Revealed: EP rapporteur on Western Sahara has Moroccan agenda

Major conflict of interest arises following revelations that the European Parliament's rapporteur on the Western Sahara trade file is Board Member of a pro-Morocco lobby group.
Published: 23.11 - 2018 11:32Printer version    
UPDATE, 26.11.2018: MEP Lalonde has responded to EU Observer that she is also Member of the European Parliament's Intergroup for Western Sahara. The list of members of that Intergroup is available on Parliament's website [or download]. MEP Lalonde is not on that list.

EUobserver today published an investigative piece on the EuroMedA Foundation - a foundation fronting for Morocco, based in the office space of the Brussels offices of lobby firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies - which has the Moroccan state as one its biggest clients.

Patricia Lalonde, the European Parliament's rapporteur on the controversial proposal to extend the EU-Morocco Trade Agreement into occupied Western Sahara, is one of the Board Members of EuroMedA. Ms Lalonde's fellow Board Members include former Moroccan Ministers of State, and current top-ranking officials of Morocco's Ministry of Agriculture.

The foundation is not listed in the EU's lobby register. Its statutes are however in the public domain: find them in the Belgian registry (or download as pdf). The Foundation lists among its activities: "the creation of a sustainable structure dedicated to strengthening links between Europe and Morocco, with the aim of being enlarged" and "putting into perspective the specificity of the Sahara region, its strategic geopolitical aspect and the importance of its economic, social and environmental sustainable development". This is confirmed by Moroccan media today, as Le Desk describes the Foundation as "dedicated to promoting Morocco for which it multiplies soft power actions within the European Parliament".

"MEP Lalonde's role as Board Member of this Foundation raises serious questions regarding the legitimacy of having her continue in her function as Parliamentary Rapporteur on the proposed trade arrangement for occupied Western Sahara, without being seen as biased. This will overshadow the discussions in the International Trade committee and in the Parliament's plenary session", says Sara Eyckmans from Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW).

WSRW on 18 October wrote that it found Lalonde's report to the Parliament to be biased, to the benefit of Morocco. WSRW also wrote that the delegation that Lalonde had led to the occupied territory was highly controversial in that it spent nearly all its time on meeting Moroccan interests, and that Lalonde had expressed her support to a new trade deal to Moroccan media already on the first day of the delegation's trip, without even having met Saharawis.

EUobserver's article describes how underscoring issues as migration and terrorism in the EU relationship with Morocco "appear to render the plight of the Saharawi in the Western Sahara all the more insignificant. The balancing act was on display earlier this year by Lalonde, who sits on the parliament's powerful committee on international trade." Lalonde is quoted in the article, saying "We have strong common interests and especially concerning immigration and security issues like radicalisation and terrorism," when asked to describe the importance of Morocco-EU relations. "We have to prove on the ground that the people of the Western Sahara benefit from the commercial agreement," she added.

The article makes the point that "because she is the lead MEP on the trade pact, her views will shape the European parliament's overall position. The deal seeks to reduce tariffs on things like tomatoes and fish oils coming out of the disputed territory. That Lalonde is a EuroMedA board member has however raised eyebrows over her neutrality as a rapporteur on such a big file."

EuroMedA's vice-president is Salaheddine Mezouar, Morocco's former Foreign Affairs Minister. Other Board Members include Mohamed Cheikh Biadillah and Abdallah Saaf, ex-Ministers of Morocco, and M'barka Bouaida, Morocco's former Minister-Delegate of Foreign Affairs, who represents Morocco in the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies chief director Alain Berger is a founding member of the Foundation, and its secretary-general. WSRW has learned that MEP Florent Marsellesi has today lodged a complaint against Hill+Knowlton with the request of clarifying whether the lobby firm's behaviour is in line with the code of conduct.

