Siemens dodges questions on Saharawi consent

Why does Siemens not seek the consent of the Saharawis to operate on their land? At the company's Annual Shareholders Meeting, the company failed to answer.

Published 13 February 2017

Western Sahara Resource Watch was present at the Annual Shareholders Meeting of Siemens, in Munich, 1 February 2017. 

WSRW asked whether Siemens had bothered to seek the consent of the Saharawi people. The CEO of the company, Joe Kaeser, did not respond the question. Find below the comment from the Siemens CEO in German (with our translation into English), together with the statement by Western Sahara Resource Watch given at the meeting. 

CEO Joe Kaeser: 
Uns ist das Thema und der umstrittene Status der Westsahara bekannt und wir gehen damit auch sehr sensibel um was die Rechtmässigkeit der Aktivitäten angeht. Wir haben das sehr sehr intensiv geprüft. (00:15) Wir haben den Rat von anerkannten Experten und unabhängigen Rechtsberatern eingeholt. Wir sind der Auffassung auf der Basis dieser Erkundungen, die wie gesagt sehr intensiv waren, dass wir nach anwendbarem Recht hier zulässig diese Projekte auch machen.
(00:34) Wir sind natürlich auch der Auffassung, dass das Recht auf Selbstbestimmung der Völker natürlich gilt und dass das Völkerrecht gilt. Allerdings, wie gesagt, wir haben das geprüft. 
(00:43) Wir unterstützen auch die Position der deutschen Bundesregierung, die die Hoffnung geäussert hat, dass man hier eine friedliche und insbesondere auch einvernehmliche Lösung der ausstehenden Fragen im Bezug auf die Westsahara und deren Unterstützung durch die Vereinten Nationen hat. Wir begrüssen das ausdrücklich. 
(01:03) Ich meine, schauen Sie, wenn wir dort Windparks errichten, erneuerbare Energie, am effizientesten überhaupt auf der ganzen Welt erzeugen, mit etwa drei Cent pro Kilowattstunde, das ist Weltklasse, (01:20) dann hat ja eigentlich jeder was davon und es wäre schade, wenn man sich dort nicht durchringen könnte, dass die Menschen auf allen Gebieten dieses Landes davon profitieren. 
The issue of Western Sahara and its disputed status is well-known to us and we handle the legality of the activities in it in a sensible manner. We examined this very very in-depth. 
(00:15) We obtained advice from recognized experts and independent legal advisors. On the basis of these inquiries – which were, as I told, very intensive – our opinion is that we carry out these projects in accordance with the applicable law. 
(00:34) Of course our opinion is also that the right to self-determination of people is valid, that international law applies. However, as already told, we verified this.
(00:43) We also support the position of the German Federal Government who expressed the hope to come to a peaceful and in particular mutual solution concerning the open questions regarding the Western Sahara and its support for the United Nations. We explicitly welcome this. 
(01:03) I mean, look, if we build wind parks there, renewable energy, the most efficient ones in the whole world, about 3 cents per kilowatt, this is world class, 
(01:20) then actually everybody benefits from this and it would be a pity if one finally doesn’t manage to make it profitable for people in every area of this country. 

The questions below were raised by Western Sahara Resource Watch:
For four decades, Morocco has kept the territory of Western Sahara under foreign occupation. 
No state in the world recognises Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara. The UN has condemned Morocco’s invasion. The International Court of Justice has declared that Morocco has no rights to that land. 
Half the people of the territory has fled after the occupation. More than one hundred UN resolutions are calling for the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. 
Siemens seems to not bother about the rights of the people of Western Sahara. Siemens signs agreements for construction of windmills in Western Sahara with the wrong government – that of Morocco. Its business partner is owned by the royal family in Morocco.
Our association has on numerous occasions asked Siemens what it has done to seek the consent of the people of Western Sahara - when operating on their land. 
Siemens has never responded to that question. Siemens maintains that it is contributing to the development of the territory. But that does not respond the question we are asking - nor the question that the Saharawi people and refugees ask. 
Siemens windmills supply today 95 % of the energy required for the Moroccan government to operate its mining industry in Western Sahara, an industry widely blacklisted by international investors for violating basic ethics. The secretary-general of the local Saharawi association for the protection of natural resources in Western Sahara is serving a lifetime in a Moroccan jail for protesting this plunder. Siemens is today morally, financially, politically, supporting the Moroccan occupation. On its website, Siemens even labels Western Sahara as part of Morocco. 
The Court of Justice of the EU last year dealt with the question of EU operations in Western Sahara. The judgement from December is crystal clear. Western Sahara is fundamentally distinct and separate from Morocco. Morocco has no right to enter into deals in Western Sahara without hearing the opinion of the representative body of the people of Western Sahara. Based on that judgement, there is no other way to describe agreements with the government of Morocco in Western Sahara as “illegal”.
It is hard to underline this clear enough. Siemens is running a real financial risk. These agreements with the Moroccan government are null and void. Worthless. …Signed with the wrong government…. We urge all of you here today to study the judgement of the EU Court of Justice. Without seeking consent of the representative body of Western Sahara, a company violates basic principles of law. 
This is a matter of human rights and basic due diligence. It is not enough of Siemens to say that it supports human rights. It has to show this in practice. In Western Sahara, this means that the people have the right to decide over their own land.
We have two questions to the management of Siemens: 
First, why does Siemens refuse to seek the consent of the people of Western Sahara?
Second, since Siemens refuses to seek the consent of the people of the territory: how does Siemens now address the risk of legal sanctions from the representative body of the people of Western Sahara? 

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