Background information for WSCUK's application for a Judicial Review
Western Sahara is rich in natural resources – particularly in fish and phosphates. The Saharawi people themselves rarely have the right to profit from these industries, or to find employment in their extraction, production or sale. The Moroccan government creates highly favourable tax and salary incentives to encourage Moroccans to relocate to Western Sahara in order to work for the government in these industries. As a consequence, Moroccans largely take all the jobs in these industries, entrenching the occupation, and economic disempowerment among Saharawi.
The exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara by Morocco, currently presents an obstacle to the resolution of the conflict, and represents a concern with regard to human rights law and international law more generally.
Morocco continues to issue licences for petroleum exploration and extraction, phosphate mining and the operation of wind farms to foreign companies without consulting the Saharawi people. In addition, it has ratified the Fisheries Partnership Agreement and the EU Morocco Association Agreement. The former enables EU member-states to issue licences to European fisheries to fish in Saharawi waters, whilst the latter allows Morocco to benefit from preferential trade tariffs.
EU Morocco Association Agreement: A Background The EU Morocco Association Agreement entered into force on 1 March, 2000. Despite its emphasis on the importance of the principles of the United Nations Charter, the agreement does not distinguish between the sovereign territory of Morocco and the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara where it is also applied. In this it differs from the Morocco-United States Free Trade Agreement which does not include services or goods originating in the Western Sahara as the US does not recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the territory. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Free Trade Agreement also excludes Western Sahara from its agreements with Morocco.
The French-Moroccan owned company Tawarta owns one of the largest cherry and cocktail tomato farms in Morocco and occupied Western Sahara. Constructed in 2002, the Tawarta is located about 11 km of Dakhla in Western Sahara. The produce is transported 1,200 kilometres to Agadir, in Morocco. There, it is labelled as ‘Moroccan’ and exported.
In 2002, the EU licensed an agency of the Moroccan Ministry for Agriculture called the Etablissement Autonome de Contrôle et de Coordination des Exportations (EACCE), to conduct checks on all fresh fruit and vegetables in order to ensure that such produce complies with applicable marketing standards before it is exported to EU member states. The EACCE issues export and phyto-sanitary certificates, which state the country of origin of exports. EU regulations stipulate that ‘the approval [by third countries prior to import to the Union] may only apply to products originating in the third country concerned,” yet the EACCE supplies the ‘Maroc’ label, to produce originating from Western Sahara. The EACCE has regional offices in Dakhla and El Aaiún, Western Sahara. All products produced in Western Sahara must go through the EACCE offices, with the result that Morocco controls all exports from Western Sahara and designates all such products as ‘Moroccan’ in line with its policy that Western Sahara forms part of Moroccan sovereign territory.
The EACCE has been presenting the EU with false information concerning the origins of produce from Western Sahara, which seems a serious breach of the delegated conformity checks scheme.
Morocco is designating products which originate in Western Sahara as ‘Moroccan’ for purposes of the Association Agreement, thereby obtaining preferential tariffs under the Agreement in respect of such products. WSC is very concerned about this situation insofar as it indicates that the provisions of the Association Agreement are being applied unlawfully.
The Fisheries Partnership Agreement: A Background The EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) was negotiated between 2005 and 2007, and became operative in March 2007. It didn’t provide explicitly for fishing in the waters of Western Sahara. In 2006 the European Parliament’s Legal Service Opinion concluded that the FPA did not ‘sufficiently’ define prospective fishing areas “entailing the risk that EU vessels will actually fish beyond Morocco territorial
waters, notably in the waters of Western Sahara.” Despite this, the Agreement went ahead, initially for a period of 4 years. Assessment of the Agreement showed that the majority of fish caught under the Agreement were from the waters of Western Sahara.
The European Commission has never sought input from the Polisario Front or otherwise sought the consent of the Saharawi people to fish in Western Sahara’s waters. Morocco has not consulted Saharawi people as to whether EU States should be permitted to fish in the waters of Western Sahara, nor did they consult as to the impact of this on Saharawi people or their livelihoods in accordance with consecutive UN General Assembly resolutions to consult the people of a non-self-governing territory, as to the use of their natural resources. Furthermore, no steps have been taken in the new protocol to the FPA to demonstrate that the revenue from the FPA will benefit the local Saharawi population. The provisions requiring Morocco to report on the geographical distribution of the agreement’s benefits do not distinguish between Western Sahara and Morocco proper.
WESTERN SAHARA CAMPAIGN UK
The Western Sahara Campaign works in solidarity with the Saharawi people to generate political support in order to advance their right to self-determination and to promote their human rights.
Our role is to lobby the UK Government and the EU. You can help us to ensure the UK does not ignore the voice of the Saharawi people.
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