A highly self-contradictory statement regarding its conflict windmills in occupied Western Sahara was issued by Siemens Gamesa yesterday.
Picture: 27 March 2023, Saharawis gathered to protest Siemens Gamesa's operations in occupied Western Sahara. Picture by the Saharawi network Western Sahara is Not for Sale.
At its Annual General Meeting of 27 March 2023, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) has perhaps provided its most paradoxical response in over ten years, when questioned about its involvement in Morocco's construction of renewable energy infrastructure in the part of Western Sahara that it holds under military occupation.
Jochen Eikholt, the CEO of Siemens Gamesa stated that:
Why the triple paradox?
The territory of Western Sahara is not disputed under international law. It is a Non-Self-Governing Territory without an administering power appointed to it, and its people - the Saharawis - have a right to self-determination: the right to choose the future status of the territory.
The European Court of Justice has come to this exact conclusion in now six consecutive rulings, each time stating that Morocco thus has no sovereignty or international mandate to administer the territory, that the territory is separate and distinct from any country in the world (including Morocco), and that the people of the territory ought to consent in order for an economic arrangement to lawfully affect their land. The people of Western Sahara have time and again spoken out against Siemens' operations in their homeland. It is odd that SGRE has seemingly not taken these six rulings into consideration, yet states to be awaiting the currently pending seventh ruling to derive to any conclusions.
Fully contradicting itself, SGRE claims that it has always acted in compliance with applicable law - while having stated the belief that Western Sahara is “disputed” from the perspective of international law, and thereby seemingly disregarding six CJEU rulings that state the opposite. Siemens Gamesa has systematically failed to answer questions as to what country's legislation it claims to be applicable in Western Sahara.
Morocco's exploitation of occupied Western Sahara's renewable potential is highly problematic. As Morocco becomes increasingly more dependent on its illegal occupation for part of its own energy supply, it will have even less incentive to engage in the already lifeless UN peace process. Moreover, the renewable projects provide the energy that is needed for the taking of Western Sahara's natural resources. Every currently operational wind farm in occupied Western Sahara runs on wind mills provided by different parts of the Siemens family: the privately owned 5 MW CIMAR farm (Gamesa turbines), 300 MW Boujdour (SG turbines), 50 MW Foum el Oued (Siemens turbines) and 200 MW Aftissat I (SG turbines). In addition, the 100 MW Tiskrad wind farm, expected to be commissioned in 2024, will be equipped with Siemens turbines.
For each of these projects, Siemens has cooperated with Nareva, the energy company that is owned by the very Moroccan monarchy that is responsible for the invasion and continued occupation of parts of Western Sahara.
At yesterday's AGM, the CEO of SGRE did not rule out further projects in Western Sahara. For potential new projects, “we will carefully analyse the new legal situation at a relevant point in time and of course we will engage with the appropriate institutional stakeholders and also with focus on the creation of benefits for the local population”, Eikholt stated. It is worth noting that the “population” of Western Sahara today consists of a majority of Moroccan settlers, drawn to the territory on the promise of employment in industries that are in part powered by Siemens wind mills. Furthermore, the argument of “creating benefits” has been rejected by the EU Court of Justice, concluding such an approach to be “irrelevant” if no consent had been obtained from the people of the territory.
While the AGM was ongoing, Saharawis had gathered outside of the Siemens Gamesa headquarters to protest against the firm's operations in their occupied homeland. “The exploitation begins here”, the protest banner read. Demonstrators also took to the offices of the nearby located companies Ormazabal and Ingeteam, which have both worked on renewable projects in occupied Western Sahara. Ormazabal provided its services to extend the Foum el Oued park to the substation of OCP, the Moroccan state-owned phosphate company that exploits Western Sahara's phosphate reserves. Ingeteam supplied converters to the two currently operational solar plants in occupied Western Sahara (in Boujdour and El Aaiun) and is the Operations and Maintenance contractor for the sites.
More details about Morocco's renewable projects on occupied Western Sahara can be found in our report Greenwashing Occupation (2022).
The statement from Siemens Gamesa came in reply to the questions included below, raised by Hassanna Alia - a well-known Saharawi human rights defender, representing the network Western Sahara Is Not For Sale - and by Tim Sauer of Western Sahara Resource Watch.
WSRW has for a number of years tried to obtain answers from Siemens Gamesa regarding its operations, but never received responses to the questions asked. Find the letter correspondence here.
STATEMENT BY JOCHEN EIKHOLT, CEO OF SIEMENS GAMESA RENEWABLE ENERGY - SGRE AGM - 27 MARCH 2023
“Perhaps it is better if I answer in English. So first of all thank you very much for the questions. We are aware that the territory of Western Sahara is disputed under international law. Siemens Gamesa does not have a mandate to take a political position on such issues or to confirm the territorial status. These matters are the responsibilities of governments and international organisations. Siemens Gamesa always and without exception acted in compliance with applicable law. We have taken careful note of the judgement of the European Court of Justice on the 29th of September 2021 on the fishery agreement between the European Union and the kingdom of Morocco. This concerns the validity of an international agreement between actors under international law and does not directly address the question of the legality of private law contracts. In this reasoning the ECJ also stated that the decision does not have immediate repealing effects during the appeal period. The European Commission and the European Council have appealed against the judgement within the legally prescribed period. The appeal judgement is still pending and there is still legal uncertainty on that matter. We will await the appeal ruling of the European Court of Justice in order to derive conclusion for further directions by private companies like ours. Now Siemens Gamesa will fulfil existing obligations from valid contracts and according with the legal requirements. And with respect to potential new projects located in Western Sahara and in line with its past practice Siemens Gamesa will comply with all applicable laws and court rulings. We will carefully analyse the new legal situation at a relevant point in time and of course we will engage with the appropriate institutional stakeholders and also with focus on the creation of benefits for the local population. Ultimately the engagement of any new project will follow the relevant corporate governance processes and rules.”
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