Melchior Wathelet, ECJ Attorney General.(Photo: blog droit europeen YouTube)
EU-Morocco fisheries agreement should be declared invalid, according to legal adviser
Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
The fisheries agreement between the European Union (EU) and Morocco should be declared invalid because it involves the Western Sahara region, warned a senior adviser to the European Court of Justice.
Attorney General Melchior Wathelet told the Court of Justice of the EU (ECJ) that the people of Western Sahara have the right to self-determination and sovereignty over the natural resources in that region. He also pointed out that EU fishing in waters off that territory does not respect the rights of its inhabitants.
Wathelet bases its opinions on an international law that establishes that the exploitation of the marine life of Western Sahara should have a direct benefit for its people.
The government of Morocco considers Western Sahara as a territory of the southern province, and seeks to defend it from any possible threat that may affect its integrity.
The adviser's opinion follows a judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU of December 2016, which determined that EU agreements for closer relations and trade with Morocco should not apply to Western Sahara.
If Wathelet's opinion is followed by a decision of the ECJ, it could reopen a diplomatic dispute between Brussels and Rabat that broke out in 2016, when a lower General Court ruled the nullity of EU trade agreements with Morocco signed between the years 2000 and 2012.
The Polisario Front independence movement maintains that Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that was annexed to Morocco in 1975, is not part of this country.
In 2015, the Polisario Front filed a complaint for an agricultural agreement between the EU and Morocco, alleging that the inhabitants of Western Sahara had not been consulted before, and got it annulled by the European Court.
The ECJ usually follows the Advocate General advice, but is not obliged to do so.
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