New Internationalist

Rare victory for Western Sahara

moroccan-fishing-boats-600x330.jpg [Related Image]

In the European Parliament today, the proposed one-year extension to the fisheries deal between the EU and Morocco was voted down.

Compared to the wrangles over the eurozone economic crisis, that might not sound like anything very significant. But it really matters, believe me. Since 2007, the EU fishing fleet has been harvesting fish - mainly sardines and octopus - from the rich waters off Western Sahara, just south of the Canary Isles. And it has been paying Morocco around 36 million euros a year for the privilege, not only validating its illegal military occupation of its southern neighbour but rewarding it handsomely too.

Western Sahara is the only former colony in Africa that was not given the right to self-determination. When Spanish colonial rule ended in 1975, Morocco seized the territory, driving half the indigenous Saharawi population to seek refuge in camps over the border in Algeria, where they have remained ever since.

The European Parliament’s own legal service has ruled that the fisheries agreement violates international law, given that the people of Western Sahara have never approved it. In addition, reports for the European Commission have recently demonstrated that the fisheries deal is a waste of EU taxpayers’ money – as well as destroying marine life. Yet until today the extension of the deal had seemed likely.

European fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said she would respect the Parliament’s decision, and would propose repealing the deal at a meeting of EU fisheries ministers on Thursday.

Sara Eyckmans of Western Sahara Resource Watch, which has been campaigning on this issue for years, commented: ‘This is a complete victory for the Saharawi people. The parliament has refused to blindly follow the interests of the Spanish fisheries industry. We expect this to have consequences for the Parliament’s handling of future agreements with Morocco that involve the territory of Western Sahara. The UN has clearly stated that the Saharawi people has a right to be consulted on such issues.’

Saharawis have had precious little to cheer about in the 14 years since I visited the occupied territories and the refugee camps. Now at last they have some good news.

Photo by wonker under a CC Licence.

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  1. #1 mohamed salem 15 Dec 11

    thanks to New internationalist for their support of the Saharawi right and the consistant coverge specailly in a world rarely knows something about the Saharawi people and their just cause .

  2. #2 waheed 12 Dec 12

    My personal thoughts on the decision,
    To me it seems like givig with the left hand and taking with the right,
    The reasons why i feel this are as follows,
    firstly the previous financial agreements that where arranged with morrocco should have been used by the morroccan side to invest in the western sahara region and bring those people into the nation of morrocco as a republic or with truer political representation for the swahiri people, this i feel is a huge opportunity missed and clearly was a great opportunity to heal old wounds and move on from past demeanours, and develop a win win outcome,
    Secondly the E.u. strategy for me is nonsical in a way and to claim that your saving E.u. tax payers money is also farsical, because for many years you have been gladly using and exploiting this resource for many years.
    I gave you a few great suggestions and solutions to this dilemma but i can sense that the vested intrsts are still working from a digressive ideological position,
    The spanish fisheries could easily strike a deal with the morroccans through abilateral deal instead of using the E.u. where i feel that there are too many chefs spoiling the broth!

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About the author

Chris Brazier a New Internationalist contributor

Once a writer for the rock music weekly Melody Maker (1977-80), Chris Brazier has been a co-editor of New Internationalist magazine since 1984. He has covered myriad subjects from masculinity to maternal mortality, Panafricanism to the paranormal, and has edited country issues on South Africa, Burkina Faso, Western Sahara, Bangladesh, Iran, China and Vietnam. He edits the country profile section of the magazine as well as its puzzle page. Since 2010 he has focused primarily on commissioning and editing New Internationalist’s books and other publications. He has also written regularly for UNICEF’s annual The State of the World’s Children report since 1997.

Chris is the author of Vietnam: The Price of Peace (Oxfam, 1992), The No-Nonsense Guide to World History (2001, 2006 & 2010) and Trigger Issues: Football (2007). He also compiled the New Internationalist anthologies Raging Against the Machine (2003) and Brief Histories of Almost Anything (2008).

Read more by Chris Brazier

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