Tuesday

20th Aug 2019

Greens boycott EU-Morocco vote after lobbying expose

  • Thousands of Saharawi refugees remain stuck in desert camps. (Photo: Western Sahara Resource Watch)

An internal protest has erupted at the European Parliament at continuing with the vote next week on a controversial EU trade pact with Morocco, despite lobbying exposed by EUobserver.

Heidi Hautala, a Finnish Green MEP and vice president of the parliament, on Thursday (6 December) announced she was would suspend work on the trade pact, and is boycotting the vote in protest. Other MEPs in the Green and European Free Alliance party will do the same.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Her decision follows an investigation by EUobserver that the committee's lead MEP on the file, French liberal Patricia Lalonde, was a board member of the EuroMeda foundation.

The foundation is in the spotlight because it counts former state Moroccan ministers and politicians among its ranks, operates out of the Brussels office of Hill+Knowlton consultancy, and is not listed in the EU's lobby register.

Lalonde has since stepped down from the foundation but is now under an internal parliament probe for possible code of conduct breach, along with several other MEPs.

The governing body of the European Parliament met on Thursday to discuss the issue after the Greens demanded the file be suspended until the code of conduct probe is finalised.

"Unfortunately, president Tajani at the meeting of the conference of presidents today did not agree to take this step," said Hautala, in an email to other MEPs working on the file, seen by this website.

The powerful international trade committee (INTA) is set to vote on the pact next Monday. But Hautala insists that the internal probe into Lalonde first be finalised. Her hopes were instead dashed by Tajani.

"I therefore suspend for the time bring my active cooperation on the finalisation of the dossier of Ms Lalonde for the INTA," she also wrote in the email.

Hautala also said she is withdrawing a number of amendments on the file and will leave the room when the vote takes place.

The agricultural trade pact is controversial because it sets to exploit resources from the Western Sahara. Morocco invaded the territory in 1975, forcing many of its people to flee to Algeria, where they still live in refugee camps.

In 2016, the European Court of Justice declared that the EU's agricultural trade deal cannot cover the Western Sahara.

It means the European Commission must now first obtain the consent of the local Saharawi population, a process that appears doubtful.

The United Nations defines the Western Sahara as a "non-self-governing territory", in a dispute which has now dragged on for some 43 years.

Investigation

Exposed: How Morocco lobbies EU for its Western Sahara claim

The European parliament's lead negotiator on the Morocco trade deal, French liberal MEP Patricia Lalonde, is also on the EuroMedA Foundation board along with former Moroccan state ministers and a top ranking official in Morocco's ministry of agriculture.

EU aviation agreement with Morocco in legal hot water

The European Commission is struggling to respond to questions on how it can include the disputed territory of the Western Sahara into its aviation agreement with Morocco - following a recent order from the General Court of the European Union.

Opinion

Why Brussels' toxic lobbying culture must end

What is revelatory about the study by Corporate Europe Observatory is the sheer number of embassies, committees and advisory groups that lobbyists can target: from the Council all the way down to standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed.

Exclusive

Brexit row delays financial products transparency review

A European financial regulatory body set up after the financial crisis is at loggerheads with the European Commission over whether to carry out a transparency review of certain financial products. The reason: Brexit.

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Spain calls for legal action against Italy on migrants
  2. Trump to meet Greenland leader in Denmark
  3. Irish border plan is 'anti-democratic', Johnson tells EU
  4. Polish deputy minister targeted judges in hate campaign
  5. EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests
  6. Is Salvini closing just harbours or also the rule of law?
  7. No-deal Brexit would seriously harm UK, leaked paper says
  8. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us