BRUSSELS – A European Union court ruled on Tuesday that Western Sahara was not part of Morocco’s territory, so a fisheries agreement between Brussels and Rabat that had not included its waters was valid.
Western Sahara is a disputed territory just south of Morocco that Rabat considers to be an integral part of the country, though the east is controlled by the national liberation movement Polisario Front.
A fisheries agreement struck between Morocco and the EU in 2006 was found on Tuesday to still be valid as it did not apply to Western Sahara which, according to the European Court of Justice, is not part of Morocco’s territory and its waters were not included in the fishing zone described in the deal.
“If the territory of Western Sahara were to be included within the scope of the Fisheries Agreement, that would be contrary to certain rules of general international law that are applicable in relations between the EU and Kingdom of Morocco, inter alia the principle of self-determination,” read a court statement.
The Moroccan minister of agriculture, Aziz Akhannouch, said European boats would be able to keep fishing in Moroccan waters until the current agreement expired in July.
The Western Sahara Campaign, a British voluntary organization that fights for the region’s right to self-determination, had filed a lawsuit with the High Court of Justice (England and Wales), claiming the fisheries agreement were invalid if they included the territory’s waters.
The WSC considered that the UK government was acting unlawfully by issuing fishing licenses for the area and implementing the agreement.