Piket: no prohibition to apply Morocco agreements to Western Sahara

Read a transcript of the presentation of Mr Vincent Piket, head of the Maghreb Division at the EU External Action Service, at the ALDE Seminar on the EU's relations with Morocco, held on 25 April 2018 in the European Parliament.

Published 17 July 2018

"UN Security Council that has spoken out about the question repeatedly. And is these very days about to take another decision on the renewal of the UN mandate for Western Sahara. The case law of the Court of Justice obviously applies to all EU institutions, which is a very simple way of answering the question of Mr Vajgl. There is no other way that we can work as EU institutions but by respecting the EU Treaty of course, and by respecting the Court of Justice rulings. There is no other way. That goes without saying, but it needs to be said. That is just the fact of it. All our agreements, all our decisions are based on that law, and need to take [inaudible] into account. And in many respects, in law(?), political considerations are utterly secondary. Law prevails.


And as a result, of course, the judgments of the Court of Justice of the past year and a half, have implications – [inaudible] implications for our relations with Morocco, and make that we have to look at our agreements and at the status of Western Sahara in the function of those agreements. If you look at what the Court ruled, on these two occasions, then we can summarize it by saying that as far as – [inaudible] - that the court has now on two occasions ruled that the EU Agreements with Morocco are valid agreements but that they do not in their present form apply to Western Sahara. So in the present form the agreements cannot be assumed to apply to Western Sahara. 
The Court of Justice did not rule on whether international law permits or does not permit the application of an agreement between EU and Morocco to Western Sahara, and if so, under what specific conditions. The Court did say that the coverage of Western Sahara in EU Agreements with Morocco cannot be assumed (inaudible word). That you cannot simply assume, given the Western Sahara’s specific status as a Non-Self Governing Territory in the UN language, that it can be assumed to be part of a bilateral agreement between the EU and Morocco. 
Now, what conclusion have we drawn from that? First of all, the EU institutions – and that is the European Commission as well as the External Action Service – of course draw the conclusion that we cannot operate the agreements as they are in Western Sahara, and apply to Western Sahara. Thus under the EU agreements with the country, we cannot at the present moment grant tariff preferences to agricultural products coming into the EU from that region. And the same applies to the Fisheries Agreement; that no EU fishing vessel can operate legally under the EU Agreement with Morocco in waters adjacent to Western Sahara. And that is one very simple illustration or demonstration of the fact that we have to apply EU Court of Justice rulings, immediately and directly. 
Secondly, the conclusion that we have drawn is that since there is no blanket prohibition of the Court of Justice on EU agreements applying to Western Sahara, we can do so provided we meet certain conditions and provided we apply certain modalities. Such conditions and such modalities of course need to be negotiated between the EU and Morocco, and in order to make explicit and not keep implicit the application of EU agreements to the territories." 

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