Yesterday, in the Dutch Parliament during question time, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans said that “according to European regulations, products from Western Sahara cannot enter the European markets as if they were from Morocco”. This is in line with the position of the previous Dutch government, which stated in August 2012 that Morocco could not claim tariff preferences for agricultural products coming from Western Sahara on the basis of the upcoming EU-Morocco agricultural agreement.
In reply to a question from socialist parliamentarian Roemer (SP), the Minister added that he would take a more active stance on the matter in the Council of EU Ministers. The Netherlands, is then the second country, as far as Western Sahara Resource Watch knows, to raise the matter in the Council.
Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn is known to import cherry tomatoes from Dakhla, located in the south of occupied Western Sahara. The tomatoes are sold under Albert Heijn's store brand 'AH' and labelled as originating from 'Morocco'.
Last month, the Swedish Minister for Trade Ewa Björling stated that they had brought up the same issue in the Council. Sweden had made it clear that they share the Dutch interpretation of the EU’s trade agreement with Morocco. Since no EU Member State recognises Morocco’ sovereignty over Western Sahara, products made in the territory cannot be given trade preference under the EU-Morocco trade agreements, she said.
The EU-Morocco trade agreement, allowing for a significant increase in the EU’s imports of fruit and vegetables from Morocco, entered into force in October 2012. The deal has come under fire for failing to exclude the territory of Western Sahara, thereby condoning produce from the occupied territory to enter the EU stamped as being from "Morocco".
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.