The General Court of the European Union last week moved to annul the European Council’s decision on the agreement between the EU and Morocco to amend the protocols of the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement.
An agreement had been concluded between the EU and Morocco to extend the same EU export tariff preferences granted to products originating in Morocco to those originating in Western Sahara.
Products originating in Western Sahara, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975, are currently subject to export controls by Moroccan customs authorities.
By approving such agreements without the consent of the people of Western Sahara, the Council is accused of infringing the EU’s obligations under EU and international law.
The agreement, argues the Polisario Front, which is regarded by the UN as the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, provides for the exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources and encourages a policy of annexation of the territory by Morocco.
“By its judgments in Case T-279/19 and the Joined Cases T-344/19 and T-356/19, the General Court annuls the contested decisions, but decides that the effects of those decisions be maintained over a certain period,” the General Court stated, “since annulling them with immediate effect could have serious consequences on the European Union’s external action and call into doubt legal certainty in respect of the international commitments to which it has agreed.”
“The Court upholds the applicant's argument that the requirement relating to the consent of the people of Western Sahara, as a third party to the agreements at issue, for the purposes of the principle of the relative effect of treaties, has not been respected,” the Court continued.
“In that regard, the Court considers that the rule of international law, according to which the consent of a third party to an international agreement may be presumed where the parties to that agreement intended to confer rights on it, is not applicable in the present case, since the agreements at issue are not intended to confer rights on the people of Western Sahara, but to impose obligations on them.
“The steps taken by the EU authorities before the conclusion of the agreements at issue cannot be regarded as having secured the consent of the people of Western Sahara to those agreements in accordance with the principle of the relative effect of treaties, as interpreted by the Court of Justice.”
In a written response to the decision, the CGEM (General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises) stated: "We have taken note of the judgments handed down today by the General Court of the European Union concerning the decisions of the Council of the European Union on the Association Agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco on agricultural products and sustainable fishing.
“The European Court's decision is to maintain the effect of the agricultural agreement between Morocco and the EU until the final judgment of the European Court of Last Instance. We remain mobilised to continue the cooperation between the European Union and Morocco. Our business communities have important links to promote and foster a sustainable post-pandemic economic recovery.
“The stability of trade relations between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco, as major economic partners, is also a guarantee of a win-win partnership. We remain convinced that solidarity and sustainable trade between the EU and Morocco guarantee the security of the region and its people.
“We will continue to work to develop the multiple dimensions of this EU-Morocco strategic partnership, in terms of economic, social and environmental growth.”