Monday

17th May 2021

EU promises to respect Western Sahara trade ruling

  • EU commission says the December 2016 EU court ruling on the Western Sahara will be respected (Photo: Mark Fisher)

The European Commission is seeking a trade deal with Morocco but some MEPs say a draft appears to ignore a European Court of Justice ruling on the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

However, a commission spokesperson on Monday (5 February) said they are sticking to the judgement and that any final deal will follow the court's ruling on the territory.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The starting point is the respect of the court judgement and the goal is to clarify the status of products from Western Sahara," the spokesperson said, in an email.

The Western Sahara is a disputed territory annexed by Morocco in the late 1970s. A shaky ceasefire between the Polisario independence movement and Morocco was signed in 1991.

The United Nations says the largely marginalised indigenous Sahrawi have a right to a referendum on independence. But the poll has yet to take place, posing questions on moves by Rabat and EU to secure any trade deals that involve exploiting resources in the desert area.

The EU court ruled in December 2016 that any such pacts between the EU and Morocco are not applicable to Western Sahara. The Luxembourg-court had also described the Western Sahara as a "separate and distinct" territory from Morocco.

But last week, a set of letters that seek to amend the trade and customs protocols of the EU-Morocco association agreement had been initialed between the EU commission services and Morocco's ministers of foreign affairs and agriculture.

The move was reported as having included the Western Sahara into the scope of the agreement, which the EU commission says is not correct.

A handful of liberal and left-leaning MEPs following the Western Sahara issue had also demanded clarification from the commission in light of the EU court decision in 2016.

The commission says the letters initialled last week have no formal legal value but is instead part of a process in concluding a trade agreement.

It also said it will soon make a proposal on a draft agreement for member states to sign. The draft will also need the consent of the European Parliament.

An adviser to the EU's top court last month said the EU's fisheries agreement with Morocco should be declared invalid because of fishing off the Western Sahara coastline.

EU seeks to extend Morocco fish deal, despite legal opinion

An EU court advisor says an EU fish deal with Rabat should be scrapped due to the Morocco-annexed territory of the Western Sahara. The fisheries agreement is set to expire in July but the European Commission want to renew it.

EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement

After the European Commission presented its Western Balkans strategy last week, with a view of possibly integrating the region by 2025, some EU ministers were less enthusiastic after their first discussion of the new policy.

News in Brief

  1. Pandemic conspiracies pose security threat in France
  2. EU laws on vans and CO2 too weak, NGO says
  3. Unicef urges rich countries to donate vaccines
  4. Belgium voices Chinese spy fears over airport hub
  5. EU: Over 5 million people risk 'starvation' in Ethiopia
  6. EU 'deplores' Russian ban on Czech diplomats
  7. UK to stop locking up EU travellers without visas
  8. Karadžić being moved from Hague to UK jail

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU impunity for Israel creating 'horror' in Gaza
  2. Internal paper lays out EU splits on 'returning' migrants
  3. Israel-Palestine and travel certificates in focus This WEEK
  4. MEPs rethink EU Parliament future after Covid-19 pandemic
  5. The activists calling out racism In Italy's media
  6. Online privacy for adults means more internet child abuse
  7. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  8. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us