Friday

23rd Aug 2019

Rights watchdog warns MEPs on Morocco trade deal

  • MEPs are set to back an EU fishing deal with Morocco (Photo: Ross Thomson)

Human Rights Watch is demanding MEPs take another look at an EU deal with Morocco that exploits the resources of the disputed Western Sahara region, ahead of a plenary vote on Tuesday (12 February).

The Western Sahara is roughly the size of the United Kingdom and was annexed by Morocco in a brutal conflict. The United Nations does not recognise Morocco's claim over the territory.

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

In a letter on Monday addressed to MEPs, the head of the NGO's Brussels office Lotte Leicht, asks the deputies to send the proposed deal on fisheries to the European Court of Justice to determine if international law is being violated.

"Morocco is in occupation of the territory and therefore the relevant international humanitarian law applies," notes Leicht.

The Luxembourg-based court only last year rejected a similar deal, telling the EU it cannot cut deals with Rabat in order to fish off the disputed coastline.

But the European Commission has since renegotiated a new pact with Morocco, which is set to get rubber-stamped by MEPs on Tuesday.

Less free than Saudi Arabia

Morocco's grip over the Western Sahara has also turned it into one of the world's worst offenders when it comes to political rights and civil liberties.

Freedom House, a US-based independent watchdog organisation, recently ranked the Western Sahara fourth out of 100 in a global report on freedom.

The higher the score, the more free the country.

North Korea scored three. It means Libya (ninth), Saudi Arabia (seventh) and Venezuela (19) are all considered more free than the Western Sahara, according to the report.

The Tuesday vote appears to follow a pattern - there will be no plenary debate on the fishery agreement. This is because efforts to have it debated were denied.

Earlier this year in January, MEPs backed another EU deal with Morocco on agriculture.

Efforts to debate the agricultural pact were also blocked, despite intense lobbying by Morocco - and conflict of interests, exposed by this website, that led to an internal European parliament probe against four MEPs.

French liberal Patricia Lalonde stepped down as lead MEP on the agricultural deal as a result of EUobserver's investigation.

She was replaced by Dutch liberal Marietje Schaake, who then refused to vote in favour of the report drafted by Lalonde.

Schaake questioned whether the deal adhered to international law and the rulings by the European Court of Justice. But the parliament passed it anyway.

The agricultural deal has paved the way for the fisheries agreement, which has always been Rabat's biggest prize.

Morocco has played on the issues of migration and security to bend the will and gain the support of the European lawmakers.

Supporters of the trade deals, including the European Commission, say it will help improve the lives of people living in the Western Sahara.

They say it brings both jobs and development to the region.

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 to pledge Africa security funds at G7 summit

The focus at the G7 summit will most likely narrow down to the global economy and foreign affairs, but the EU is also set to make a number of pledges on transparency and fighting diseases.

EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests

The EU, in league with Canada, has spoken out on the Hong Kong protests after months of silence in what one expert called "a clear expression of support for the protesters".

News in Brief

  1. Ocean Viking to disembark in Malta after ordeal
  2. Germany joins France in world outcry on Brazil fires
  3. British people lose faith in Brexit deal
  4. Brexit hardliners want further changes to EU deal
  5. German manufacturers confirm fear of recession
  6. Belgian socialists and liberals scrap over EU post
  7. Fall in EU migration leading to UK skills shortages
  8. Switzerland makes post-Brexit flight preparations

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

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 heading for yet another general election
  2. EU to discuss Brazil beef ban over Amazon fires
  3. 'Our house is burning,' Macron says on Amazon fires
  4. What happens when trafficking survivors get home
  5. EU states and Russia clash on truth of WW2 pact
  6. EU considers new rules on facial recognition
  7. EU to pledge Africa security funds at G7 summit
  8. Letter from the EESC on per diem article

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us