Saturday, February 18, 2012
EU Parliament approves trade agreement with Morocco that raises questions about the status of Western Sahara
The Parliament for the European Union (EU) has approved a trade pact with Morocco that liberalizes trade in agricultural and fisheries products by reducing tariffs by 55-70% over the next ten years. Members of the EU Parliament (MEPs) have stated their belief that the deal will assist in Morocco's transition to democracy while alleviating some economic and security concerns. Not everyone is happy with the deal, however. Some opponents have suggested that the deal is in violation of international law prohibiting the commercial exploitation of Western Sahara. The status of the Western Sahara has been in doubt for decades following Morocco's annexation of the region in the 1970s. Pursuant to a United Nations General Assembly Resolution, the indigenous Sahrawi people of Western Sahara are entitled to hold a referendum on the status of the region, but that referendum has never been held. The text of the EU-Morocco trade deal does not expressly mention Western Sahara. Some MEPs have suggested that the Western Sahara should be excluded from the agreement to avoid implications regarding the status of the region.