Euro-Moroccan partnership facing the challenge of Western Sahara

Morocco denounces a judgment “Incoherent and ideologically motivated”. The Polisario Front, the independence movement in Western Sahara, for its part is celebrating a “Triumphant victory”. The judgment rendered Wednesday, September 29 in Luxembourg by the General Court of the European Union (EU) annulling two trade agreements between Morocco and the EU, on the grounds that they ignored the “Consent of the people of Western Sahara”, revives diplomatic fever around this issue which had lost its importance in recent years in Western chancelleries. Above all, it places Europe in a delicate position.

The Union is indeed more than ever torn between the obligations of international law around Western Sahara – doomed to “ self-determination “, according to the United Nations Security Council – and its strategic partnership with Morocco, the pivot of its neighborhood policy with the states of the Mediterranean basin. The misunderstanding that is settling between Rabat and Brussels around this affair is added to other tensions, in particular those fueled by the migration issue as illustrated in May by the crisis around Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco. The two files are not, moreover, completely separate because Rabat has made a habit of increasing the migratory pressure on Europe – by easing its border controls – to force European states to ratify its claims of sovereignty. over Western Sahara.

In this context, the judgment of the European court – court of first instance – is not really a surprise insofar as it follows directly from a previous judgment pronounced by the Court of Justice – higher court – in December 2016 At the time, the Court stated that the trade agreement on agriculture concluded between Morocco and the EU in the early 2000s could not automatically apply to Western Sahara, because the latter has a “Separate and distinct status”, due to its inclusion on the United Nations list of “non-self-governing territories”.

Judicial guerrilla

The Court added that Western Sahara, considered in its eyes as a part “Third party”, could only be covered by a Euro-Moroccan agreement if it expressed the “Consent”. In February 2018, the Court of Justice was inspired by almost the same principles in another judgment, this time on a fishing agreement at the end of which 128 European boats had been authorized by Morocco to fish in the fish-bearing waters off the coast of the Western Sahara. The Court considered that the “Waters adjacent to the territory of Western Sahara” did not fall under “The sovereignty or jurisdiction of the kingdom of Morocco”.

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