Just when relations between Morocco and Spain and the EU began to normalize after hitting bottom with the crisis in Ceuta last May, the Luxembourg Court of Justice (CJEU) has caused a new fire. In a ruling made public this Wednesday, the European justice annulled the trade and fisheries agreements signed between Brussels and Rabat in 2018 and 2019, respectively, by illegally include Western Sahara. The sentence comes precisely after months of pressure from Morocco for the EU to follow in the footsteps of Donald Trump and recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara.
It is not, however, the first time that the CJEU has ruled that the agreements between the EU and Morocco are not applicable to the Sahara. Already happened for the first time in 2016 and then again in 2018. But this time the reaction of the parties has been diametrically different. If in 2016 the Government of Rabat decided to officially suspend all relations with the EU in protestNow Morocco, the EU and Spain have made a common front to deactivate the CJEU ruling on the Sahara.
An alliance that was not improvised at the last minute, but had been prepared in advance in anticipation of a negative judgment. Just minutes after the CJEU ruled, the head of community diplomacy, Josep Borrell, and the Moroccan Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, have made public a joint declaration in which they conspire so that the ruling does not again destroy relations between Brussels and Rabat.
I spoke with @MarocDiplomatie Nasser Bourita following the judgments delivered this morning by the #ECJ.
We will continue our contacts to take the necessary measures to ensure the legal framework that guarantees the continuation and stability of EU-Morocco trade relations. https://t.co/BYWiEbvt1Z
– Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) September 29, 2021
“We will take the necessary measures to ensure a legal framework that guarantees the continuity and stability of trade relations between the EU and Morocco. We remain fully mobilized to continue cooperation between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco, in a climate of serenity and commitment, “the statement reads.
For his part, the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, has ensured that the decision of the CJEU “does not question the relationship with Morocco“, which is a” strategic partner. “The Government of Pedro Sanchez wants Brussels to present an appeal to reverse the judgment on the Sahara in second instance, as you advance The country. The Foreign Ministry has avoided confirming it to this newspaper and limits itself to pointing out that it respects the ruling and that it must first be examined in depth.
In fact, the sentence itself contains an escape clause that makes it has no practical effect at the moment. The General Court has decided to temporarily maintain the effects of both agreements, considering that their immediate annulment “could have serious consequences on the Union’s external action and call into question the legal certainty of the international commitments assumed by it.”
In other words, both the commercial and fishing agreements will remain in force until the CJEU decides on a more than probable appeal in the second instance, a decision that will take months if not years. For this reason, the Spanish fishing sector, the main one harmed by the cancellation, remains awaiting for the moment. Of the 128 EU vessels that fish in Moroccan waters, 92 are Spanish from Andalusia, the Canary Islands and Galicia.
It is up to the EU to comply with the sentence and respect international law. For justice with the Saharawi people and also to guarantee legal security for workers in the primary sector. That is also the best basis for relaunching all relations with the Maghreb.
– Idoia Villanueva (@IdoiaVR) September 29, 2021
The only one in a hurry to have the judgment on the Sahara applied as soon as possible is the Polisario Front, which was the one who filed the appeal before the CJEU and that now a “triumphant victory“. The Polisario considers that the ruling validates its thesis that Western Sahara “has a separate and distinct status with respect to the Kingdom of Morocco”, which implies rejecting “the expansionist claims” of Rabat, as reported Europa Press.
For its part, United We can stand out once again from Sánchez and calls on the EU to abide by the ruling. “It is up to the EU to comply with the sentence and respect international law. For justice with the Saharawi people and also to guarantee legal security for workers in the primary sector. That is also the best basis for relaunching all relations with the Maghreb, “said purple MEP Idoia Villanueva, head of the International Secretariat of Podemos.
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