Rapporteur of the EP of the pact to include the Sahara in the agreement with Morocco resigns because of her links with Rabat

teinteresa.es .- The head of the negotiation in the European Parliament of the agreement to include Western Sahara in the trade agreement of agricultural and fishery products between the European Union and Morocco, French liberal MEP, Patricia Lalonde, has resigned as rapporteur for a conflict of interest for her alleged links with Rabat.

The French MEP, who was also a member of the Council of EuroMedA with close ties to the Moroccan government, left as speaker before the vote on the agreement on the International Trade Commission of the European Parliament on Monday, announced the president of the Commission, the German socialist Bernard Lange.

Lange has ensured in any case that, after “the discussions on the independence of the rapporteur with regard to Morocco”, her case “will be investigated by a specific committee of the Parliament” to determine if the ethical standards of the institution have been respected.

The Commission of International Trade of the Eurochamber, the competent one in the agreement, recommended Monday by 25 votes in favor, nine against and two abstentions that the institution gives its consent to the inclusion of the products of Western Sahara in the commercial agreement between the European Union and Morocco so that they can benefit from the same commercial aid as Moroccan products.

The Greens refused to vote in advance on the proposal claiming that it remains the result of “a clear conflict of interest”, while the Unitary Left, including MEPs from Podemos, Miguel Urban and IU, Paloma López, voted against and the Socialists voted divided.

The socialist MEP, Inmaculada Rodríguez-Piñero Fernández, did vote in favor of extending the agreement to Western Sahara, along with the popular group, the conservatives and reformists, liberals and the Eurosceptic group of the group of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) .

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in December 2016 that Western Sahara was “excluded” from the scope of application of the trade agreement between the European Union and Morocco unless it is expressly included in the text of the agreement and has the consent of the Saharawi people.

Following the ruling, the European Commission presented in June this year a proposal to modify several protocols of the agreement to ensure a legal basis to authorize the granting of commercial advantages – reduction of tariffs – to products originating in Western Sahara .

“The products originating in Western Sahara that are subject to control by the Moroccan customs authorities will benefit from the same commercial preferences granted by the EU to the products covered in the association agreement”, according to the Brussels proposal, which needs the goodwill of the European governments, which have yet to approve the proposal, and the consent of the European Parliament.

MEPs have supported the proposal mostly – which will now be raised to the plenary session of the European Parliament for their global consent – after they have managed to introduce a mechanism to identify and track products originating in Western Sahara that has been agreed between the Commission and Morocco.

The objective of the mechanism is to guarantee that the Saharawi population benefits from the tariff advantages, something that should be measurable, another one of the claims of the MEPs to support the agreement.

In a statement accompanying his proposal to recommend that the European Parliament consent to the agreement, approved by 24 votes against nine and three abstentions, MEPs justify their approval because “the Saharawi people have the right to development while waiting for a political solution” about its final status.

In addition, they have argued that the commercial advantages that the territory has received between 2013 and 2016 have had a positive impact on the agricultural and fishing sectors, but also for investments in infrastructure, health and education and not apply the advantages – that were removed after the 2016 ruling – it would have “adverse” effects.

The representative of the Polisario Front in the EU, Mohamed Sidati, has considered “a shame” that the European Parliament has endorsed a “clearly illegal” agreement after the rapporteur “has been forced” to depart by a “flagrant crime of conflict of interests “and has made it clear that they will have” no other option “than to return to the European Court of Justice after recalling that even the legal services of the European Parliament concluded that” it is not certain “that the Saharawi people have given their consent to it.

The Spanish colony of the Sahara was occupied in 1975 by Morocco and Mauritania after the Tripartite Agreements, signed on November 14, 1975, which ceded the sovereignty of Spanish Sahara to these two countries.

After a brief war, the independence movement Frente Polisario expelled Mauritania and signed peace and mutual recognition with its militias at the gates of Nouakchott, but Morocco consolidated its control over the territory and thousands of Sahrawis fled the savage repression. Then began the Moroccan colonization of the territory.

In 1991 a ceasefire was signed between both parties, which committed themselves to the holding of a self-determination referendum organized by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, but since then the disputes over the census for voting – -Morocco wants the Moroccan settlers to vote– has prevented the consultation.