Western Sahara 2018
Western Sahara. In a statement in January, EU Attorney General Melchior Wathelet wrote that the EU violated the “Western Sahara’s right to self-determination” under the EU’s fisheries agreement with Morocco. According to Wathelet, the agreement was illegal because Western Sahara water was part of it. The opinion was linked to the decision of the European Court of Justice last year when it stated that the EU-Morocco trade agreement on agricultural and fishery products did not apply to products from Western Sahara – since Western Sahara was not part of Morocco.
Referring to the court decision, the Polisario independence movement announced in February that it would sue the EU at € 240 million per year. According to Polisario, the sum corresponded to the value of the products exported from Western Sahara, but for which Morocco was paid. The same month, the Court stated in a statement that the EU fisheries agreement with Morocco was valid since the agreement only applied to Morocco’s territory and Moroccan fishing zone. However, if Western Sahara had been mentioned in the agreement, it “would not have been compatible with certain provisions of international law”. Nevertheless, several sources stated that almost all fish trawled by the EU trawlers in the region occur in Western Saharan waters which are more fish rich.
In April, the UN Security Council extended MINURSO’s peacekeeping mission by six months.
In July, the EU’s foreign ministers decided to adopt a supplementary trade agreement with Morocco following negotiations in the spring. Prior to the decision, representatives of Sahrawi Campaign Against the Plunder (SCAP) and Emmaus Stockholm criticized the agreement in a debate article in Svenska Dagbladet. They considered that the agreement still included Western Saharan natural resources without the consent of Western Sahara.
In response to the criticism, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström responded that the negotiations “have been more difficult than before”. She acknowledged that the questioning about “obtaining the consent of the people of Western Sahara” remained and referred to the UN peace efforts supported by Sweden. According to media reports, Morocco has become increasingly strategically important for the EU as the country began to act as a buffer zone to keep migrants away from the EU. For this reason, the EU does not want to address the issue of Western Sahara, which is sensitive to Morocco, according to media.
In October, the UN Security Council extended the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara by another six months.
In December, representatives of Morocco and the Western Saharan independence movement Polisario met in Geneva, Switzerland, following an invitation from the UN. The neighboring countries Algeria and Mauritania also participated. The aim was to end the decade-long conflict between Morocco and Western Sahara. According to UN envoy Horst Köhler, a second round of talks between the parties was planned for early 2019.