1 July 2009, Sweden will take on the presidency of the European Council. Western Sahara Resource Watch urges in a letter today the Swedish government to raise the issue of the legality of the EU-Moroccco fisheries agreement.
To the attention of Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt,
Prime Minister’s Office Rosenbad 4 SE - 103 33 Stockholm Sweden
Brussels, 26 June 2009
On 1 July 2009, the Swedish government will take over the presidency of the European Council. Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) believes this provides an excellent opportunity to hold substantive discussions on the European position on the issue of Western Sahara.
Given the importance that the further development of the Barcelona Process will have under your presidency, the EU-Moroccan relationship will surely appear on the agenda. Within this process of gradually deepening the political, economical and cultural ties between the European Union and 16 partner countries, including the Kingdom of Morocco, the issue of Western Sahara cannot be overlooked.
WSRW would like to stress that it does not oppose the EU having special ties with Morocco. However, avoiding explicitly raising the issue of Western Sahara in negotiations on advanced cooperation with Morocco, as in the documentation underpinning the process, might possibly endanger the EU’s legal position. Failing to explicitly exclude Western Sahara from the geographical coverage of cooperation agreements with Morocco, be it in the form of an Action Plan or Association Agreement, undermines the EU’s concern to preserve its neutral position vis-à-vis the Western Sahara conflict. Not addressing Morocco's continuing occupation of Western Sahara in defiance of UN resolutions becomes a political act in itself and can lend legitimacy to Morocco’s untenable claims over the country.
The current EU-Moroccan Fisheries Partnership Agreement serves as an example. As the Agreement does not define the geographical area of application, it allows European vessels to plunder the rich fisheries in Western Saharan waters. This was entirely foreseeable as Morocco occupies and claims Western Sahara as part of Morocco sovereign territory and exploits Western Saharan resources in defiance of the international legal principles applicable to natural resources in Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Agreement has led Ambassador Hans Corell to state:
“As a European I feel embarrassed. Surely, one would expect Europe and the European Commission - of all - to set an example by applying the highest possible international legal standards in matters of this nature. Under all circumstances I would have thought that it was obvious that an agreement of this kind that does not make a distinction between the waters adjacent to Western Sahara and the waters adjacent to the territory of Morocco would violate international law.”
WSRW is convinced that the EU presidency provides Sweden with an excellent opportunity to raise the issue of Western Sahara at the European level. Although the matter is controversial, the debate on the legality of the EU-Moroccan Fisheries Partnership Agreement needs to be re-opened as it is now clear that the agreement is being used to allow European vessels to fish in Western Saharan waters.
We are aware that holding the EU presidency implies a great degree of consensus-building, and it is only right that there are constraints hindering individual Member States from furthering their own national position on contentious issues. Still, Sweden, which does not derive any direct benefit from the Agreement, is in a position to call for discussions on the Fisheries Agreement and wider substantive discussions on the position of Western Sahara in the EU-Morocco relationship.
If the Moroccan status in relation to the European Union is to be discussed further, one cannot leave out reference to the Non-Self-Governing Territory it illegally occupies for over three decades. This would be an injustice to the Sahrawi people, surviving under the harsh conditions of decreasing humanitarian assistance and an inhospitable climate in refugee camps in the Algerian desert. And it would be an injustice to their relatives, living in a climate of fear and intimidation under Moroccan military occupation. This would be an offense to the European peoples, in whose name such an injustice is committed.
Sweden has set an enlightened example as the only country to vote against the Fisheries Agreement. This is why one would look to Sweden to provide the political leadership to realign the European position with international law.
Sara Eyckmans On behalf of Western Sahara Resource Watch www.wsrw.org
WSRW is an international network of organisations and activists researching and campaigning the foreign business interests that work with the Moroccan government in the occupied part of Western Sahara. WSRW works in solidarity with the people of Western Sahara and is represented in 21 of the EU countries.
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.
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