Thursday

19th Sep 2019

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 18 year's of archives. 30 days 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?

News in Brief

  1. Austria to veto EU trade deal with South America
  2. Brexit minister asks EU for 'flexibility' to secure a deal
  3. Kovesi has 'sufficient majority' for prosecutor post
  4. France, Finland give UK ultimatum for Brexit plan
  5. Minsk talks bode ill for EU's peace summit on Ukraine
  6. Poll: Poland's nationalist rulers to win October election
  7. Irish lawyers clash with EU commission in Apple case
  8. NGOs take aim at EU smartphone pollution

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Latest News

  1. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  2. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  3. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  4. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  5. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants
  6. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  7. A new Commission for the one percent
  8. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us