Monday

20th Jan 2020

Lead MEP on Morocco resigns as her report passes

  • A plenary vote for the EU trade deal with Morocco is now set for January (Photo: European Parliament)

French liberal MEP Patricia Lalonde has stepped down as the parliament's lead on a trade deal with Rabat following EUobserver reports into Moroccan lobbying.

Her resignation was announced on Monday (10 December) - only moments ahead of a crunch vote on the pact in the parliament's international trade committee.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Bernd Lange, the German socialist MEP who chairs that committee, said Lalonde's independence as lead MEP on the file had been questioned.

"I did what was in my competence and this will be now investigated by a specific committee of the parliament," he told MEPs in the committee.

He said Lalonde was no longer willing to handle the file and had handed it over to Dutch liberal Marietje Schaake. Schaake is the liberal coordinator at the committee.

Lalonde's resignation came amid intense pressure over possible conflicts of interest following revelations she was a board member at 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 had since suspended her role in EuroMeda, declaring her impartiality and telling this website that her participation in the foundation had no influence in her work on drafting the report on EU Morocco deal.

The disputed deal seeks to extend an agricultural agreement with Morocco that spans into the Western Sahara, a territory annexed by Rabat.

The Greens boycotted the vote in protest, noting that the substance of Lalonde's report still remains in doubt regardless of her sudden departure and replacement.

"This report has emerged from a conflict of interest, the report hasn't been changed at all, and we believe therefore it is the result from a conflict of interest," said French Green MEP Yannick Jadot.

A request by a socialist MEP at the committee to postpone the vote was widely rejected.

Lalonde's report, or rather Schaake's report, also passed. The plenary is now set to vote on the deal in January, possibly paving the way for the much more lucrative fishing agreement.

The European Court of Justice had previously invalidated the EU's trade deals with Morocco given they exploited resources in the Western Sahara.

The area is roughly the size of the United Kingdom and is not internationally recognised as part of Morocco.

The commission has since renegotiated the agreements on the basis they must first secure the consensus of the local Saharawi population, which according to some NGOs, they have not.

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

On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?

If the European parliament votes in favour of the new Morocco agreement without knowing that it complies with the European Court of Justice judgement, how can it demand that other countries respect international law and their own courts?

Zahradil 'conflict of interest' probe may flounder

The European Parliament's internal body, designed to sanction MEPs for conflicts of interests, has failed to deliver any meaningful verdicts. Some are hoping a future proposal for a new independent ethics body will help hold MEPs accountable.

News in Brief

  1. Malta: Another minister resigns over Caruana Galizia murder
  2. Belgian region threatens to block EU-Mercosur trade deal
  3. EU to cut pre-accession aid to Turkey by 75 percent
  4. Libya peace talks: 'new spirit' to find solution
  5. EU financial firms flock to UK
  6. 'No objection in principle' on Huawei cooperation, EU says
  7. French aircraft carrier goes to Middle East amid tensions
  8. EU suggests temporary ban on facial recognition

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us