France offers to pay for problematic powerline

The French government intends to finance a cable that will transport energy from Morocco's illegal projects in occupied Western Sahara to Morocco proper.

07 May 2024

"I confirm to you that we are ready to participate in funding this project,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told at a Moroccan-French business forum in Rabat. His statement, reported by Reuters, is a reference to Morocco’s plans to construct a 3 Gigawatt power cable connecting Dakhla, in occupied Western Sahara, to Casablanca in Morocco proper.

Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) reported in November last year that Morocco’s National Office for Electricity (ONEE) had announced plans to construct a 1,400 km-long “electric highway” that is to transport electricity generated in occupied Western Sahara to the centre of Morocco. 

Concretely, ONEE envisions setting up electricity lines capable of transporting up to 3 GW of electricity that has been generated from renewable sources located between Dakhla and El Aaiún - both in occupied Western Sahara - all the way to Casablanca, Morocco. Half of that capacity, or 1,500 MW, should be finalised in 2026, while the second half ought to be up and running in 2028. 

A tender process seeking an operator for the project is currently ongoing. The selected candidate for the 30-year contract is expected to be announced before the summer.

“That electricity generated in occupied Western Sahara will feed Morocco proper is a most concerning development”, says Sara Eyckmans from Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW). 

“Morocco becoming dependent on its illegal occupation of Western Sahara for its own energy supply will have a negative fall-out on the UN peace process, where Morocco is already showing little to no interest in resolving the conflict in line with international law.”

“That the French government would come with an offer to help entrench Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara is astounding. All the more so, given that the highest Court of the European Union is currently assessing the legality of applying EU-Morocco agreements to Western Sahara. It is shocking that the French government would not await the Court’s ruling, before making such a provocative statement.”, Eyckmans stated.

WSRW has not observed similar interests of the French government to finance Russian energy infrastructure in east Ukraine or Israeli interests in Palestine.

Though once close knit allies, relations between France and Morocco had turned sour in recent years. A diplomatic spat ensued France’s decision to reduce the number of visas it would issue to Moroccan citizens in 2021. Investigations throughout 2020 and 2021 into Morocco’s alleged spying on French officials during the Pegasus spyware scandal only deepened the divide.

Yet ties between Paris and Rabat appear to be rekindling. In February 2024, French foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné reaffirmed support for Rabat’s autonomy plan for the Western Sahara.

Morocco occupied Western Sahara in 1975, in condemnation by the UN General Assembly. Half of the Saharawi people have since been living as refugees, while the territory itself ranks among the lowest in the world in terms of political freedoms. 


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