16 February 2012, the now-banned trade agreement was approved by the European Parliament. That did not happen without fierce debate.
This was a special time in the EU-Moroccan relations. The EU institutions were fully aware of the controversies of EU dealings in Western Sahara. Just few weeks before, the European Parliament had rejected the renewal of a Morocco-EU fisheries agreement covering the waters offshore the occupied territory, and matters of international law were one of the key concerns among the Members of Parliament.
The debate over Western Sahara was so intense in the EU institutions, that the former fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki suggested excluding Western Sahara from the application of a new fisheries agreement that was about to be negotiated.
So how did that vote go through in such a context?
The arguments circulating during the parliament debate has been outlined in an article by WSRW board member Erik Hagen earlier this year, in the article ‘Fish Before Peace – the EU in Western Sahara’, appearing in the French anthology Lutter au Sahara (2015). The whole article (which has the fisheries agreement as its main focus) can be read here. The below segment is a small part of that bigger article. The Legal Opinion of the Parliament Legal Services, from 2011, is also worth a read.