Wednesday, 11 Dec 2019 - 13 of Kislev, 5780

‘Europe should remain neutral in the Western Sahara conflict’

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As a new European Parliament has been elected, several experts believe that the eventual creation within this parliament of a ‘’Polisario or Western Sahara intergroup’’ would be ‘’untimely political’’ and ‘’dangerous’’ for the balance and peace in the Saharan and Sahelian region confronted with terrorist attacks that multiply in recent months and where terrorist groups abound. ‘’We must do everything to calm the game and avoid jeopardising the peace process in the Sahara conflict which is now revived under the auspices of the United Nations,’’ they underline.

Morocco is a strong ally and neighbour to the European Union on important issues such as illegal immigration and the war against terrorism.  The country has sought to position itself as a bridgehead between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa in recent years as it became one of the major political players within the African Union.

Last July, the country moved closer to obtaining a ‘’privileged’’ relationship with the EU following successful talks.

On this occasion, the EU has praised Morocco’s handling of the conflict over Western Sahara that lasts since more than 40 years.  The EU “welcomes the serious and credible efforts” of Morocco to obtain a peace settlement.’’ (in the conflict), a statement said at the time.

The Sahara  conflict, which also involves Morocco’s neighbour, Algeria, which supports the Polisario Front, is in the hands of the United Nations which is trying to build peace between all the parties.

The two major Maghreb countries have had their common border closed for almost 30 years. Because of the conflict, in terms of economic development, this situation for people in Morocco and Algeria represent a loss of almost 2% purchasing power.

In February, a large majority of the European Parliament endorsed the new EU-Morocco Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement. The agreement includes agricultural products from the Sahara and the territorial waters of the Sahara.

However, as a new European Parliament has been elected, several experts of this issue  believe that the eventual creation within this parliament of a ‘’Polisario or Western Sahara intergroup’’ would be ‘’untimely political’’ and ‘’dangerous’’ for the balance and peace in the Saharan and Sahelian region confronted with terrorist attacks that multiply in recent months and where terrorist groups abound. ‘’We must do everything to calm the game and avoid jeopardising the peace process in the Sahara conflict which is now revived under the auspices of the United Nations,’’ they underline.

The creation of a Sahara intergroup would also hurt the interest of Europe’s partnership with Morocco. ‘’To create this intergroup is for the (newly elected) European institutions to enter in a turbulent zone which it does not need,’’ an expert on EU-Morocco ties note, adding that this intergroup ‘’will not stop wanting to question the EU-Morocco agreement approved by a very large majority of the European Parliament including a majority of the S&D (Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) group.’’

OLAF, the EU anti-fraud office, and the European Commission have both reported a recurrent diversion of EU food aid to the Tindouf camps in Algeria which are controlled by the Polisario. Will the European Parliament’s Budget Control Committee investigate this misappropriation of EU funds ?

Instead of inflaming the conflict with the creation of a Polisario intergroup, ‘’Europe must do everything possible to calm the game and remain neutral,’’ says the expert on EU-Morocco relations.

‘’The creation of this intergroup is not in line with the constant European political stance of not interfering in the debates between the protagonists, leaving it up to the UN to play its role of referee and work with everyone around the negotiating table – Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Polisario and representatives in Laayoune-  and Dakhka, and find an acceptable solution.’’

Europe should also send right signals to both Morocco and Algeria – which is going through changes- to establish means of real cooperation on all levels for the interest of both people and Europe.

A Sahraoui intergroup in the European Parliament would clearly send a wrong signal to Morocco, a strong ally to Europe, just months after the signing of an important agreement between the two parties.   On the contrary, as a major player on international relations on the EU scene, the European Parliament role should rather be to strengthen EU-Morocco relations.

 

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