EU puts self-interest before peace in Western Sahara

The European Commission misuses a UN document to legitimise its fisheries in occupied Western Sahara.
Published: 01.07 - 2010 07:19Printer version    
Each year, the EU pays Morocco millions of Euros for fishing licences offshore Western Saharan waters – an area not falling under Moroccan sovereignty. WSRW considers the payments to be a direct support to the illegal and brutal Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. The European Commission, however, defends its unethical fisheries. In a letter to WSRW last week, the Commission claimed that their fisheries agreement in Western Sahara is supported by a UN opinion from 2002. They do this by misusing a key UN document.

“The argument of the Commission is scandalous. Instead of referring to the evident conclusion of the UN document, the European Commission has cut-and-pasted a completely unrepresentative sentence from within the text to support its illegal fisheries. The Commission’s cynical misuse of the UN document directly undermines the Saharawi people’s legitimate rights”, said Sara Eyckmans, coordinator of Western Sahara Resource Watch.

The much referred to 2002 Legal Opinion from the UN Legal Counsel stated that it would be illegal to exploit the natural resources in Western Sahara if the people of the territory are against it. The Commission, however, has made use of an out-of-context sentence from inside the document, stating that the activities would be illegal if they take place “in disregard of the needs and interests of the people of that Territory”. The entire reference to consultation of the Saharawi people, which was the conclusion of the UN document, and which is based on a right established by more 100 UN resolutions, has been completely ignored by the Commission.

”Such misrepresentation is indicative of the ongoing efforts by the services of the European Commission to obscure the EU’s international legal obligations in favour of its hard-nosed economic interests in Western Sahara’s fisheries. This is completely unacceptable, and flies in the face of the EU’s stated policy of supporting efforts by the UN to resolve the long-standing dispute“, stated Western Sahara Resource Watch in a letter today to the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mrs. Maria Damanaki.

Morocco refuses to explain how the EU tax money has been spent, and Wednesday this week, the chair of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee stated that Morocco’s unwillingness to explain the use of the EU funds might jeopardize the planned renewal of the current fisheries agreement. It is only a few weeks ago that Morocco also denied a fact-finding delegation from the Fisheries Committee to visit the territory for investigation. The Moroccan minister of fisheries has stated that the EU fisheries agreement is most of all of political importance.

Neither the EU nor Morocco has explained whether the Saharawi have ever been consulted about the EU commercial activities on their land, as international law and the UN document prescribe.

Read more about the misused 2002 UN document and the EU fisheries, as well as the correspondence between WSRW and the European Commission, on our webpages



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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