Why WSRW says no to EU trade talks on Western Sahara

The EU is again undertaking ‘consultations’ on illegal EU-Morocco trade agreements in occupied Western Sahara. Here is why WSRW refuses to engage. 

19 October 2022

On 12 October, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) received an invitation from the European Commission (DG TAXUD) and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to take part in a “consultation for the preparation of the annual report on the impact of the agreement extending the tariff preferences provided for in the Association Agreement with Morocco to products from Western Sahara”.

Today, WSRW has responded that it will not take part in this consultation exercise. Download the complete WSRW answer here. 

“What you ask of us this time, is whether we will take part in a consultation on an approach that was rejected by the EU Court of Justice (the “benefits” of the agreement), in relation to the implementation of the EU-Morocco trade agreement in Western Sahara – which was again rejected by the EU General Court in September 2021.”

“We do not want to contribute to what appears to be an attempt to legitimize the implementation of an unlawful agreement with Morocco in Western Sahara - one that lacks the consent of the people of the territory, and instead only serves to further anchor Morocco’s untenable military presence through funding demographic engineering and a settler economy in what is considered one of the most unfree territories in the world”, WSRW wrote, adding that “Should the EU Commission consider following an approach that is in line with the people of Western Sahara’s right to self-determination and, as such, their right to consent, you could count on our full cooperation.” 

In the same letter, WSRW also reiterated its question to the EEAS to have its name removed from the official document that was used in 2018 to convince the EU Parliament and EU Member States to vote in favour of the amended trade agreement with Morocco so that it would henceforth expressly apply to Western Sahara. The amendment, negotiated and signed with Morocco, came after the EU Court of Justice in late 2016 had invalidated the agreement's application in Western Sahara because it did not have the express consent of the people of Western Sahara - a territory over which Morocco has no sovereignty or administering mandate, the Court had specified. The EEAS had asked WSRW in 2018 to take part in a consultation round on the amended agreement. WSRW refused to take part for two reasons: the proposed amended agreement did not have the consent of the people of Western Sahara, and the consultation furthermore only focused on the potential socio-economic benefits of the deal to the “local population” “living in Western Sahara” - an approach found irrelevant by the EU Court of Justice if the people of the territory had not consented to the agreement in the first place. 

Despite refusing to take part in the 2018 consultation, WSRW was later misleadingly listed in official EU documents backing the Commission's negotiated amendment with Morocco, as having been consulted, as were 93 other organisations who had also refused to take part or who were never even invited in the first place. Our request to be removed from the list, was never even responded to. More details on this fake 2018 “consultation" can be found in this briefing or in the WSRW report Above the Law from 2020.  

WSRW also requested today that the EU institutions issue an apology to the 94 groups who were falsely included - against their will - in the mentioned Staff Working Document in 2018. 

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