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EU court decision may escalate tension with Morocco

Europe's highest court ruled Dec. 21 that trade agreements between the European Union and Morocco do not apply to Western Sahara.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled Dec. 21 that the association and liberalization agreements between Morocco and the European Union do not apply to the territory of Western Sahara. Morocco has privileged access to the European market, as it exports agricultural and fishery products to the EU, including products from Western Sahara. The ECJ’s judgment is not only about trade, but has far-reaching political consequences.

“The court considers Western Sahara to be a third party rather than a part of Morocco, which means that Western Sahara cannot be included in agreements between Morocco and the EU without the explicit consent of the Sahrawi population,” said a source close to the ECJ. It is the first time that the European court has taken a stance on Morocco’s sovereignty claim over Western Sahara. Mhamed Khaddad, a senior official from the Polisario Front, which is Western Sahara’s national liberation movement, told Al-Monitor that he was “very satisfied by the clarity of the judgment, which highlights the Sahrawis’ right to self-determination.”

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