Sahara / Morocco-EU Agreements: Why is the decision of the European justice problematic?

The European Union court ruled on Wednesday in favor of the annulment of two terms of the association agreement between Morocco and the European Union. The appeal was brought by the Polisario militias, supported by Algeria. The decision is contested by both parties who see it as taking a “political” position.

“The Court annuls the decisions of the Council relating, on the one hand, to the agreement between the EU and Morocco modifying the tariff preferences granted by the EU to products of Moroccan origin as well as, on the other hand, to their partnership agreement in the field of sustainable fishing ”, indicates the final decision of the European court.

Despite this decision, there will be no change in the terms of the agreement for Morocco and for the European Union, and this “in order to preserve the external action of the (European) Union and the legal certainty of its international commitments, ”the court continued.

The decision of the European court considers that insofar as the agreement concerns the Sahara, in particular for fishing, and that the file has still not been resolved at the level of the Security Council,
these agreements “implied obtaining (the) consent” of the Sahrawi populations. The Polisario who introduced the appeal considers himself to be the official representative of the Saharawi people.

For experts, the Polisario’s approach is part of a traditional logic aimed at compromising Morocco’s efforts and hampering the process which establishes Morocco’s historic sovereignty over its Sahrawi provinces.

Morocco immediately reacted to the announcement of the court’s decision in a response signed by the head of Moroccan diplomacy, Nasser Bourita, and the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell. The two men have

“We remain fully mobilized to continue cooperation between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco, in a climate of serenity and commitment, in order to consolidate the Euro-Moroccan Partnership for Shared Prosperity, launched in June 2019,” said they wrote in their joint declaration, in response to the decision which risks harming European interests as much as those of Morocco.

The two parties intend to contest this decision rendered at first instance, especially since it has no legal value since it does not apply in practice, and this was announced by this same decision.

In Morocco, academics and specialists in international law are unanimous on the “political” nature of this decision and the bias for the Polisario by considering it as a subject of international law, or even by considering it as representative of the Saharawi people while the majority of the Saharawi people live in Morocco, and not in the Tindouf camps in Algeria.

The Polisario does not represent the Saharawis

The Polisario initially brought an action for annulment of this agreement, considering that the European Union and Morocco would have “no competence to conclude an international agreement applicable to the Sahara”, ruling that the Saharawi people would be “represented” by the Polisario . However, the European Court had already ruled on this point, in December 21, 2016, indicating that the Polisario is not the representative of the people of the Sahara.

In addition, the opinion of a lawyer mandated by the Security Council had clearly established the legality of the Morocco-EU agreements which include the Sahara since the exploitation of the resources of this territory benefits the populations who live there.

“The people of the Polisario speak as if they were speaking on behalf of the Saharawi people, as if they had an official mandate which gives them the right to speak on their behalf,” explained the political scientist, Driss Aissaoui, contacted by MoroccoLatestNews FR .

According to him, it is Morocco which is present in the exercise of its sovereignty over the Sahara, “and the Sahrawis speak for themselves. They are elected, they are in the Moroccan Parliament, in the local elective bodies and the institutions, so nobody can come to speak on their behalf ”, he affirmed while sweeping aside the claims of the militias of the Polisario and of Algeria.

The attachment of the Sahrawi populations to Morocco and to Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara was also manifested during the last legislative elections on September 8, where a triple ballot took place. The participation score in the Saharan provinces was the strongest in the whole kingdom, reaching 63%, much higher than all the other regions and more than the urban centers.

“These are not things that can be disguised overnight, these are things that are there, that are strong, and the experts recognize it,” said the political scientist. For Driss Aissaoui, “the Polisario militias are seeking to delay the process, to put it to a standstill, but it has been found that, on the contrary, all the European institutions have sided with Morocco’s long-term interests”, despite this decision of the tribunal which represents political interference in a case where only the Security Council is empowered to rule.

And to recall that a new dynamic has been created around the Sahara issue in recent years, in particular with the American recognition of the complete and entire sovereignty of Morocco over the Sahara, in addition to the opening of some twenty consulates and diplomatic representations established in this region.

A win-win deal

The European Union and Morocco had renewed their association agreement by including products from the Sahara on the basis of an economic return for the local populations. “Morocco has always fulfilled its part of the market, it has always been in line with its commitments,” said Mr. Aissaoui.

The European Parliament unanimously adopted the terms of the agreement in 2019 following visits to Laâyoune and Dakhla by EU committees who met with Sahrawi representatives living in the Sahara there.

Morocco controls 80% of this desert territory since its decolonization in 1975 following the Green March which liberated the Sahara from the Spanish occupier. Rabat, which has taken back its territory, has invested billions of dirhams in infrastructure and job creation, and established a healthy and peaceful climate of life for the local populations.

“Everything that has been demanded by Europeans and by international public opinion in relation to this issue has been resolved. That is to say that today there is still the presence of representatives of the Sahrawi populations in all projects around fishing or agriculture ”in the Moroccan Saharan provinces and the populations who benefit from a economic return of these agreements, said Driss Aissaoui.



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