WSRW: "EU must exclude Sahara from Monday's Morocco trade talks"
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Starting this Monday 14 December, the EU and Morocco will meet in Brussels for another round of talks on an even deeper trade partnership. Just two days ago, the European Court of Justice annulled the EU-Morocco Free Trade Agreement over Western Sahara. WSRW calls on the EU to respect that judgement by explicitly excluding the territory of Western Sahara from the ongoing trade talks.
Published 12 December 2015

On Thursday 10 December, the Court of Justice of the European Union decided to annul the EU-Morocco Free Trade Agreement which due to its territorial vagueness allowed for increased trade liberalisation of fruits and vegetables from Western Sahara - a Non-Self-Governing Territory still to complete the process of decolonisation. Since late 1975, three quarters of Western Sahara have been under Moroccan military occupation.

The Court's ruling is based on the fact that the agreement permits implementation of its terms not only in Morocco but also in the occupied territory of Western Sahara.

In spite of this clear ruling, the EU Commission will proceed with business as usual. The scheduled talks with Morocco for an ultra-version of the now annulled Free Trade Agreement will go on as planned, starting upcoming Monday. The Commission has always been clear that this envisioned deal, a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), will also apply to Western Sahara. The DCFTA is said to extend beyond the existing ties of association between the EU and Morocco, by working towards the gradual integration of the Moroccan economy into the EU single market.

"The EU Court of Justice has been clear that Morocco has no mandate to administer Western Sahara. Because the EU failed to fully engage that matter, the Court decided to annul the Free Trade Agreement. It should then be logical that the EU adheres to the Court's decision, and either terminates the ongoing negotiations with Morocco, or explicitly excludes Western Sahara from the geographical scope of those talks", says Sara Eyckmans, coordinator of Western Sahara Resource Watch.

At the time of writing, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini is meeting a delegation of the Moroccan government in Rome, to assess the situation. The European Commission is also preparing all the legal ground work to appeal the Court's decision.

"It would have spoken volumes about the EU's respect for international law and basic human rights if it would have reached out to the Saharawi people at this point, instead of to the government that is responsible for the illegal occupation and unlawful exploitation of the Saharawis' homeland", Eyckmans continued.

The Moroccan government was less than amused with the Court ruling. In an immediate response, Moroccan Minister for Communication and spokesperson of the government Mustapha Khalfi called the ruling "a political and not a legal decision", and stated that the reaction of the EU to the verdict would affect "the totality of bilateral relations" between the partners. This was repeated in an official statement by the Moroccan government issued yesterday.

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