The EU is Right About Western Sahara – Which Means It Is Wrong About Israel
By Eugene Kontorovich
Fellow, The Lawfare Project
Professor of International Law, Northwestern University School of Law
Senior Fellow, Kohelet Policy Forum
Commentary: The European Union makes up its own rules for engaging with occupied territories.
JERUSALEM – The European Union recently affirmed that there is no international legal problem in signing a deal with an occupying power that extends to the territory it occupies, or from foreign companies doing business in occupied territory.
It did so when it provisionally approved a fisheries agreement earlier this month with Morocco that extends into the territory of occupied Western Sahara, which is beyond Morocco’s recognized sovereign territory.
Moreover, the EU actually pays Morocco for European access to Western Saharan resources. On all these points, the agreement directly contradicts what the EU, in negotiations with Israel, calls fundamental principles of international law.
In recent years, Europe has contested Israel’s insistence that its EU agreements do not apply to Israel’s activities in the West Bank. The EU stance has been celebrated by some as an example of European commitment to international law. The EU’s new deal with Morocco appears to be contradicting those principles.
Moreover, the European Parliament’s legal advisor issued a formal opinion earlier this month making it clear that it is the EU’s treatment of Morocco, not Israel, that accords with international law.
By inventing rules of international law, the EU actually sends the message that Israel might never “comply” with international law, because where Israel is concerned, this “law” is a moving target, that can be concocted from thin air.
Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and has occupied it since, claiming it as its own territory. The Security Council has condemned Morocco’s presence and demanded a complete withdrawal.