Several EU Member States have issued statements indicating their support to Council's decision to appeal the European Court’s decision to annul the EU’s agricultural agreement with Morocco. But why is that, really?
The Court Of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decided on 10 December 2015 to annul the EU-Morocco agricultural deal in so far as it was applied in Western Sahara – a Non-Self Governing Territory that is largely under Moroccan military control since 1975.
Morocco was less than amused.
On 25 February, Morocco stated that it would stop all communication with the European Union – an official confirmation of what most EU officials had already observed in practice. Morocco does not appreciate that its “sovereignty” over Western Sahara is now being questioned. The Court had stated that Morocco has no mandate whatsoever to administer Western Sahara. No State in the world recognizes Morocco’s claim over its southern neighbour.
Morocco has not only closed off the lines of communication, it is also refusing cooperation in several multi-million bilateral programs, including on security exercises. As if its intransigence on anti-terror programs wasn’t enough to unnerve EU decision makers, playing hard-ball on the EU’s envisioned readmission agreement seemingly results in paralysis. The EU had high hopes for a deal with Morocco through which the Union could send back Moroccans who are unlawfully staying in the Member States. Though the issue has been on the EU's wish-list since 2000, the need for such an arrangement has gained a sense of urgency as more and more complaints arise in different Member States with regard to the conduct of Moroccan immigrants (e.g. Cologne).
“Remarkable how Germany - viewed as an example in dealing with the refugee crisis – is now acting against the interests of a people forced to flee their country by Morocco; the Saharawi refugees”, says Axel Goldau, WSRW’s coordinator for Germany.
Sweden, the government with the strongest position on Western Sahara within the EU, tried for a long time to strike a deal with Morocco on what to do with hundreds of Moroccan boys who suddenly were living on the streets of Sweden's major cities. Sweden wanted to repatriate them to Morocco, but Morocco did not want to receive them. "The Moroccan street kids have become pawns in the game over Western Sahara", a Swedish journalist commented. An agreement to repatriate the hundreds of children was finally struck between the governments of Sweden and Morocco two days after Sweden announced its decision to do a u-turn on its Western Sahara policy by not recognising the Western Sahara republic as the government parties and the parliament had wanted, and a month after surprisingly joining the other EU States in its appeal of the European court decision.
A reversed scenario is being played out in the Netherlands, in spite of having a readmission deal in place. As the Dutch government has decided to terminate the 4-decade old social security agreement due to Morocco's make-or-break demand of applying the deal in Western Sahara, Morocco refuses to take back Moroccans residing illegally in the Netherlands. In 2015, the Dutch government issued 215 requests to Rabat; between zero and five of those were granted. The Ministry rounds to the nearest five. The 20 requests issued in January this year weren't replied to. The Moroccan government blames the Dutch for their position on Western Sahara in the social security tug-of-war.
As the EU States are pushing the European Court of Justice to favour the Moroccan position, the losers are the people of Western Sahara. Half of them have been living as refugees in the desert of Algeria for 40 years, while Morocco in partnership with the EU illegally exploits the resources of their 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.
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.