Parliament approves trade deal for occupied Western Sahara

The European Parliament today approved a new EU-Morocco trade agreement for Western Sahara, without having asked the people of Western Sahara whether they want it. "A sad day for democracy and those who believe in rule of law", WSRW comments.

Published 16 January 2019

In the afternoon of 16 January 2019, the European Parliament approved that a new trade deal between the EU and Morocco shall be applied to Western Sahara. 

The people of Western Sahara has not given its consent, including the UN-recognised representative of the Saharawis, the national liberation movement Polisario. 

The Court of Justice of the EU on 21 December 2016 had ruled that it would violate EU law to enter into include the territory of Western Sahara into a trade agreement with Morocco Western Sahara without the prior consent of the people of that territory. 

"We had hoped that the Members of the European Parliament would show respect to principles of law and its own Court of Justice. We strongly condemn the Parliament's ignoring of the ECJ rulings and its clear undermining of the UN peace process. The Parliamentarians who voted for this agreement have today sent a clear signal to the wider international community and to the people of Western Sahara that democracy, human rights and rule of law is irrelevant to them", Sara Eyckmans of Western Sahara Resource Watch commented. 

"What is the point of a rule based system in Europe, if the Commission and Parliament choose to simply look away from judgments of the EU's highest Court?", Eyckmans asked. 

"This comes at the worst time ever, as the UN is trying to make the parties find a solution to the conflict. Why should Morocco take part in the peace talks now, as it has signed a lucrative trade deal for the territory that it illegally and brutally occupies?", Eyckmans said. 

444 parliamentarians voted for the agreement. WSRW will later publish the names of these individuals who supported the illegal agreement. 

The Western Sahara liberation movement Frente Polisario condemned in a press release the Parliament's decision to ignore the EU Court. 

The vote today took place in two parts. Before the trade agreement itself was voted for, the Parliament had to vote on a proposal to refer the agreement for an opinion to the ECJ. 210 voted for, 414 against and 48 abstained in relation to that proposal. 


TIMELINE: 
 

  • On 21 December 2016, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that a trade agreement between EU and Morocco cannot include Western Sahara, as the territory is "separate and distinct" from Morocco. The only way such a deal can function in Western Sahara, is if the people of Western Sahara consent to it, the Court explained. 

     
  • On 31 January 2018, the EU and Morocco initial a new agreement with Morocco, including the territory of Western Sahara, without ever having asked a Saharawi. 

     
  • From February 2018: Instead of asking the Saharawis for acceptance or prior consent (which the Court had expected), the European Commission starts a "consultation" process as to how they want an EU-Morocco agreement to benefit the "populations" - meaning mostly Moroccan settlers. The European External Action Service (EEAS) were in contact with 18 Moroccan groups, state bodies and people elected in illegal elections on occupied land. Prior to and during the EU's consultation process with the Moroccan entities in Western Sahara, the "consultation process" received massive critique locally in Western Sahara. In total 94 Saharawi and pro-Saharawi groups have condemned the EEAS for its negotiations with Morocco and the fake consultation. The EEAS summarized the condemnation of the 94 Saharawi groups and the acceptance from the 18 Moroccans - was that there was a "broad support" for such a trade agreement. The 94 Saharawi groups and pro-Saharawi groups (including our association Western Sahara Resource Watch) had never even taken part in the consultation, but appear as consulted in the EU's documents. 

     
  • 5 November 2018. The European Parliament's rapporteur on the file, French MEP Patricia Lalonde, presents to the INTA committee her report from a fact finding mission to Western Sahara. The report is highly unbalanced. The mission spent most time on meeting the same 18 groups and individuals that the Commission had already met. Hardly any time was given to Saharawi groups. 

     
  • 10 December 2018. Rapporteur Patricia Lalonde from the ALDE group resigns as rapporteur due to alleged conflict of interest, as she was sitting on the board of a Moroccan lobby group. 

     
  • 14 January 2019. The ALDE group prevents that the plenary vote be introduced by a parliamentary debate. 

     
  • 16 January 2019. The new rapporteur, Dutch Marietje Schaake, who had taken over the file from MEP Lalonde, calls for the deal to be referred to the ECJ before voting on the agreement itself, to have its opinion. 
     

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