Europe Mulls Tracing Products from Western Sahara

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On November 5, Lalonde presented her mission report on extending the EU-Morocco fisheries deal into the waters off of the southern provinces in the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee (INTA).

The report followed a visit by a delegation of three INTA committee members, Lalonde, Tiziana Beghin, and Heidi Hautala, to the southern provinces on September 3-4.

The mission was in charge of evaluating the extension of EU-Morocco trade preferences to products from the region —mainly agricultural and fishery products.

A need to trace products from the region

In her draft report published on September 11, Lalonde wrote the European Parliament is “convinced” that local populations in the southern provinces will profit from economic development and “the spill-over effects created in terms of investment in infrastructure, health and education.”

The MEP also recognized the economic, social, and environmental development “observed in Dakhla and Laayoune and the significant potential for further creation of both low- and high-skilled local employment opportunities.”

Lalonde’s report stressed that the European Parliament should ensure a traceability mechanism to trace products from the region “so that Member States customs authorities have a clear indication of their origin.”

The EU Commission, represented by MEP Sabine Henzler, assured MEPs that the commission is currently discussing the traceability issue with Morocco, reported Western Sahara Resource Watch.

Henzler did not recognize Polisario’s role in the discussion over the fisheries agreement.

She said that the fact that the UN considers Polisario as the political representative of Sahrawis does not mean Polisario could be considered as a trade representative.

The MEP added that the commission has done “all that is possible and feasible” to get Sahrawis’ consent through a “consultation exercise,” reported the pro-Polisario outlet.

All MEPs agreed that traceability should be made before the Parliament will expectedly vote on the proposal in January 2019, according to the same outlet.

Polisario opposition

Polisario supporters opposed Lalonde’s report by sending a letter to the European parliamentarians calling for the suspension of the Parliament’s assessment of the proposed trade deal, according to pro-Polisario Western Sahara Resource Watch.

“The conclusions included in the draft report of MEP Lalonde favouring the application of the EU-Morocco liberalization agreement have no basis, in the absence of a profound and thorough investigation,” the letter reads.

The report, according to the letter, is biased because it favours Morocco and “disrespects [the] EU position of not recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory and undermines international law and UN peace efforts.”

The International Trade Committee will vote on Lalonde’s report on December 3.

The new EU-Morocco fisheries deal was finalized on July 24, in Rabat, with Moroccan officials.

Instead of the €80 million that Rabat requested, the EU agreed to pay €52 million for fishing privileges. The amount is higher than the €42 million in the previous deal which expired on July 14.