Saturday

13th Aug 2022

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

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

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.

Brazil pitches itself as answer to Ukraine war food shortages

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is pitching his Latin American country as the answer to the world food crisis following the war in Ukraine. The traditional wheat importer has now exported three million tonnes of the grain so far in 2022.

Opinion

Exploiting the Ukraine crisis for Big Business

From food policy to climate change, corporate lobbyists are exploiting the Ukraine crisis to try to slash legislation that gets in the way of profit. But this is only making things worse.

News in Brief

  1. Germany to help nationals cope with energy price spike
  2. Germany wants pipeline from Portugal
  3. Ukraine urges US to sanction all Russian banks
  4. Spain evacuates 294 Afghans
  5. EU sanctions have 'limited' effect of Russian oil production
  6. Donors pledge €1.5bn to Ukraine's war effort
  7. Sweden overtakes France as EU's top power exporter
  8. Italy's far-right star in European charm offensive

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us