By Sana Elouazi
Rabat – The legal advisor of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in a legal opinion issued on Wednesday that fisheries agreement concluded between the EU and Morocco was “invalid” because “it applies to Western Sahara and its adjacent waters.”
“The EU has failed to fulfill its obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the breach, by Morocco, of the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination and also not to render aid or assistance in maintaining that situation,” Melchior Wathelet said in a statement.
Wathelet said the EU had also “not put in place the safeguards necessary to ensure that the exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara is for the benefit of the people of that territory.”
“The fisheries exploitation by the EU of the waters adjacent to Western Sahara established and implemented by the contested acts does not respect the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination,” Wathelet said.
The legal advisor’s opinion came after a British pro-Polisario group filed a complaint to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) claiming that companies operating on the coast of the Sahara must negotiate with Tindouf, not Rabat.
In late May, the European Commission for Fisheries reaffirmed that Western Sahara and its waters are included in the fisheries agreement between the European Union and Morocco.
The decision came in response to a question by 13 members of the European Parliament, who called into question the applicability of the agreement in the Sahara, calling into doubt the consent of the “people of Western Sahara, as well as the legality of the agreement.”
“The waters off the coast of Western Sahara are included in the fisheries agreement between the Union and Morocco,” said Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and fisheries, in his response to the MPs’ questions in June 2017.
The official also noted that the agreement contains “provisions to ensure that the agreement fully respects international law” and serves the interests of all the populations concerned.