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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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Fish before Peace. The EU’s Controversial Fisheries in Occupied Western Sahara (Erik Hagen)


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Fish before Peace

The EU’s Controversial Fisheries in Occupied Western Sahara


Western Sahara Resource Watch

“The financial aspect is not necessarily the most important aspect of this agreement. The political aspect is just as important”1.

In one short statement, Morocco’s fisheries minister summarized the entire problem of the EU’s former fish agreement with Morocco. The year was 2006, and the debates had been running high in European institutions on the upcoming EU-Moroccan fisheries agreement. A new pact, in which the EU would pay money to the Moroccan government to fish in Western Sahara waters, was just about to be concluded after months of dispute.

The statement underlined the problem with the entire deal: Morocco was about to reel in a large and controversial political catch. As a leading beneficiary of the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy, Morocco has been advantaged with a number of trade deals with the EU; some of these deals directly affect the territory of Western Sahara. Morocco naturally has an agenda in these kinds of agreements. By attracting foreign companies and governments to sign accords for the management of the natural resources of the territory, Morocco normalizes its long-standing illegal occupation of Western Sahara, and creates an impression of international support for its presence in the Saharawi territory.

“International agreements which do not exclude ‘the Moroccan Sahara’ from their application, prove that the area is Moroccan”, the Moroccan...

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