Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The commercial accord between the EU and Morocco that is currently going through the approval process in the European Parliament has been labelled as illegal and immoral. These were the conclusions reached at a seminar on the treaty held last week in Spain.

In a statement one of the participants, Ecologistas en Acción declared: “The conclusions are clear: it is an illegal accord because of the judicial situation of occupied Western Sahara, it is immoral because it includes resources of this territory and it is socially and environmentally prejudicial because it favours the benefits to the large corporations to the detriment of small farmers and the environment.

Juan Soroeta, an expert in International Law, stated that the accord was illegal, because amongst other reasons, “the natural resources of the non-autonomous territories, that is to say, the pending decolonisation of the Western Sahara – can’t be exploited to the detriment of the population and without the approval of the legitimate representatives, in this case Saharan – the Polisario Front that openly rejects the accord.”

Pilar Ramírez of the Western Sahara Resource Watch added: “the accord on the subject of fishing is also illegal. From the ethical point of view because they are exploiting the resources that are the property of the Saharan people.”

International maritime legislation says that you cannot negotiate with the fishing resources of a country that doesn’t have the pertinence of those waters and up till now nobody has recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over this maritime space.

From the political point of view, Alí Mojtar of the Polisario Front protested that “with this accord, Europe supports directly the Moroccan cause to keep the Western Sahara territories” and as a result violates the Declaration of Human Rights and worsens the situation under which the population of the Western Sahara lives.

Pressure is now being applied to Euro MPs not to ratify the new Accord of Association which sets out to liberalise commerce and agriculture between the EU and Morocco. In Spain demonstrations will be held against the agreement and in the country’s lower house of parliament, Congress, MPs are being asked to protest to the Spanish Government about the serious illegalities and violations of human rights.

The King of the Poor has 2,000 million euros

Meanwhile in Morocco itself the move towards democratic freedom amongst Arab nations is being keenly felt. This has led to the Moroccan monarch, Mohamed VI, moving to head off demonstrations that could endanger his regime.

Although Mohamed VI is known in Morocco as the “King of the Poor” he has five palaces in Rabat, Fez, Casablanca, Meknes and Marrakesh plus another in Bets in France some 70 kms from Paris which he inherited from his father Hassan II. The 47-year-old king is the seventh richest monarch in the world and according to Forbes has an estimated personal fortune of 2,000 million euros.

This puts him in a stark contrast to the average Moroccan who earns $3,000 per annum, slightly above the Egyptian norm but behind Tunisia with $4,100 and the highest earners in the Maghreb, Libya with $12,000.

However it is the jobless that were behind the power change in Tunisia. In Morocco the figure is around 10 per cent compared with 14 per cent in Tunisia and Algeria. The main problem facing Mohamed VI is that amongst his 35 million subjects half are under 25 years of age and these have been hit hard by juvenile unemployment. Mohamed VI has already doubled the subventions on basic food stuffs and domestic gas but this has not proved enough.

Wikileaks revealed that a US diplomat reported “the corruption in Morocco extends to the royal palace”. Now Moroccans want more transparency and given what has happened elsewhere in the Maghreb the king has decided to act.

Last week Mohamed VI announced a fundamental reform of the constitution that has been in place since 1996 and was introduced by his father. In a TV address he has spoken of giving total responsibility to the government, ensuring the independent power of the judiciary, and ceding to parliament the functions of representation, legislation and control.

It remains to be seen how the Movement of February 20 will respond. It has called for massive demonstrations on March 20 to demand political change, more employment, actions against institutionalised corruption and the reform of the Constitution.

Osama El Khlifi, one of the young people that started the movement on Facebook, says the king’s speech has changed nothing. “We are going to demonstrate on the 20 th with the same demands. There will be more people on the streets than in February.”

It remains to be seen how Mohamed VI will react.

(A version of the above article appeared in the Morning Star on Wednesday March 16 2011).

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