EU Council refuses transparency on legal opinion on fish deal
legal610.jpg

"You may have access to paragraphs 1 to 3 including footnotes 1 to 7".  The EU Council replied to WSRW's request for public access to its legal opinion on including Western Sahara in the new EU-Morocco fisheries agreement.
Published: 30.01 - 2019 10:36Printer version    
On 22 November 2018, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) issued a request for access to the EU Council's legal opinion on the new proposed EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement and its Protocol, that will explicitly be applied to occupied Western Sahara.

The EU's controversial fishing practice in Western Sahara originates from an old Spanish-Moroccan agreement that was signed during the Franco-era. Shortly after, as the Spaniards withdrew from their colony, Morocco went on to occupy large parts of Western Sahara, to UN condemnation.

The EU Council's lawyers have lost four consecutive court cases against the representatives of the Western Sahara people in the Court of Justice of the European Union. Each time, because they had failed to take into account that no deals in Western Sahara can be struck without respecting the Saharawi's right to self-determination.

However, the CJEU's decisions have systematically been ignored by the EU institutions. All evidence suggest that the EU has forgotten to address this issue yet again, as the new deal is up for vote in the European Parliament in February. The UN-recognised representation of the people of Western Sahara, the Polisario Front, has already initiated legal proceedings against the proposed fisheries agreement.

In view thereof, WSRW made a request for access to the Council's legal opinion on the proposed fisheries agreement, under EU legislation granting EU citizens access to documents of the EU Parliament, Commission, or - indeed - Council.

The Council Secretariat responded on 19 December 2018 by sending the first two pages of the legal opinion - the following 14 pages had been deleted.

Find the legal opinion, as the Council chooses to share it with the EU public, here.

The document as sent to WSRW, contains literally only three introductory paragraphs. The accompanying letter, arguing why the legal opinion can't be fully disclosed, is much longer. The argumentation is quasi identical to the explanation for denying WSRW full access to the legal opinion on extending the EU-Morocco trade deal to occupied Western Sahara. Here are the main arguments, and our rebuttal.

  • "the Agreement and Protocol have not yet been definitively concluded. Since the contribution deals with delicate issues, disclosure of the legal advice could negatively affect the completion of the ongoing procedure for the conclusion of the Agreement".
    This seemingly suggests that divulging the opinion would undermine Council's preferred outcome: that Parliament supports the proposal. In two weeks from now, all Members of the European Parliament will cast their vote in plenary on the proposed agreement. That Council refuses to share its legal opinion, raises questions as on the solidity of the analysis.

  • "the legal advice pertains to matters that are sensitive in the context of international relations and the disclosure of the requested document could also have a negative bearing in the relations of the Union and its Member States with the Kingdom of Morocco."
    WSRW maintains that the important relations with Morocco are best served by acting in accordance with international and EU law. Morocco deserves clarity from the EU. Procrastinating and postponing the inevitable - yet another Court Ruling differentiating between Morocco and Western Sahara - has a much more negative impact on the EU's relation with Morocco, than ripping off the geo-political band-aid in one go now.

  • The letter also refers to the action for annulment brought by the Polisario Front on 14 June 2018, against the Council's decision to authorize the EU Commission to open negotiations for the fisheries agreement and protocol with Morocco (Case T-376/18). Disclosure would "therefore undermine the protection of court proceedings", the Secretariat writes. "Moreover, disclosure of the legal advice could also affect the ability of the Legal Service to effectively defend decisions taken by the Council before the Union courts."
    Again, if the legal advice is solidly grounded in law, there should be no difficulty defending it before the Court - regardless of whether it had been made public or not.

  • "Lastly, the Legal Service could come under external pressure which could affect the way in which legal advice is drafted and hence prejudice the possibility of the Legal Service to express its views free from external influences."
    This is a most disturbing thought in a rule-of-law system which values judicial independence, such as the EU. It is the task of a legal service to verify compliance of proposals with the law, and on that basis provide advice as to whether the proposal is acceptable or not. Transparency does not imperil free expression of lawyers - governmental secrecy and back-door influence might be the much bigger threat.

    It is interesting that the legal advice appears to cover not only the proposed Fisheries Agreement, but is drafted as a one-size-fits-all framework to cover any possible future agreement between the EU and Morocco that is intended to apply to occupied Western Sahara: "the legal advice provided in the requested contribution goes beyond the present file and has a more horizontal dimension, as it could be transposed each time an agreement between the same parties is envisaged. The legal advice is therefore sensitive", the Secretariat writes.

    The EU Council and Morocco have signed the new SFPA on 14 January 2018 in Brussels. All EU Member States, with the exception of Sweden, support the agreement. Its formal conclusion will have to await the vote in the plenary session of the European Parliament on 13 February 2018.

    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.




  •     

    Top
    News:

    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?
    06.02 - 2019 / 06.02 - 201998 Saharawi groups call on European Parliament to reject fish deal
    04.02 - 2019 / 04.02 - 2019The runaway Green Reefers ship arrived Abidjan
    31.01 - 2019 / 22.01 - 2019Spanish farmers concerned about EU deal for occupied Western Sahara
    30.01 - 2019 / 24.01 - 2019EU Council refuses transparency on legal opinion on fish deal




    EN ES FR DE AR

    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

    tn_law_hammer.jpg

    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!

    tn_court_photo_gdeim_izik_610.jpg

    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

    tn_sjovik_demo_610.jpg

    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

    tn_poweringplunder_eng_610.jpg

    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.

    WSRW.org News Archive 2019
    WSRW.org News Archive 2018
    WSRW.org News Archive 2017
    WSRW.org News Archive 2016
    WSRW.org News Archive 2015
    WSRW.org News Archive 2014
    WSRW.org News Archive 2013
    WSRW.org News Archive 2012
    WSRW.org News Archive 2011
    WSRW.org News Archive 2010
    WSRW.org News Archive 2009
    WSRW.org News Archive 2008
    WSRW.org News Archive 2007
    WSRW.org 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