The representation of the people of Western Sahara has today initiated legal proceedings against the EU Council over their decision to conclude a trade agreement for occupied Western Sahara with Morocco.
The Polisario Front, the UN-recognised representation of the people of Western Sahara, has today requested the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to annul the Decision of the European Council of 28 January 2019 to adopt a new Association Agreement with Morocco that will explicitly apply to the territory of Western Sahara.
In December 2016, the CJEU had ruled the Association Agreement between the EU and Morocco, and specifically the Protocols regulating trade in agricultural products between the two parties, to be inapplicable to Western Sahara. The Court argued that Morocco had no sovereignty over the territory, nor any mandate to administer it. Western Sahara, the Court stated, is a territory that is "distinct and separate" from any country in the world, including Morocco. In addition, the Court highlighted that the people of the territory did have a right to self-determination, and thus that their consent must be obtained in order for any agreement to lawfully affect their land.
The principles underpinning that ruling have since been repeated by the Court in its rulings on the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement and the EU-Morocco Aviation Agreement.
In spite of these decisions by the Court, the EU institutions approved a new agricultural agreement with Morocco for Western Sahara that did not respect the right to consent of the Saharawi people. In Council, Sweden was the only EU Member State to oppose the agreement, stating that the Court decisions had not been taken into account. The European Parliament backed the deal on 16 January 2019. Find the names of the European Parliamentarians that supported the agreement here.
Mhamed Khadad of the National Secretariat of the Polisario Front stated that: "The Polisario Front regrets the attitude of the European decision-makers that have done everything to circumvent the Court's decisions, abusing their political and financial power. By this legal action, we underscore our faith in justice."
The Polisario Front has also announced it will soon take legal action against the European Council's Decision to conclude a new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Morocco that will also be applied to the waters adjacent to Western Sahara, adopted on 4 March 2019.
The leading MEP on the proposal to extend EU-Morocco trade relations into occupied Western Sahara wants a legal opinion to be certain the proposed Western Sahara trade scheme meets the standards of the highest EU Court. The European Parliament is to vote this afternoon.
Members of the European Parliament request more clarity before voting on the Commission's proposed trade deal for Western Sahara. Meanwhile, 93 Western Sahara civil society groups lament the Parliament rapporteur's lack of diligence on the file.
On Monday, the European Parliament's committee for International Trade decided to delay the ratification-process of the EU-Moroccan agricultural agreement due to legal ambiguities.
What is EU's position on labelling of products from occupied Western Sahara? The EU Commission has now for the third time published a response to a parliamentary question on the matter, but the latest version fails to address the question.