EU Court reaffirms position on Western Sahara
Article image

Polisario has a case, but it should be pursued when the time is right, Court implies.

Published 28 February 2019

On 8 February this year, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued its ruling on case T 376/18, initiated by Polisario in June 2018. Polisario had sought the annulment of the decision of the EU Council to mandate the European Commission to start negotiations with Morocco for a new Fisheries Agreement that would expressly apply to the waters of Western Sahara.

The Court has declared Polisario's request inadmissible, as it is not directly affected by the Council's decision. The Court argues in paragraphs 26-29 that the sole purpose of the Council decision is to designate who will lead the negotiations. As such, the Court says, it only produces legal effects for the EU institutions themselves - not for Polisario, which is thus not directly affected by this particular decision.

The Court however does reaffirm in paragraph 30 its earlier rulings which underscore the cornerstone principle of self-determination and regard Western Sahara as a third party to the EU-Morocco relations. "Indeed, if, of course, the Saharawi people are to be regarded as enjoying the right to self-determination and as being a "third party" within the meaning of the principle of the relative effect of the treaties (decision of 21 December 2016, Council / Polisario Front , C-104/16 P, EU: C: 2016: 973, paragraphs 90 to 92 and 106), the fact remains that any possible allocation of the applicant's legal position must be assessed in the light of the content of the agreement on which the negotiations initiated under the contested decision." (unofficial translation by WSRW)

In February 2018, the Court had invalidated the application of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement to the waters of Western Sahara, as the territory is not part of Morocco. The Court stated that including the waters of Western Sahara - where in practice over 90% of EU fishing took place under the agreement with Morocco - is a violation of international law (paragraph 83). 

Since, the EU Commission has negotiated a new Fisheries Agreement with Morocco - one that expressly includes Western Sahara in its geographical scope of application. That Agreement has been approved by the EU Council (the 28 Member States) in December 2018 and by the EU Parliament on 12 February 2019.

Polisario has announced further legal proceedings.

Here is the EU Council's legal advice on fishing in occupied waters

Before voting on the new EU-Morocco fish deal in 2018, extending into occupied Western Sahara, several EU Member States asked for legal advice that would determine their vote. WSRW today publishes that influential legal opinion, which appears to miss the ball entirely.
05 March 2020

EU Court confirms: Western Sahara not part of EU-Morocco fish deal

For the third time, the highest Court of the European Union has confirmed that Morocco has no sovereignty over Western Sahara. In its new ruling dated 19 July 2018, the Court confirms that the EU's fisheries agreement with Morocco cannot be applied to the territory.

26 July 2018

EU Court advocate: Fish agreement invalid for including Western Sahara

In an opinion issued this morning, the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the EU stated that the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement is invalid because it applies to Western Sahara waters. Judgement expected in a few months. 

Read reaction from Frente Polisario on the opinion.

10 January 2018

EU Court protects Western Sahara from EU-Morocco trade deal

The highest Court of the European Union this morning found that EU's trade agreement with Morocco cannot be implemented in Western Sahara.

21 December 2016