While the German industrial mastodon has no problems in delivering turbines to the area of Western Sahara that is under Moroccan occupation, it goes out of its way to distance itself from similar deliveries to Crimea.
Siemens today issued a press release saying gas turbine sets it had delivered for a project in southern Russia, had been moved to Crimea "against our will". "This development constitutes a clear breach of Siemens' delivery contracts, which clearly forbid our customer from making deliveries to Crimea", the statement reads. "Over the last few months, our customer has confirmed to us numerous times in writing that a delivery to Crimea would not occur. As a consequence, Siemens will initiate criminal charges against the responsible individuals." The customer in this matter is the Russian state-owned engineering company Technopromexport.
At the same time, Siemens has no reservations whatsoever in supplying wind turbines to the parts of Western Sahara that have been under Moroccan military control since 1975, in defiance of international law. Siemens has supplied 22 turbines for the Foum el Oued wind park, which supplies 95% of the energy required for Morocco's highly controversial plunder of non-renewable minerals from Western Sahara.
The firm has also won a tender that includes the construction of two additional wind parks in the occupied territory, in cooperation with Italy's Enel Green Energy and Nareva, a Moroccan wind energy firm owned by the Palace. Those plants will have a combined capacity of 400 MW. Read more about Siemens' involvement in Morocco's wind energy projects in occupied Western Sahara in WSRW's report "Powering the Plunder", published in November 2016.
"Regardless of political disputes, we believe that a working infrastructure will help to improve the economic conditions, and as a consequence the situation of the people in the West Sahara", Siemens replied in May 2012 to WSRW's letter of inquiry.
After years of trying to get answers from Siemens with regard to legal concerns and human rights principles pertaining to its activity in Western Sahara, the firm finally wrote to WSRW in October 2016 that “Your questions that deal with the legal and political status of Western Sahara deal with matters of international public law. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the subject of international public law (such as international bodies, states and others) to deal with these matters. The views of NGOs are, of course, also of great value. Companies like ours, on the other hand, refrain as a matter of policy from taking positions or making judgements on such issues”.
"Siemens' scarce comments on its involvement in Western Sahara suggest that the firm cares rather little about the legal status of the territory in which it operates, or the rights of the people of such territory", says Erik Hagen from WSRW. "It would appear that the firm simply wants to avoid being seen as violating EU sanctions in Crimea, rather than having any principled stance grounded in international law."
The European Union imposed sanctions barring EU firms providing Crimea with energy technology, after Russia's 2014 annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine, a move seen by the EU as breaking international law.
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.