EU-Morocco trade deals annulled
September 30, 2021 - An EU court has cancelled two trade deals with Morocco after a case brought by the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which seeks independence for the disputed territory.
European judges struck down the 2019 trade and fisheries agreements after Western Sahara’s independence movement, known as the Polisario Front, launched a legal challenge against the deals, arguing that they should not extend to the region automatically.
The EU’s Luxembourg-based general court on Wednesday (September 29) ruled in favour of the movement, deciding that EU governments had not gained sufficient consent from the people of Western Sahara when ratifying the deals.
The EU is Morocco’s largest trading partner, with nearly two-thirds of the country’s exports sold in the bloc.
Morocco controls 80 per cent of Western Sahara, home to some 650,000 people.
As Spain withdrew from the colony in 1975, its northern neighbour claimed the territory. But it was opposed by the Polisario Front, which took up arms to fight for independence, with the International Court of Justice ruling in favour of self-determination.
The following year, the Polisario Front proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) with allies including Cuba and Algeria.
The 15-year war ended with an UN-brokered peace deal in 1991. However, the ceasefire failed to find a lasting settlement, and in November 2020, fighting resumed between Polisario Front and Morocco.
“The General Court considers the Front to be the representative of the Saharawi people who, consequently, have the capacity to take legal action before European courts to defend the sovereign rights of their people,” said Oubi Bachir, the Polisario Front’s envoy to the EU.