The EU fisheries agreement with Morocco is not valid because it includes Western Sahara, according to European justice

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  • The decision affirms that Europe breached its obligation to respect the right of self-determination
  • Nor does it believe that it guarantees that the exploitation of resources benefits the Sahrawi
  • 91.5% of the total catch envisaged in the agreement correspond to the waters of that area The fishing agreement between the European Union and Morocco is not valid, since it applies to Western Sahara and adjacent waters, according to the conclusions of the general counsel of the Court of Justice of the EU in charge of analyzing the preliminary ruling of a British court to a request from the Western Sahara Campaign (WSC), an organization that defends the recognition of the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people.

According to the lawyer Melchior Wathelet, when signing that agreement, “the Union breached its obligation to respect the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination and its obligation not to recognize an illegal situation resulting from the violation of that right”.

“The fisheries agreement and the acts that approved and applied it are incompatible with the provisions of the Treaties that oblige the Union to ensure that its external action protects human rights and strictly respects International Law,” recalls Wathelet.

It is not guaranteed that the fishing exploitation benefits the Saharawi

In addition, he continues with its conclusions, did not establish “the necessary guarantees to guarantee that the exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara will benefit the people of that territory”.

The Advocate General points out that “the fishing exploitation by the Union of the waters adjacent to Western Sahara, which was instituted and applied by the contested acts, does not respect the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people”.

This conclusion is derived, according to him , that “to date, the people of Western Sahara have been deprived even of exercising the right to self-determination under the conditions established by the General Assembly of the United Nations” .

“Western Sahara was integrated into the Kingdom of Morocco by annexation and without the people of the territory expressing their will freely, as the fishing agreement was concluded by Morocco based on the unilateral integration of Western Sahara into its territory and in the affirmation that he was his sovereign, the Saharawi people have not freely disposed of their natural resources, which is what the right to self-determination requires, “recalls Wathelet.

It also notes that the majority of the exploitation planned by the fishing agreement “almost exclusively falls on the waters adjacent to Western Sahara”, since the catches in these waters account for approximately 91.5% of the total catch of the fishing exploitation provided in that agreement.

“It follows that the financial contribution paid by the Union to Morocco for the fishing agreement should benefit almost exclusively the people of Western Sahara,” adds the lawyer, then insist that the fisheries agreement signed by the EU ” does not include the legal guarantees that are necessary “to make sure that happens.

First preliminary ruling on international agreements of the EU

The attorney general is thus ruling on a request for a preliminary ruling from the British High Court of Justice, which has asked the European Court of Justice whether, first, associations of the characteristics of WSC have the right to question the validity of EU acts because they fail to comply International Law and, second, if the fishing agreement is valid in the light of Community legislation.

In its conclusions, the lawyer General Wathelet proposes that the Court of Justice answer that it is competent to assess whether international agreements concluded by the European Union are legal, and that associations of the characteristics of Western Sahara Campaign are entitled to put question of agreements such as fishing with Morocco. In addition, the lawyer concludes that the agreement is not valid because it applies to the territory and waters of Western Sahara.

This is the first reference for a preliminary ruling whose purpose is to decide on the validity of international agreements concluded by the EU.