Misleading and false INTA report as basis for Parliamentary vote
As the European Parliament prepares to vote on the extension of the EU-Morocco trade deal into occupied Western Sahara, WSRW calls on newly appointed Rapporteur Marietje Schaake to save her and the Parliament s reputation by suspending the procedure and starting over from scratch.
In two weeks, the European Parliament will vote on the proposed amendment of Protocols 1 and 4 to the EU-Morocco Association Agreement, extending trade preferences into the part of Western Sahara that is under Morocco's military control.
"It is incredible that a report drafted by an MEP with a pro-Morocco agenda is still being used for Parliament's voting procedure. There is every reason to doubt the veracity of the claims made in the report, which contains misleading and factually incorrect elements. As such, we call on newly appointed Rapporteur Marietje Schaake to suspend the procedure so that she can make her own assessment of the proposal and draw her own conclusions as to whether Parliament should or should not endorse it", says Sara Eyckmans from Western Sahara Resource Watch.
Among other things, the report claims that Parliament went to "assess the situation at first hand and gain an understanding of the different views of the people".
In reality, three delegates of the Trade Committee (not Parliament as a whole), from political groups representing only 20% of the Parliament's composition, traveled to Western Sahara but were not allowed to properly assess the situation on the ground. It only went to the occupied part of Western Sahara and did not visit the third of the territory under Polisario control and the refugee camps where close to half of the Saharawi people live. Nearly 80% of the INTA visit programme was spent on meeting Moroccan interlocutors or with actors that have a direct (economic or political) interest in having the proposed Protocol approved. The conclusions of the “fact-finding INTA mission” were under the exclusive responsibility of the former Rapporteur Lalonde. Participating MEP Hautala distanced herself from these conclusions.
MEP Lalonde subsequently resigned from her rapporteurship after serious allegations of conflict of interest. This would warrant the deletion of any reference to the INTA fact-finding mission in this report.
The report is also misleading in stating that the lack of information on the origin of products exported by Morocco prevents the EU customs authorities from complying with the CJEU ruling. The Commission has an obligation to ensure compliance and to take immediate and effective action in case of doubt. On the other hand, Morocco has a legal obligation to ensure that goods with a certificate of origin of Morocco effectively originate in Morocco as internationally defined (ie excluding Western Sahara).
In response to the ruling, the EU Commission negotiated and initiated an amendment to the deal with Morocco - not with the people of Western Sahara, who have not had any say in the entire process. Instead of seeking their consent, the EU Commission undertook a consultation process of 18 Moroccan economic operators and government representatives - while dishonestly claiming that 94 Saharawi groups, international NGOs (like ours) and the Polisario had taken part. In spite of the shaky legal basis of the proposal - but more concerned over appeasing anti-migration and anti-terror partner Morocco - the EU Member States have endorsed the proposal.
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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.