“The Declaration will be implemented taking due account of the separate and distinct status of the territory of Western Sahara under international law. This might require a case-by-case assessment taking into account that electricity from renewable sources is usually traded by commercial undertakings”, stated Commissioner Cañete.
It is not clear from the Commissioner's statement how energy developed in occupied Western Sahara could be avoided in practice, if Morocco would connect the territory's energy plants to its own national grid.
By 2020, more than a quarter of Morocco’s entire green energy production will be located in Western Sahara, making Morocco more dependent on its illegal presence in the territory, and thus further complicating an already arduous peace process. For further information, see our "Powering the Plunder" report, detailing Morocco's attempt to green-wash its occupation and the role of Siemens in that endeavor.
Cañete's reply signals a shift in the EU Commission's position vis-à-vis Western Sahara. Where before, the Commission would consistently state that Western Sahara is de facto administered by Morocco - a theory which the Court ruled invalid - it now recognizes the "separate and distinct status" of the territory. It is a peculiar touch of irony that this first on-record recognition comes from Miguel Arias Cañete, who in his previous position as Spain's Minister for Fisheries campaigned tirelessly for the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which is applied in the waters of occupied Western Sahara. The CJEU is expected to start proceedings to assess the legality of Western Sahara's inclusion in the fish deal this year.
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 three 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.