The Italian company Enel is one of the firms that have taken the exact same approach as the EU when carrying out ‘stakeholder consultations' in Western Sahara - a procedure now found invalid by the EU Court of Justice.
Western Sahara Resource Watch is on 6 October 2021 launching a report on Morocco's renewable energy projects in occupied Western Sahara. The report will address Siemens' and Enel's operations.
Photo above: Siemens Gamesa has from July 2021 supplied Enel with equipment for its large Boujdour wind park.The picture is from Motril, Spain.
The EU Court of Justice ruled on 29 September 2021 that the EU's approach to Western Sahara has been illegal. In decomposing that approach, the ruling shows clearly how fundamentally flawed the position of Italian company Enel is in relation to the territory.
As Western Sahara Resource Watch has covered before, the EU institutions have deliberately ignored previous rulings from the EU Court, which stated that the consent of the people of Western Sahara is a prerequisite for the legality of trade or fish activities in the territory.
Instead of seeking that consent, the Union carried out a ‘stakeholder consultation’ to assess the alleged 'benefits' to the population in the territory - which are primarily Moroccan settlers. The exercise was done in collaboration with the EU's Moroccan counterparts.
As such, the Union only met with groups and individuals that defend the Moroccan position to the conflict, such as Moroccan parliamentarians, NGOs, business groups, government institutions etc. No effort was made to obtain permission to operate on the land from the Saharawis.
On 29 September, the EU Court of Justice concluded such an approach to be totally irrelevant and insufficient, stressing that a 'consultation' on 'benefits' cannot substitute the consent of the people of Western Sahara - through their UN recognised representation, Polisario.
This ruling should be particularly relevant and important for companies that have copied the EU's faulty approach.
The most important of these is Enel, which is involved in the construction of energy projects in Western Sahara, and has over the last years engaged in similar ‘impact assessments’ or ‘consultations’. Enel was excluded from the portfolios of Norway's biggest private asset manager earlier this year, as it acts against the right to self-determination of the Saharawis.
Enel is the company most heavily involved in construction of Moroccan energy projects in occupied Western Sahara. In a letter to WSRW only two weeks before the ruling (screenshot below), Enel described an approach that is basically identical to the EU's. Enel failed to respond to questions from WSRW as to how it could have obtained permission to operate on the land.
In addition, the companies ENGIE and ACWA Power have taken similar approaches. Most recently, ENGIE in 2021 contracted the company Global Diligence to undertake a secretive ‘consultation’ with alleged ‘stakeholders’. WSRW and the French association APSO wrote the company on 11.01.2019 and on 09.12.2020. ENGIE responded on 13.04.2021. WSRW sent a follow-up letter on 17.05.2021, which was not responded to.
Siemens only addresses aspect of 'benefits' but without ever mentioning the Saharawi people's right to consent. WSRW wrote Siemens AG and its affiliated companies Siemens Energy and Gamesa on 06.03.2012, 19.06.2012, 03.07.2013, 26.09.2016, 07.12.2017, 01.10.2018 and 18.02.2021 regarding the right to consent. The companies failed to respond to that aspect in their letters of 10.05.2012, 10.10.2016, 08.01.2018, 16.11.2018, 24.04.2020, 23.03.2021 and 07.04.2021.
The commonalities of the consultation ‘studies’ undertaken by the involved companies in Western Sahara are these:
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