Denmark accepts Western Sahara fisheries negotiations

The Danish government accepts the European Commission line of negotiations of a new fisheries agreement with Morocco, which includes Western Sahara, even though it disregards two EU Court of Justice verdicts.

In a briefing note, published on Thursday, the Danish Government accepted the European Commission’s line of negotiations concerning a new fisheries agreement with Morocco. In the note, the Danish Government specifically mentions that Moroccan waters include Western Sahara.

The Danish government now seeks a mandate from the Danish parliament in support of the Commission, to enable the latter to negotiate a new fisheries agreement that disregards two verdicts of the European Court of Justice concerning trade deals that include Western Sahara.

Human rights and international law
The Danish briefing note mentions that the Commission suggests that the agreement should “include a clause about the consequences of violating human rights and democratic principles” and must “benefit the population of Western Sahara.”

It also points out that the verdict of the European Court of Justice, the highest legal entity in the EU, specifies that the negotiations for a new fisheries agreement must be in accordance with the agreement.

The Danish government also emphasises in the note that the agreement must be in accordance with international law,  in regard to Western Sahara, as well as environmentally sustainable.

Voted against previous agreements
This is regardless of the fact that the Danish government has twice voted against previous fisheries agreements between the EU and Morocco, naming Western Sahara and the lack of environmental protection as the main reasons.

The Danish parliament also unanimously passed a motion on Western Sahara in 2016, which urges Danish companies and the Danish public sector not to trade with Africa’s last colony.

Last year, Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Anders Samuelsen said he supported negotiations for other trade agreements between the EU and Morocco that included Western Sahara. Although “Western Sahara is not a priority for Denmark,” he told the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Invalid fisheries agreement
But the European Commission’s negotiations for a new fisheries agreement, and other trade agreements between the EU and Morocco, disregards the ruling by the European Court of Justice in 2016 and a UN report from 2015, that noted that the people of Western Sahara, the Saharawis, were not benefitting from the fisheries agreement.

It is also in violation of an opinion from the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the EU Melchior Wathelet published last Wednesday, which specifically states that the present fisheries agreement is invalid because it applies to Western Sahara waters, and that Morocco’s colonisation of Western Sahara is illegal.

The fact that the Saharawis do not benefit from the agreement, and that Polisario (as the official representative of the Saharawis, accepted as such by the ECJ and the UN) has not accepted it, also makes both the present and future fisheries agreements with Morocco that include Western Sahara at odds with international law.

Unsustainable and illegal agreement
Apart from Polisario, who have never accepted any of the fisheries agreements between the EU and Morocco that include the Western Sahara waters, Saharawi fishing organisations have criticised the agreements as being “theft” and “a serious threat to the environment.”

Saharawi National Resources Watch published a report in 2013, which called the fisheries agreements a “systematic exploitation” and “plundering,” that is part of the Moroccan regime’s attempt to change the demography of Western Sahara through illegal mass migration of Moroccan fishermen to Western Sahara.

And the Committee for the Protection of Natural Resources in Western Sahara (CSPRON), a Saharawi organisation that reports on the plundering of Western Sahara’s fishing banks by Morocco and the EU, published a similar report the same year that concludes that “the over-exploitation of the Saharawi fishery threatens the extinction of a wide range of marine resources, and thus the entire region. It will lead to an environmental disaster.”

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