Jump to navigation

Morocco

Fishing in undiplomatic waters

Brussels bureaucrats and Moroccan diplomats are trying to find a way around another troublesome European Court ruling

The ruling by the European Court of Justice confirming its refusal to extend the EU's trade and fisheries agreements with Morocco to cover the Western Sahara marks another setback for Brussels and Rabat.

The Luxembourg-based court's ruling on the case brought by the Sahrawi independence movement, the Polisaro Front, was little surprise. It is the latest in a series of ECJ judgements stating that EU-Morocco trade deals could not include Western Sahara. It added that any future agreement between the EU and Morocco involving Western Sahara would require the consent of the Sahrawi people and should also directly benefit them (AC Vol 60 No 14, Lobbying pays off for Bourita).

To get around this, the Commission, with Morocco's guidance, set up a 'consultation' process with business and civil society groups. None of them supported Sahrawi independence.

The Court found that the consultation process 'did not amount to an expression of the consent of the people of Western Sahara'. The Polisario Front's EU representative, Oubi Bachir, called the ruling a 'triumphant victory'.

But officials in the European Commission and Moroccan government say it won't change much. They will look for a way to work around it.

EU High Representative Josep Borrell and Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita promptly issued a joint statement, reassuring each other of continued cooperation. Business groups expressed disappointment at the ruling.

'We will take the necessary steps to ensure the legal framework that guarantees the continuation and stability of trade relations between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco,' said Borrell and Bourita.

The trade accords will remain in place while the Commission plans its next move.

The European Commission wants stronger political and economic ties with Rabat, and is expected to appeal the judgment. EU legal analysts believe that this would be futile. Moroccan officials, who see the ruling as interference by the ECJ, will leave it to Brussels to resolve.



Related Articles

Lobbying pays off for Bourita

Rabat’s charm offensive on Brussels has been bearing fruit, as the EU offers deals during the Foreign Minister’s red-carpet visit

Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita had plenty of reasons to be cheerful after getting the red-carpet treatment from the European Union during his late-June visit. Morocco's foreign mi...


Anger and innovation

The king’s new development strategy will seek to answer chronic problems that threaten the monarchy’s long-term stability

There will be more glitzy openings of high-profile infrastructure like Africa's first high-speed train, coupled with headline-grabbing sackings of officials following 'colèr...


Progress noted

In late June, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced its support for the constitutional changes that will allow King Mohammed VI to maintain power while giving more aut...


Trading blocs hit the blocks

Does Morocco really want to join Ecowas? Its application is going nowhere and clashes with other commitments and interests

After scoring a significant coup by rejoining the African Union in January 2017, Rabat's next step in its 'turn to Africa' was to consolidate regional links by joining the Economic...


Territorial armies

An unresolved but dormant decolonisation dispute risks flaring up into renewed violence, threatening a 29-year-old ceasefire

Forty-five years into the conflict over Western Sahara, Morocco remains implacable in its determination to retain what it argues is its historical sovereignty over the disputed for...