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EU puts self-interest before peace in Western Sahara

The European Commission misuses a UN document to legitimise its fisheries in occupied Western Sahara.
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Each year, the EU pays Morocco millions of Euros for fishing licences offshore Western Saharan waters – an area not falling under Moroccan sovereignty. WSRW considers the payments to be a direct support to the illegal and brutal Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. The European Commission, however, defends its unethical fisheries. In a letter to WSRW last week, the Commission claimed that their fisheries agreement in Western Sahara is supported by a UN opinion from 2002. They do this by misusing a key UN document.

“The argument of the Commission is scandalous. Instead of referring to the evident conclusion of the UN document, the European Commission has cut-and-pasted a completely unrepresentative sentence from within the text to support its illegal fisheries. The Commission’s cynical misuse of the UN document directly undermines the Saharawi people’s legitimate rights”, said Sara Eyckmans, coordinator of Western Sahara Resource Watch.

The much referred to 2002 Legal Opinion from the UN Legal Counsel stated that it would be illegal to exploit the natural resources in Western Sahara if the people of the territory are against it. The Commission, however, has made use of an out-of-context sentence from inside the document, stating that the activities would be illegal if they take place “in disregard of the needs and interests of the people of that Territory”. The entire reference to consultation of the Saharawi people, which was the conclusion of the UN document, and which is based on a right established by more 100 UN resolutions, has been completely ignored by the Commission.

”Such misrepresentation is indicative of the ongoing efforts by the services of the European Commission to obscure the EU’s international legal obligations in favour of its hard-nosed economic interests in Western Sahara’s fisheries. This is completely unacceptable, and flies in the face of the EU’s stated policy of supporting efforts by the UN to resolve the long-standing dispute“, stated Western Sahara Resource Watch in a letter today to the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mrs. Maria Damanaki.

Morocco refuses to explain how the EU tax money has been spent, and Wednesday this week, the chair of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee stated that Morocco’s unwillingness to explain the use of the EU funds might jeopardize the planned renewal of the current fisheries agreement. It is only a few weeks ago that Morocco also denied a fact-finding delegation from the Fisheries Committee to visit the territory for investigation. The Moroccan minister of fisheries has stated that the EU fisheries agreement is most of all of political importance.

Neither the EU nor Morocco has explained whether the Saharawi have ever been consulted about the EU commercial activities on their land, as international law and the UN document prescribe.

Read more about the misused 2002 UN document and the EU fisheries, as well as the correspondence between WSRW and the European Commission, on our webpages


15.10 - 2019 / 15.10 - 2019THIS PAGE IS NO LONGER UPDATED
23.10 - 2015 / 23.10 - 2015Morocco continues to discard by-catches in occupied Western Sahara
29.06 - 2015 / 29.06 - 2015Moroccan government accused of fraud with EU anti-driftnet money
02.12 - 2014 / 02.12 - 2014Maria Damanaki opposed continued EU fishing in Western Sahara
18.09 - 2014 / 18.09 - 2014EU-Morocco fish deal: who's shown an interest so far?
18.09 - 2014 / 18.09 - 2014Dutch first to fish under unethical EU-Morocco fish deal
09.08 - 2014 / 09.08 - 2014UN former legal chief slams EU legal view as "preposterous"
21.07 - 2014 / 21.07 - 2014Illegal EU fish agreement with Morocco now ratified by King
14.03 - 2014 / 14.03 - 20149 detained, threats of jail if demonstrating against EU fisheries
11.02 - 2014 / 11.02 - 2014Here are the EU states that will benefit from the dirty fisheries
11.02 - 2014 / 11.02 - 2014Morocco adopts contentious EU-Morocco fish deal
10.12 - 2013 / 10.12 - 2013Occupied Sahara: EU undermining Human Rights on Human Rights Day
08.12 - 2013 / 08.12 - 2013More vids of demonstration and victims of EU/Moroccan plans in Sahara
08.12 - 2013 / 08.12 - 2013Western Sahara president asks UN intervention to stop EU and Morocco
08.12 - 2013 / 08.12 - 2013Many injured in protest against EU/Spain fish plans in Western Sahara
05.12 - 2013 / 05.12 - 2013EU fish plans illegal, 21 jurists and lawyers state
05.12 - 2013 / 05.12 - 2013267 organisations ask European Parliament to reject fish accord
04.12 - 2013 / 04.12 - 2013President of African Parliament calls on EU to respect Sahara rights
02.12 - 2013 / 02.12 - 2013Greenpeace: EU parliament must vote no to Western Sahara fisheries
18.11 - 2013 / 18.11 - 2013European Liberal Youth calls for no EU fishing in occupied Sahara


The EU considers to pay Morocco to fish in occupied Western Sahara. An EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement from 2013 would be both politically controversial and in violation of international law. The international Fish Elsewhere! campaign demands the EU to avoid such unethical operations, and go fishing somewhere else. No fishing in Western Sahara should take place until the conflict is solved.
عريضة لوقف النهب


يحضر الاتحاد الاوربي لإبرام اتفاق غير اخلاقي جديد للصيد البحري مع المغرب في سنة 2013.

مرة اخرى، يعتزم الاتحاد الاوربي الصيد في المياه الاقليمية للصحراء الغربية المحتلة في خرق سافر للقانون الدولي. وقع هذه العريضة للتنديد بذلك.

"EU fisheries in Western Sahara must be stopped"

Western Sahara human rights activist Aminatou Haidar hopes for increased attention to the EU plundering of occupied Western Sahara.


10.04 - 2012
Guardian: EU taking its over-fishing habits to west African waters?
15.12 - 2011
EU Observer: Morocco expels EU fishing boats
15.12 - 2011
BBC News: Morocco's fish fight: High stakes over Western Sahara
15.12 - 2011
European Voice: MEPs reject EU-Morocco fisheries pact
15.12 - 2011
Reuters: EU lawmakers reject Morocco fisheries pact

Human rights activist Malak Amidane denounces EU fisheries