The EU and Morocco are linked with a series of economic agreements that include the Western Sahara region.
Rabat – The European Commission has attested to the inclusion of the population of Morocco’s southern provinces in the development process of Western Sahara.
The population benefits from the natural resources of their region, affirmed the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.
In a written parliamentary answer, Borrell highlighted the EU’s position regarding Western Sahara.
Responding to questions from members of European Parliament (MEPs) that support separatism in Western Sahara, Borrell recalled several agreements between Morocco and the EU that testify to the kingdom’s development projects in the southern provinces.
The senior official mentioned the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement, which came into effect on July 18, 2019. The agreement includes products originating from Morocco’s southern provinces, but it also regularly monitors the impact of natural resources exploitation on the socio-economic development of Western Sahara’s population.
The European Commission has put in place a system to provide precise information on the products originating from Western Sahara to ensure the region’s population benefits from the fisheries agreement, Borrell added.
The EU executive also recalled the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement signed on March 4, 2019.
The four-year protocol allocates €208 million ($246 million) for the EU to benefit from fishing opportunities in Morocco. A substantial part of the contribution aims to promote sustainable development in Western Sahara, especially in the fisheries sector.
The EU ensures a follow-up of the agreement on the basis of proportional and equitable distribution of benefits to the region’s population, Borrell wrote in his response.
During the negotiations of the two agreements, “consultations were carried out with the concerned population in order to ensure its proper involvement and to ascertain the benefits of the said agreements,” Borrell wrote.
The executive recalled the EU’s official stance on the Western Sahara dispute, saying it “is fully aligned with the resolutions of the UN Security Council.”
“The EU supports the UN process with a view to achieving a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution,” he wrote.
The position is in line with the joint declaration issued by the Morocco-EU Association Council after its 14th session.
The declaration, published on June 27, 2019, currently represents a reference for the EU on the Western Sahara issue.
Morocco and the EU “reaffirm their support to the efforts made by the UN Secretary-General to continue the political process aiming to reach a just, realistic, pragmatic, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution to the issue of the Western Sahara, based on compromise in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions,” the declaration says.
Borrell’s recent statements came in response to MEP Janina Ochojska who asked how the EU ensures that Morocco does not exploit the resources of the Western Sahara region. The statements also came after Algeria escalated its accusations against Morocco, proving its direct involvement in the Western Sahara dispute—an involvement Algeria has longly denied.
On July 15, Algeria’s state-funded press agency (APS) published a report where the Algerian Ambassador to Belgium, Amar Belani, explicitly denigrates Morocco.
Borrell “has struck a deadly blow to the fiction of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara,” said Belani, quoted by APS.
The Algerian diplomat’s statement attempted to contort the EU’s position on the Western Sahara dispute, citing questions from pro-Algeria MEPs and statements dating back to 2016.
However, recent developments on the issue are converging towards the sincerity and strong potential of Morocco’s efforts to solve the dispute through the Autonomy Plan.
The plan would give the population in Morocco’s southern provinces complete autonomy, regarding their socio-economic development. However, the region would remain under Morocco’s sovereignty and the central government would address matters such as religion or foreign diplomacy.
The UN Security Council has deemed the Autonomy Plan “serious” and “credible” since 2007.