Monday

20th May 2019

Opinion

Daily reality in Western Sahara - and how EU can protect it

  • Young Saharawis participating in the Agida agriculture project in Dakhla, with MEPs from the September 2018 delegation.

I am very fortunate to represent one of the most beautiful regions of Morocco, Dakhla-Oued Eddahab.

Dakhla is a top-class destination for windsurfers throughout the year.

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

Our region is flourishing, but not only thanks to tourism. International trade agreements and investments have contributed massively to our wellbeing.

A few weeks ago, we welcomed to Dakhla a fact-finding mission from the European Parliament including several MEPs. We showed them the facts: dozens of projects from the agriculture sector which provide jobs and investments to the benefit of the local population.

The MEPs had the opportunity to visit different projects held by young Sahrawi, among them a lot of women: from vegetables production supporting local young entrepreneurs to projects for the development of the local camel industry (milk collection centre).

This was only a small glimpse of the reality and the benefits that international trade and investment from Morocco has brought to us.

Until Morocco became involved, the population of the Saharan Provinces was largely nomadic. We had little access to infrastructure, basic services, and economic and social development projects.

Today, most inhabitants have settled, and benefit from a range of life-enhancing services, including transport, communication, health, education, desalination of water, culture, tourism and sport.

As a consequence, there has been a dramatic drop in poverty, down from 19 percent to 4 percent in the past decade.

Rabat's investment

Rabat has mobilised exceptional resources and invested substantial budgets for the reconstruction of the Saharan Provinces.

It remains both the largest investor and largest employer in the provinces, pumping almost €7bn into development covering projects in energy, infrastructure, hydraulics, fishing, agriculture, tourism, health, culture and education.

Moving beyond the economy, people in the Saharan Provinces benefit from a vibrant local civil society, with a network of associations active in such fields as promotion of women and children, education, human rights, and economic and social development.

The cities of Laayoune and Dakhla alone total more than 2,300 associations.

That's why I was deeply saddened to read claims in the opinion piece Reality of my three days in occupied Western Sahara which are not factual and certainly contradict my reality and the reality of the Sahrawi who live on the ground on a daily basis.

I was surprised to read the claim that the Sahrawi population became a "minority in its own region" especially when this is not backed by figures.

I am a Sahrawi, as is the case with all the directly-elected representatives of our region.

We have elected bodies at the national and local levels. This includes about 1,000 elected officials for the Saharan Provinces, representing 33 communes, two regions and four professional chambers: parliamentarians, councillors, prefectural and provincial councils, all from the Sahara.

All national political parties are represented.

When it comes to Polisario, they are not, by any means, the only representative of Western Sahara and certainly not directly elected by the local population.

I was member of Polisario in the past but, as Sahrawi, I decided to make a change and become part of the solution –

Polisario benefits from the Sahara conflict.

I was directly elected as president of the region in 2015, through a democratic and transparent process: free elections.

Development in the Sahara is progressing well and the new agricultural and fisheries agreements with the EU will give us further opportunities.

If my region together with other regions in the Sahara were excluded, it would strongly undermine our development, with a

risk of opening the door to radicalisation and undermining the stability of the whole Mediterranean region, especially with respect to security and migration.

I hope that the EU will not oppose the path to further development, prosperity and stability for our region and that the agreements will be ratified as soon as possible.

Yanja Khattat is president of the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU can't fish off Western Sahara coast, rules top court

The Western Sahara, annexed by Morocco, is off limits to a new fisheries deal between the EU and Morocco, following a verdict by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The current agreement runs out in July.

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.

Europe's far-right - united in diversity?

Europe's far-right is set to rise in the next European Parliament election. This vote will not yet allow the populists to build a majority. But it may become another milestone in their process of changing European politics.

News in Brief

  1. Swiss voters approve tighter gun controls in line with EU
  2. Report: May's fourth Brexit vote a 'retread' of old ideas
  3. Turkey insists on right to drill for oil off Cyprus coast
  4. Anti-Salvini banners become new trend in Italy
  5. EU flies rainbow flag on anti-homophobia day
  6. EU to freeze money and visas of foreign cyber-attackers
  7. EU reassures US on arms sales
  8. Use euros over dollars in energy contracts, France says

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us