Another founding member is French MEP Gilles Pargneaux (S&D), former President of the MEP Friendship Group with Morocco, and known for taking a pro-Moroccan government position on Western Sahara. When confronted by EUobserver, "Pargneaux concedes that the Western Sahara does not belong to Morocco, describing it as a 'no man's land, which belongs to nobody'. At the same time, he praises Morocco for pouring in money and investment to develop the area." Moroccan news agency Le Desk today describes Pargneaux as "a flip flop" and "double-tongued lobbyist for Morocco" for saying "he does not recognize the kingdom's sovereignty over Western Sahara". Le Desk also casts doubts on the claims of Parneaux, "a convinced lobbyist for the cause of the kingdom", that EuroMedA was his idea, stating that the presence of so many Moroccan officials in the Board leaves little doubt as to whom really runs the Foundation.

Pargneaux and Lalonde aren't the only MEPs that play an active role in the EuroMedA Foundation. Two other MEPs are Board Member, Frédérique Ries from Belgium (ALDE) and Romanian Romana-Nicole Manescu (EPP), who according to Le Desk "regularly pleads for the continuation of the Morocco-EU agreements".

None of these four MEPs have disclosed their membership on the Board in their declaration of financial interests, as they are expected to do under Article 4 of the Code of Conduct for the Members of the European Parliament with respect to Financial Interests and Conflicts of Interest. The Code requires MEPs to declare their membership "before speaking or voting in plenary or in one of Parliament’s bodies, or if proposed as a rapporteur, any actual or potential conflict of interest in relation to the matter under consideration", regardless of "whether the membership or activity in question is remunerated or unremunerated".

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.



09.09 - 2019 / 09.09 - 2019German trade fair should stop promoting Azura, groups say
09.09 - 2019 / 05.09 - 2019Spanish farmers warn of fraudulent trade from occupied land
08.09 - 2019 / 06.09 - 2019Protests continue against Ravensdown's blood phosphate imports
03.09 - 2019 / 03.09 - 2019Kiwis take on New Zealand farmers' blood phosphate imports
17.06 - 2019 / 27.08 - 2010Support Western Sahara Resource Watch
21.05 - 2019 / 16.04 - 2019Atlas Copco claims Morocco's phosphate plunder is legal
17.05 - 2019 / 06.05 - 2019EU elections: how have candidates voted on occupied Western Sahara?
10.05 - 2019 / 10.05 - 2019'We deserve an answer' from HeidelbergCement
02.05 - 2019 / 30.04 - 2019Has another cargo of fishmeal from Western Sahara arrived in Germany?
01.05 - 2019 / 30.04 - 2019Continental dodges question on Western Sahara
01.05 - 2019 / 17.04 - 2019Greek-Dutch construction group sets up shop in El Aaiun
30.04 - 2019 / 30.04 - 2019Polisario tries EU Council over new EU-Morocco agricultural deal
08.04 - 2019 / 04.04 - 2019New report on Western Sahara phosphate industry out now
21.03 - 2019 / 15.03 - 2019Continental controversial contract in Western Sahara expires next year
28.02 - 2019 / 25.02 - 2019These are the MEPs who voted for the Western Sahara fish deal
25.02 - 2019 / 24.02 - 2019Bremen sheds light on massive controversial fishmeal import
12.02 - 2019 / 12.02 - 2019European Parliament disregards Court and adopts Morocco fish deal
11.02 - 2019 / 11.02 - 2019Human Rights Watch calls for Court referral of EU-Morocco fish deal
07.02 - 2019 / 07.02 - 2019110 MEPs want EU-Morocco fish deal referred to Court
06.02 - 2019 / 06.02 - 2019Will European Parliament back deal with world's most unfree territory?


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


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.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


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.
Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


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. News Archive 2019 News Archive 2018 News Archive 2017 News Archive 2016 News Archive 2015 News Archive 2014 News Archive 2013 News Archive 2012 News Archive 2011 News Archive 2010 News Archive 2009 News Archive 2008 News Archive 2007 News Archive 2004-2006

Register for our English newsletter:

These web pages have been built with the financial support of the trade union Industry Energy