations.
While the exercise of consulting concerned stakeholders is laudable, we fail to see the purpose of such a process given the current state-of-affairs.
The Court of Justice of the European Union established in its judgment of 21 December 2016 that consent of the representatives of the people of the territory must be obtained. From what we understand, the negotiations with the Government of Morocco are now finished, and the agreed text has been initialed. The Government of Morocco does not represent the people of the territory. It is clear that no consent has been received, as the Court required. We do not see the point of any consultation on a deal that lacks the approval of the people of the territory. On that, we refer to the letter of Saharawi CSOs unanimously condemning the EEAS and Commission’s approach thus far.
That this process is supposedly centered on “the socio-economic development of the people living in Western Sahara” is furthermore remarkable, as that line of argumentation was found to be invalid by the Court. Article 106 underscores that there is no need to determine the benefits of the implementation of an agreement – what is important is that the people of the territory have consented to it. Please also note the difference between the concepts of the people of the territory – the original inhabitants - versus the people living in the territory; at present that consists of a large majority of Moroccans that were attracted to locate to Western Sahara by financial and economic incentives created by the Moroccan government.
WSRW does not want to contribute to what appears to be an attempt to legitimize a process whereby an agreement covering a territory’s resources is initialed with a Government that has no legal claim to the territory, without as much as asking the people of that territory whether they agree or not at an appropriate time: namely before the start of the negotiation process.
Accordingly, as it stands, we will respectfully have to decline. Should the EEAS and Commission consider an approach that is in line with the people of Western Sahara’s right to self-determination and in respect of their right to consent, we will be happy to meet.
Kind regards, Sara Eyckmans
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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.
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.