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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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Legal Aspects of the European Union’s Approach towards Western Sahara (Ricardo Passos)


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Legal Aspects of the European Union’s Approach towards Western Sahara

Ricardo PASSOS

Director in the European Parliament Legal Service1

This paper will only focus on the legal issues and will not enter into political considerations of any kind concerning the Western Sahara conflict.

Concerning the Western Sahara, the European Parliament has acted through two approaches:

– one more general and indeed more political, through resolutions concerning the situation in Western Sahara, notably relating to human rights issues. These resolutions are prepared and elaborated by political groups and voted eventually in the Plenary. Not even committees are involved,

– the second approach concerns international agreements concluded by the Union. And, here, four agreements have been voted by the Plenary concerning Morocco: three fisheries agreements and one concerning a modification of the Association Agreement relating to reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products.

Before analysing the position of the European Union in these fisheries agreements, let me first describe how the Union has considered the position of the Western Sahara in the context of the exploitation and exploration of its natural resources. I will then consider the evolution of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Morocco since 2006, in particular concerning the defence of the wishes and interests of the people of Western Sahara. ← 137 | 138 →

The position of the European Union concerning the status of Western Sahara and the responsibilities of Morocco

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