Can the EU answer these questions on Western Sahara trade talks?
Today, the EU Commission will answer questions from EU Parliamentarians about its plans to negotiate a trade arrangement for Western Sahara, with Morocco - the country that occupies the territory. Such an agreement is not legal, according to European top court. The Commission’s trade plans are kept away from public scrutiny.
Today, a meeting will take place between the EU parliamentarians (MEPs) from the Trade committee and the Commission, behind closed doors.
WSRW recommends MEPs to file the questions included below.
1. As regards the current situation, what is the amount of trade coming from Western Sahara on an annual basis? Can you reassure us that all products coming from Western Sahara, since the CJEU ruling are entering our country under the ISO code EH (i.e. not MA, as Moroccan products) and are not benefiting from the EU-Morocco preferential tariff (when applicable, for example to food products)?
2. The CJEU ruling requires the consent of the “people” from Western Sahara for economic activities related to this territory. How are you planning to get this consent? Can you confirm that your proposal refers to the "people" of Western Sahara and not to the "population"?
3. The CJEU ruling states that the POLISARIO Front is the legitimate representative of the WS people (para 35 and 105) and that Western Sahara is "distinct and separate" from that of Morocco. Why are you proposing to negotiate with Morocco, in relation to a territory that is outside the latter’s internationally recognised borders? Do you intend to ask for a mandate to enter into direct negotiations with the POLISARIO Front in order to get the required consent?
4. During the proceedings in front of the CJEU, the Commission stated that “the application of the Association and Liberalisation Agreements to Western Sahara could be interpreted as an infringement of its people’s right to self-determination and thus affect the legal situation of that territory, as it gives a degree of legitimacy to the Kingdom of Morocco’s claim to sovereignty” (Opinion C-104/16 P, paragraph 82). How does the Commission justify its change in position?
5. The EU-Morocco Association Agreement states that the certificates required to establish the place of origin (EUR.1 movement certificate) shall be issued by the customs authorities of the exporting country. Which customs authority will be responsible for products coming from Western Sahara? How can Morocco, acting in its sovereign capacity, deliver certificates of origin in relation to products originating in a territory that according to the UN and the CJEU are located outside of its international borders?
6. What are the safeguards that you can provide us with in order to ensure that the negotiations are in full conformity with the CJEU ruling, notably concerning the consent, in order to avoid costly and lengthy legal proceedings that the POLISARIO Front might launch against the outcome of the negotiations?
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.
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