Regional minister demands action from Austrian government
Karin Scheele, regional minister in Lower Austria, asks the Austrian government to place human rights in Western Sahara before trade interests with Morocco. "The EU does not honour its own principles", Scheele stated.
Published: 23.11 - 2010 22:07Printer version    
Unofficial translation by Western Sahara Resource Watch.
See the original Press release in German.
22 Nov 2010

Vienna (OTS) –  On Tuesday this week, a forum debate on foreign economic affairs features the subject “A partnership with Morocco offers business opportunities and placement advantages”. Organisers of the event are the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, together with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco with lecturers representing this country’s economy scheduled to be present.

Following recent human rights violations, the president of the Austrian Saharawi Society Karin Scheele, also in charge of Social Affairs in the regional government of Lower Austria, demands a clear statement of the Chamber of Commerce to denounce how Morocco deals with the Western Sahara.
“Since 1975, Morocco has been occupying the Western Sahara in violation of international law and economically exploiting the country known to be rich in natural resources. The Saharawi people do not enjoy the fruit of their country’s treasures, suffering repression and persecution, with most of them living as refugees in desert camps. I do expect the Austrian Chamber of Commerce to seriously meet the principles they stipulated themselves regarding human rights as well as the accord on trade covering goods and services. Both President Leitl and Vice President Schenz, in charge of delivering the opening speech should especially now, facing another escalation of the situation in the Western Sahara, be aware of their moral obligation to condemn this colonial repression and its economic policy. Just two weeks ago the truce in place with the Saharawi independence movement since 1991 was unilaterally broken by Morocco”.

A protest camp housing about 20.000 peaceful occupants was first of all cut off food and medical supplies, then stormed and burnt down. A lot of people were hospitalised or are still missing, little by little more dead bodies have been recovered.

Ms Scheele, the regional minister: “We have been facing all this, happening just outside European borders. The UN registers numerous human rights violation and remains a mere spectator, even without including a mandate for observing the human rights situation. The Austrian Saharawi Society, the Gemeinnützige Entwicklungszusammenarbeit GmbH and numerous other NGOs are struggling for such an addition to the UN mandate, while the Austrian economy prefers to offer Moroccan representatives a forum to praise their economy. This sets an extremely wrong signal at a completely wrong time.”

The text inviting visitors on the Chamber of Commerce homepage, praises the growth of the Moroccan economy and the privileged partnership the country enjoys with the European Union. In this respect Karin Scheele comments:

“Morocco reached that economic growth above all due to the enormous phosphate resources in the occupied territories of the Western Sahara and thankful buyers in many European countries and in the USA. Thus, it appears to be worth turning a blind eye to human rights and blocking decisions of the UN Security Council. And the EU does not honour its own principles either. A fisheries agreement signed with Morocco allows European fleets fishing also in the Atlantic off the Western Saharan coast. The EU pays € 144 million altogether for this privilege. In February next year, a renewal of this treaty is due, which has been considered illegal not only by numerous renowned legal experts but even the Legal Service of the European Parliament.”

Finally Ms Scheele appealed once again to both Chamber of Commerce representatives: “After 35 years have passed since Western Sahara was occupied, now the time has come to showcase that basic principles of law are valid for everyone and that Saharawis, who until now have been peacefully waiting for self-determination, have not in vain placed their confidence in the international community of states.” (FHL)

Further inquiries: Österreichisch-Saharauische Gesellschaft, Landhausplatz 1, A-3109 St. Pölten, Austria - Christoph Ertl (Tel.: 0664/ 10 34 340




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.
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