CODESA: The lie of the EC Report on the benefits to the people of Western Sahara

CODESA.- The European Commission’s report on the benefits for the people of Western Sahara from illegal extension of tariff preferences to products from Western Sahara: criminal, unethical and an EU-sponsored robbery that destroys the EU image

In any rule-abiding society, a thief that publicly confesses to a robbery is apprehended, prosecuted and sentenced, and rightly so. Except in the European Union, where European Commission officials who are guilty of organizing the mass and systematic plundering of the resources of a vulnerable nation, yet boast of it in official reports and speeches, are free to enjoy their fancy salaries and comfortable lifestyle in full impunity. This astounding phenomenon is nowhere as manifest as in the report recently published by the European Commission on the 2020 Report on the benefits for the people of Western Sahara on extending tariff preferences to products from occupied Western Sahara[1]. In this official document, the Commission candidly describes how the July 2019 EU-Morocco agreement – by which Brussels allowed products originating from the illegally occupied territory of Western Sahara to benefit from the same preferential tariffs as those from Morocco – would have considerably increased economic activity and jobs in that territory.

Yet, the Commission oddly neglects the fact that this is not just any territory waiting to benefit from its inclusion in the global market and to accede to the riches promised by trading with the world’s main economic bloc. As attested by reputable international human rights observers such as Freedom House[2], Western Sahara ranks as one of the worst human rights situation worldwide. It is Africa’s last colony where the small yet resolute Sahrawi people have been waiting for their promised referendum on self-determination for decades, while living divided between the heavy-handed repression of the Moroccan occupying forces in their homeland and refugee camps in the scorching desert of Algeria.

Western Sahara is a territory, which has seen just a few weeks ago, the sudden resumption of armed conflict after a 30-year UN-brokered cease-fire as Moroccan forces violated the terms of the latter to crush a peaceful demonstration in the buffer zone of Guerguerat beyond the separation wall. It is a territory, which has witnessed one of the world’s largest demographic engineering process in modern times, to the extent that the indigenous population has now been massively outnumbered by the occupier-sponsored mass migration of settlers. In brief, the Commission omits to specify in its report that the EU-induced jobs are primarily for Moroccan settlers and thus further entrench Morocco’s illegal hold onto that territory, and thus undermine the 40 plus years of UN efforts to complete the decolonisation process.

Moreover, the Commission boasts that the recent EU agreements on fisheries and agriculture have boosted production, jobs and exports but it forgets to say that these sectors are overwhelmingly staffed by Moroccan settlers, owned by the Moroccan palace and its cronies, see severe violations of Sahrawi labour rights and massively contribute to depleting and polluting the scarce natural resources. How that squares with the EU’s proud commitment to being a rules-based, climate white knight and a responsible global actor must be the Brussels’ bubble best kept secret.

Judges of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg must be clenching their gowns as they discover the chutzpah of Commission officials who shamelessly ride roughshod over their rulings; their repeated injunction to seek the prior consent of the Sahrawi people for any dealings with Western Sahara is crassly ignored, just as is their reminder that the dubious notion of “benefits for the local population” is irrelevant under international law[3].

Members of the reputable statistical office of Eurostat must be dropping their calculators as they read a report from the Commission, which admits that it used a single source for its data (that of the Moroccan occupying power) and didn’t bother double-checking its statistics by on-site visits or independent sources.

Faced with a European Parliament whose broken morality has led it to blindly endorse the illegal fisheries and trade deals[4], it can only to be hoped that the General Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is sharpening her pencils in order to draft the prosecution that will ultimately lead these EU Commission officials to be summoned to The Hague to justify for their self-confessed crime of complicity in the stealing of a people’s resources, land and future. Thieves and their accomplices, including anonymous EU officials, should be held to account and certainly not allowed to bring disrepute to the European Union’s values and reputation.

It should be recalled that the EU Court of Justice explicitly stated that Morocco has no sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara. However, the EU Commission kept contradicting this position by negotiating and dealing with Morocco when it comes to the plunder of the natural resources of occupied Western Sahara. It is also remarkable and grossly illegal under international law to see that potential exporters from the territory of Western Sahara outside Morocco’s occupation are excluded from benefiting from preferential tariffs under this agreement which reflects the dividing intentions of the European Commission.

The European Commission report was supposed to “comply” with one of the conditions set by the European Parliament (yearly reporting to the Parliament), yet this report fails to comply with all remaining conditions set by the Parliament during the ratification process. One of the main arguments used by the European Commission during ratification was the “resumption of EU-Morocco dialogue on Human Rights”, yet, dozens of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders remain in prison serving life-time sentences in many cases, the military siege has intensified in the occupied territories and repressions of all kind continue on a daily basis by the Moroccan occupying forces against Saharawi civilians.  All this is happening while Morocco’s European accomplices turn a blind eye and keep a guilty silence as the repression unfolds: Moroccan jobs, settlers and investments in an illegal occupied territory are at stake…

[1] Published on 23 December 2020 – https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/business/calculation-customs-duties/rules-origin/general-aspects-preferential-origin/arrangements-list/report-tariff-preferences-Western-Sahara_en

[2] https://freedomhouse.org/country/western-sahara/freedom-world/2020

[3] https://wsrw.org/en/news/report-the-eu-ignores-its-own-court-on-conflict-trade

[4] https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/11/meps-seek-european-courts-opinion-eu-morocco-fisheries-agreements-compatibility