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The European Union Approach Towards Western Sahara


Edited By Marco Balboni and Giuliana Laschi

In the framework of the so-called Barcelona process, the European Union concluded several bilateral agreements with Morocco aimed to deepen their economic integration. The 2000 Association agreement European Union–Morocco is the general legal framework for the development of relationships among the two parties. In this context, the recent Agreement on reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products and fishery products, entered in force in 2012, and the Fisheries Partnership Agreement, issued in 2013, were established. They reiterate and update former agreements. No one of them expressly excludes the territory of Western Sahara from the scope of application, in contrast with other similar agreements negotiated with other countries, such as the Free trade pact between Morocco and the United States of America. The non-exclusion of the territory of Western Sahara raises several concerns on the compliance of these agreements with International Law, not only in relation to the principle of self-determination of peoples but also with the principle of sovereignty of natural resources, the prohibition of exploitation of resources of a territory under occupation, the obligation to not recognise situations arisen in an illegal way, the prohibition to negotiate agreement with an occupying country once the process of decolonisation has begun.

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The Principle, the Right of Self-determination and the People of Western Sahara (Carlos Ruiz Miguel)


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The Principle, the Right of Self-determination and the People of Western Sahara

Carlos Ruiz MIGUEL

University of Santiago de Compostela

Historical development of the idea of the “self-determination of people” in international law until 1945

James Brown Scott showed how the Spanish scholars who reflected on the colonisation of America set the foundations of modern International Law1. They reflected about the lawfulness and the conditions of colonisation. In such a debate we could find the first antecedent of self-determination when, in 1540, the professor of the University of Valladolid Bartolomé de Carranza said that a colonisation is lawful but only if it is provisory, so that in a short period of time the colonized people may recover their independence:

“Should them (the barbarians) be instructed by honest men so that they don’t return to their barbary; and when this task was accomplished after 16 or 18 years and the land be plain, because there is no risk that they return to their primitive way of life, they should be left in their original and own freedom because they don’t need more trusteeship”2.

Some scholars argue that the processes that lead to the independence of the American States, subjected to English or Spanish rule are based upon the idea of “self-determination of peoples”. They see under this frame the (North-) American Revolution that proclaimed the right of peoples to govern themselves in the Declaration of...

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