"The present joint declaration cannot be construed as a source of legal obligations for the signatories, nor will it be subject to International Law", is the eerie final sentence of the "joint-declaration on the establishment of a Roadmap for Sustainable Electricity Trade between Morocco and the European Internal Energy Market", signed by Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco during COP22 in Marrakech. Read the three-page document, dated 17 November 2016, here.
In the declaration, the signing parties declare "their intention is to provide the conditions to make possible renewable electricity trade between Morocco and European Internal Energy Market". Accordingly, they indicate their willingness to develop the so-called SET roadmap (Sustainable Electricity Trade) and an implementable agreement "by the date of COP23".
The European Union eyes a 27% share of renewable sources in its energy mix by 2030. Morocco is showing more ambition, by setting the target of 52% by 2030 as envisaged in its national Renewable Energy Plan. A progressive integration of the energy markets could assist the EU in reaching its goal, seems to be part of the rationale behind the document.
But what the joint-declaration omits, is that a sizeable part of Morocco's projects that are to be implemented to reach that 52% goal, will be carried out in a territory that Morocco has brutally invaded in 1975 and kept under its yoke since: Western Sahara. If Morocco manages to proceed as planned, over a quarter of its wind and solar capacity will be derived from Western Sahara by 2020.
Often referred to as Africa's last colony, Western Sahara is considered a Non-Self-Governing Territory without an administering power. The territory is subject of UN led peace talks, and a UN mission is present on the ground. No State in the world recognises Morocco's claim to the territory, while the people of Western Sahara's right to self-determination - the right to determine the status of the territory and thus its resources - is universally acknowledged. Just a month ago, the UN Human Rights Committee called for the realisation of their right to self-determination and reiterated the need for the Saharawi people to exercise "their prior, free and informed consent to the realization of developmental projects and [resource] extraction operations".
The joint declaration states that MASEN is willing to provide the secretariat for the entire undertaking. MASEN is a Moroccan renewable energy company that is essentially state-owned, and - like the renewable energy sector in Morocco - controlled by the king.
At present, there are two ongoing court cases against the EU Council, instigated by the political representation of the Western Sahara people, over the inclusion of the Western Sahara territory in both the EU-Morocco trade deal and fisheries agreement.
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.