Photo: Swedish Minister for Rural Affairs, Sven-Erik Bucht, at a recent EU Council meeting.
Sweden has announced its opposition to the European Commission's sought mandate to start negotiations with Morocco for a new fisheries agreement.
The statement by the Minister for Rural Affairs Sven-Erik Bucht reads: Sweden announced to Coreper on February 14 that Sweden intends to vote no to give the EU Commission a mandate to open negotiations on a new protocol to the EU Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Morocco. This is because Sweden considers that the proposed mandate does not meet the requirements of international law. The position is identical to previous Swedish behavior in the matter. Sweden also voted in 2012 not to give the European Commission a negotiating mandate for a new protocol.
The current fisheries protocol, set to expire in July 2018, is currently under review by the European Court of Justice. In January, the Advocate General of the Court presented his Opinion on the protocol, calling it "invalid". Over 90% of the EU's fishing activity under the deal takes place in the waters of Western Sahara, not in Morocco, the Advocate General's Opinion reads. As such, he concluded, the EU violates several legal principles, including the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination. The Court will present its judgment on 27 February.
The announcement of the Swedish government came as the mandate appeared on the agenda of COREPER (Committee of Permanent Representations of the EU). A decisive vote on the mandate at the level of the EU Ministers is expected next week.
"Sweden's position seems to have evolved towards one that is more compliant with international law and the CJEU ruling since that it had conditionally agreed to the opening of negotiations on the agriculture agreement. It is good to see Sweden take a firm position - one we we hope it will translate into national policy by issuing clear guidance to Swedish companies not to engage in Western Sahara", says Sara Eyckmans, coordinator of Western Sahara Resource Watch. Read WSRW's report on Swedish companies involvement in Western Sahara here.
Sweden has before taken a position that is rooted in law and respect for the people of Western Sahara's right to self-determination. In 2012, Sweden was one of several EU Member States to vote against the EU-Morocco fisheries protocol. Other countries that did not support the deal back then were the UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Austria and Cyprus.
Since you're here.... WSRW’s work is being read and used more than ever. But our financial situation is tough. Our work takes time, dedication and diligence. But we do it because we believe it matters – and we hope you do to. If everyone who reads our website or likes us on Facebook, would contribute to our work – 3€, 5€, 27€ … what you can spare – the future of WSRW would be much more secure. You can donate to WSRW in less than a minute here.
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.
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.
At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.