Every winter, Switzerland imports tomatoes from countries further south. Now, its imports from Western Sahara have probably come to an end. Successful actions taken by civil society in Switzerland mean that from this winter on, tomatoes from Western Sahara will most likely no no longer be found in Swiss supermarkets.
The large part of the territory of Western Sahara that is currently under Moroccan occupation, is not included in the free trade agreement between Switzerland and Morocco. This fact was confirmed several times by statements of the Swiss Federal Council. Authorities in Switzerland also agree on the implications of these regulations for declaration issues.
The clarity of the Swiss (and other member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)) was referred to in the 13 September 2016 statement from the EU General-Advocate in relation to the EU-Morocco case in the Court of Justice of the European Union. No state of the world, including the EU Member States, recognise the Moroccan claims to the former Spanish colony.
Coop Switzerland’s competitor Migros, on the other hand, maintained to terre des hommes schweiz that it is not selling tomatoes from the territory. However, it sells melons that are equally controversial. Migros insisted that by declaring melons from Western Sahara properly, it would be up to the customers decide. But who is informing the customers about the dirty background of these products?
The Swiss NGO then requested customers to contact the retailers, asking them to stop importing products from Western Sahara. A short animation video “The conflict tomato” (to the right) explained the situation in the occupied territory and how to take part in the campaign.
In front of the headquarter of Migros, terre des hommes schweiz informed passers-by about the conflict and about the “bitter melons” in the fruit shelves. When asked they would buy melons from Western Sahara now that they are informed about the occupied territory and the violation of international law, their answers were clear. See the video to the right.
In February 2016, the important Swiss consumer TV programme Kassensturz covered the campaign against the supermarket chains. It was at this point thatCoop had to declare that they will stop selling tomatoes from the Western Sahara from 2017 onward. That season is normally starting by the end of October 2016. WSRW expects that the imports could have been halted by now.
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.