The Saharawi People Have Law on Their Side

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By: Florent Marcellesi / Source: El Diario / The Dawn News / December 24, 2016

The latest sentence of the Justice Court of the European Union on the Saharawi issue is a turning point in the relations between the EU and Morocco and European foreign policy.

Last Wednesday, December 21, in a historic sentence, the Justice court of the European Union confirmed, unambiguously, that Western Sahara is not a part of Morocco and, therefore, no EU agreements with Morocco are valid for Western Sahara (i.e. the Association Agreement, fishing agreements, agriculture agreements) without the consent of the Saharawi people.

This is a sentence with profound implications not only for the rights of this people, but also for the EU’s foreign relations.

To begin with, the sentence exposes the fact that, for over 40 years, the member States, the European Commission and a majority of the European Parliament have been violating the most basic principles of international right with their double-standard policies in the region. While, on one hand, they never ceased voicing their belief in the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination and their support the UN’s efforts to achieve a political solution to this conflict (one of the longest in the region), on the other hand, they have actively and directly contributed with the plundering of the resources (especially the fishery ones) in this occupied territory, benefitting the Moroccan regime and harming Western Sahara’s chances to achieve autonomy.

In this context of, at the best, severe and prolonged myopia of the Commission and the Council, the EU Court has had to intervene to remind them about the international law. This is, therefore, a transcendental victory for the people of Western Sahara because their territory is for once unequivocally distinguished from Morocco’s by the highest legal instance of the EU, confirming their most fundamental right: the one to self-determination. Today, the Saharawi people have international law on their side.

But, what are the practical implications of this decision? To sum it up, no European activity can take place in Western Sahara without the consent of the Saharawi people. All current European activities, such as investments of the German company Siemens or Spanish agricultural companies on occupied land, have no legal basis. Their contracts with Moroccan partners or institutions heretofore lose validity.

With this in view, I encourage all European companies thinking about establishing commercial bonds with Morocco to read the court ruling before closing any deals. And, as consumers, I recommend reading the label on our tomatoes and melons to check their origins.

Diplomatically, EU institutions must carry out a policy of complete differentiation that restricts the current bilateral relations of the EU and the member States with Morocco.Therefore, assistance programs of the Commission to Morocco must immediately cease activities in Western Sahara. The Commission can also no longer acknowledge any administrative document or official organization based in Western Sahara as Moroccan. It will have to eliminate exporters based in Western Sahara from their list of authorized exporters in the framework of the EU-Morocco commercial agreement. It can also no longer issue a single fishing permit for European ships located in the Saharawi shore in the framework of the fishing agreement. And so on. The differentiation policy requires a systematic and global deployment in all sectors of the rich and diverse relationship between the EU and Morocco.

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