Thursday, May 25, 2006

EU and Western Sahara

Last week, the EU endorsed a fishing deal with Morocco. This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that the deal includes the coastal waters of Western Sahara, a territory that has been occupied by Morroco for more than thirty years.

In the same week that the people of Montenegro had to produce a special qualified majority in order to have its independence recognized by the European Union, that same European Union sends now some very dubious signals to the indigenous people of Western Sahara. It endorsed a fishing deal with Morocco worth 114 million euros, and didn't object to the coastal waters of Western Sahara being included in the deal. According to international law, an occupying country isn't allowed to make deals that include the natural resources of occupied territory. The only European country that objected to this deal was Sweden, though the Netherlands stated that «the benefits of the deal should also accrue to the indigenous people of Western Sahara». Whether this has any value is very doubtful. If Morocco would be interested in the fate of the people of Western Sahara at all, then maybe it wouldn't occupy the territory, let alone try to «morocconize» it. Ireland and Finland gave also some support to the Swedes, but at the end of the day they and the Netherlands decided to approve the fishing deal just like the other EU members.

What's the matter with the European Union? Where are all those advocates of the Big Principles, those who object to war and occupation, even when the goal is to overthrow a merciless dictator? In the end, this fishing deal is a de facto recognition of the Moroccon occupation of Western Sahara, and some sort of stipulation that this would not be the case is completely worthless: we're asked to listen what the EU says, but not to watch what they do at the very same time. The only conclusion can be that apparently, fish and oil are two different things to the in its own eyes moral superior Europe.

But on a more fundamental level, this case shows once again that the European Union doesn't care much about a people's right to self-determination when its own interests are at stake. The rights of Western Sahara have to make place for the trawlers of Spain, Portugal and France. In Montenegro, the EU's interests weren't economical, but internal political: countries like Spain, France and Belgium are allergic to referendums about independence, and therefore the European Union would have preferred that Montenegro would have kept quiet in its union with Serbia. Imagine that one day 55% of the Basques would vote for independence in some sort of referendum – how is the EU supposed to handle something like that? That's why it shouldn't come as a surprise that the EU doesn't have much trouble getting over the occupation of Western Sahara when it signs a deal with Morocco. The Kurds, the Catalans, the Basques, the Scottish and the Welsh better watch out.