The PR war surrounding the EU-Morocco agreements takes on new heights as opposing parties seek to win the heart of the European bodies tasked with the renewal process.
Rabat – Pro-Polisario associations, who describe themselves as “representatives of Sahrawi civil society in Morocco and in the Tindouf camps,” have petitioned against the continuation of Morocco-EU trade agreements.
Challenging Rabat’s legitimacy in the southern territories, the group is demanding that the European Union review the terms of its trade deals with Morocco.
The group outlined its position in a letter they sent late last week to European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation, and Customs Pierre Moscovici.
In the letter, they expressed “deep concern” about the completed and ongoing negotiations between Rabat and Brussels to renew trade agreements—especially fisheries and agriculture—including Western Sahara. They “firmly” opposed “any agreement with Morocco including Western Sahara,” according to pro-Polisario outlets.
The challenge comes amid a flurry of EU-Morocco activities in recent weeks to finalize months of Rabat-Brussels negotiations to renew the fisheries and agriculture agreements.
Despite usual challenges from pro-separatist circles, the fisheries deal was struck earlier this week, while the agriculture agreement is set to pass through an EU Parliament vote tomorrow, January 16.
As a counter-petition calling for the EU to call off its deals with an “occupying force,” the letter also comes in direct response to a recent petition by pro-Rabat Sahrawis who called for the renewal of the agreements.
Referring to Morocco as a “motherland,” the pro-Morocco petition said that Rabat’s numerous development investments in the southern provinces in recent years showcase its attachment to improving living standards and employment prospects for the disputed region.
“Since our country completed its territorial integrity by recovering its southern provinces, it has made significant efforts towards their sustainable development. Noticeable progress made in our southern provinces as the result of our country’s efforts to make development, both at large and in our regions, our top priority,” the pro-Morocco petition read.
It argued that Morocco’s commitment to its southern provinces is “well-established.”
“The theory that the Fisheries Agreement and the Agricultural Agreement do not benefit the local population concerned is not valid … To oppose these two agreements would put at risk the thousands of families who are financially dependent on maritime and agricultural activities in our southern provinces.”
Despite such impassioned local support for Morocco’s position, the pro-separatist letter maintained that renewing EU-Morocco deals would be “in violation” of the EU commission’s “good administrative behavior.”
Although recent developments, including the EU Commission’s reiteration of its support for Morocco’s position that locals benefit from the agreements’ financial returns, suggest the renewal of the agriculture deal, the pro-Polisario challenge is nothing to sniff at.
Last week, pro-Polisario European MP Paloma Lopez launched a parliamentary “battle” with the aim of challenging the legal foundations of the Morocco-EU agriculture agreement.
An established “Sahrawi independence” supporter, Lopez seeks to “collect the 76 signatures required for a resolution proposal” to delay the EU Parliament’s vote.