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EU court encouraged to invalidate fisheries agreement with Morocco

[JURIST] The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice issued an opinion [opinion PDF] Wednesday urging the court to void the EU's fisheries agreement with the Kingdom of Morocco.

Advocate General Melchior Wathelet grounded his decision [press release] in the concepts of self-determination, sovereignty over natural resources and humanitarian rules concerning disputed or occupied territories.

The principle concern is over the status of the Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco has claimed since 1975 but which remains partially administered by the independence-minded Polisario Front.

Because the EU recognizes the fundamental concept of self-determination of states, argues Wathelet, the fact that the current fisheries agreement allows for the exploitation of Western Sahara's territorial waters is a violation of its inhabitants right to self-determination. Furthermore, since EU law recognizes a right to perpetual sovereignty over natural resources for the benefit inhabitants use by the waters by Morocco would be a violation. And finally, EU law forbids the Union or its members from making agreements concerning the exploitation of occupied or disputed territories, which the Western Sahara is.

The opinion announced Wednesday is not binding on the court but rather seeks to persuade the court to rule against the fisheries agreement, a ruling which itself would not become binding on member states until a national court resolves the issue in the same direction. A similar ruling in 2016 resulted in a temporary suspension of relations between the Kingdom and the EU.

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