February 27th was the 42nd anniversary of the Western Saharan declaration of independence from Spain. Although, as of now, there is no independence to celebrate for most of the territory that remains under Moroccan occupation, a little triumph could be felt throughout the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria, where a majority of the population resides.
The very same morning a court ruling from the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) was issued in favor of decolonization. To be more precise, the ruling concerns an agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco regulating the European fishing industry’s access to Moroccan waters.
This so-called Fisheries Partnership Agreement has been in place since 2006 and will expire in July 2018, while a process of renewal is underway. The ruling from the ECJ clearly states that any such agreement with Morocco could not include the waters off Western Sahara, over which Morocco claims sovereignty.
What’s the deal?
The statement was anticipated, consistent as it was with previous rulings and hardly controversial from an international legal standpoint. Still, it is but the last development in a conflict that is brewing between various branches of EU governance over the union’s trade with Morocco. The controversy being, of course, Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara that is listed by the UN as a ‘non-self governing territory’.
A manifestation of support for the ECJ court ruling in Smara refugee camp, February 27. Photo Saharawi Campaign Against the Plunder (SCAP)